On the door by the water fountain is a sticky note I recently received from Maude Burns.
It reads, “Thanks to all of you for hanging in there to furnish a good hometown paper.”
I’m thinking of getting it framed.
The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to do some significant belt-tightening at The Register.
On Thursday, longtime reporter Bob Johnson volunteered to write his Saturday column “on my nickel.” I blew him a kiss.
There’s comfort in knowing we’re not the only business struggling. And in a small town like Iola, it’s downright beautiful to realize how intertwined are our livelihoods.
If Kelly’s sales are stalled at Audacious Boutique then the domino effect is to cut back on advertising with the Register — our primary source of revenue. The same goes for Rick at FastLube, Savannah at TLC Greenhouse, Carri at Rookies, and on and on.
But I refuse to believe this is a sinking ship. Yes, we’re taking on water, but the stream is only ankle deep.
THIS PANDEMIC has me doing a lot of soul-searching about the role of the newspaper in today’s world. All across the country, papers are folding, with younger generations seemingly satisfied with Twitter soundbites.
Such things make me wonder how the Register has survived these 153 years. So I looked back into the Register’s history — now on our website: iolaregister.com/about-us/history-of-the-iola-register — and sure enough, in 1876 the Register was on its last legs.
Though Allen County’s population had swelled to 6,638, times were hard due to a pernicious drought and blight by grasshoppers and chinch bugs. Advertising had dropped by half and readers reneged on their subscriptions.
After an editorial announced the paper’s impending closure, loyal readers pledged their support and the paper lived to see another day.
I remember in journalism school a professor asked me what I thought was the most important thing about my prospective career.
“To seek out the truth!” I said.
“No,” he replied gently. “It’s to make money.”
There’s a million variations on the theme, reminding all dreamers, whether they be woodworkers, farmers or teachers, that it’s best if their talents can pay the bills.
To us at the paper, our sense of purpose is stronger than ever. And the numbers say we’re on the right track. Online readership has more than tripled since the first of the year. So clearly, people are hungry for local news and increasingly they are seeking it online.
And because the pandemic is a national emergency, we have provided much of our coverage of it free to the public — hoping it will someday translate to subscriptions. But even if it doesn’t, we know it’s the right thing to do.
Trusting in that spirit in these challenging times, the Register has embarked on a new effort.
Recognizing that our area high school seniors are being denied their annual rites of passage because of the pandemic, we’re producing a magazine-style publication that salutes the 2020 graduates of Humboldt, Iola and Moran schools.
Called “Pomp & Circumstance,” the magazine will highlight graduation, prom, school plays and concerts, forensics competitions, awards assemblies, and the like.
We view these students — our future — as deserving of the keepsake, and to be honest, it’s been a refreshing enterprise for our reporters.
Typically we would depend on area advertisers to fund such a publication, but with their pockets pinched, that’s not possible.
Financial pledges from each of the school districts have been pivotal in allowing us to proceed with the 40-page keepsake, which we’ll provide to each graduating senior.
If this project sounds like something you’d support, we’d welcome contributions of any amount. We’re setting one page aside to recognize those who contribute.
THESE HARD times have shown us what matters in the grand scheme of things. For the Register, it’s helped clarify a big reason why we exist. We’re about community, about our kids, about providing a chance to highlight all the wonderful things that happen every day in Allen County.
We invite you to be a part of it.