WHERE’S THE CROSSWORD PUZZLE? Several readers have asked. The last Los Angeles Times puzzle in The Columbia Paper appeared March 26, 2020. We didn’t publish a print edition for 10 weeks after that date.
We’ve also heard from readers who said they didn’t notice our absence. Ouch.
A lot of readers have said they’re glad we’re back in print. I can’t give you a more precise figure for what constitutes “a lot.” Using that term is bad journalism but the comment isn’t meant to make news. The statement comes up in casual conversations, usually at the end of a chat, like a substitute for “Okay, goodbye.”
Machines can be programmed to analyze, store and reproduce conversations like these. But I believe I’m speaking to real people, even though many of them say similar things. And by definition, our readers prefer words in ink on paper rather than digital images, at least where local news is concerned. The big question now is who—or what—will report and assemble the news: human beings or robots? These days it’s not looking good for the humans and the newspapers they work for.
The newspaper audience is rapidly aging, the cost to produce papers is high and local display advertising that used to be the mainstay of this industry has already been gobbled up by the huge tech companies. Rational observers of the current newspaper industry might conclude that we’re a science experiment, not a business.
Knowing all that, you can draw your own conclusions why we resumed publishing our print edition as of June 11. (www.columbiapaper.com, our news website, has operated continuously since The Columbia Paper was founded in 2009.) The number of our subscribers has grown since June and advertisers we had before the lockdown have stuck with us. We are grateful to our readers and advertisers alike.
How did we show our gratitude? We gave you less for more. Well, it was partly our doing and partly the Coronavirus. Before we suspended publication, the paper typically had 28 or 32 pages each week. When we came back, we started with only 16 pages. We had to cut the number of pages because printing is our biggest weekly expense. That has meant we don’t have room for regular features, like the calendar of events, religious services and the crossword.
But early last month we expanded to 20 pages week. And this week we’re “expanding” internally with an revived events calendar. It’s slim. Many of the events are virtual, which excludes folks around the county who don’t yet have high speed internet service. But the listings remind us that our creative neighbors are enriching our lives even in these hard times.
We’ll bring back more of what we used to have and maybe some new features too. But that assumes we can grow even as the economy struggles. So we make no guarantees that this will happen, only that we will try. In terms of the newspaper business, it’s come down to a battle for survival.
We need your help. If you shop locally—and we hope you do—ask local business owners or managers if they advertise in The Columbia Paper. Suggest they call us at 518-392-1122 or email . It’s a lot to ask these days because we all must maintain social distancing and wear a mask. Lend a hand if you can, but don’t take a risk to do it.
Also, remind people you know that The Columbia Paper is back in print. Our business is news about Columbia County. It costs only $1.50 a week from the newsstand or less if you subscribe through the mail.
We here are optimists despite the odds. We know the digital revolution has changed the way the world works. But in this part of the world some of us want a reliable, accurate and comprehensive source of local news on a medium that doesn’t require a battery. That’s what The Columbia Paper brings you every week. We’ll continue to do that for as long as we can pay the bills.
As for the crossword, we’re in negotiations with the company that supplies the puzzle. We know readers miss it. Making a deal is the easy part. The challenge is finding the money for a page to put it on.