By Gretchen Wehmhoff
The Skagway News has been through a challenging year. Due to costs we stopped printing the paper (going online only) and let go of pretty much the best office space in town.
Of course, the office was where I could stay while in town. I have a tent and a cool inflatable mattress for the summer, but when the bears start wandering into town, that tent isn’t going to feel as safe. In addition, there is a limit of two weeks at the campground – so there is that.
In October my business partner sent me a notice on her way to vacation that the Oct. 13 issue would be her last issue. She would no longer contribute to the Skagway News. Of course, separating from a corporation isn’t that cut and dry, so hopefully she and I will have it figured out before January 1. We seem to be getting close – but she did stop contributing after Oct. 13.
In general, people in Skagway have been patient, letting us work things out. There have been a few comments that seemed hurtful – such as saying the Skagway News now has an out-of-town publisher – never mind I’ve been the same co-publisher for nearly four years – so it is a bad thing.
I’ve had people tell me that I should immediately move to Skagway. Should I just get in line after the Skagway residents who have been displaced are able to find new homes? I know I can’t afford it.
I’ve also heard the comment that I should hire a “reporter who actually lives here.”
I would love to hire a reporter. Logistics say they would already have to live here, because no one could move to Skagway on a reporter’s income and find an affordable place to live.
For those who are wondering, the Skagway News has no money.
However, I am strongly committed to three beliefs:
1. When a small town loses its newspaper, it is a comment on the tough times the town faces, and a part of the town is lost with it. It’s happening across the country.
2. I believe in Skagway and when I hear comments that suggest I am not invested because I can’t afford to live here, much less find a place, I will let them slide. I’m not holding a couple of careless remarks against this remarkable town and caring people. I love this town. My husband loves this town. I am involved in the town daily, even when I’m not here.
3. I can’t let this paper die on my watch. Period.
My last visit in December meant finding an AirBnB (which was wonderful) and recovering the things I needed to work without an office to put out the Dec. 8 paper all while getting around town to the many wonderful Yuletide events.
When The SN went online, we lost subscribers and advertisers. Readers have told me that having the real paper in their hands is better for them. That they actually read it cover to cover and have fun with the fun page. They miss the paper, and don’t always read it when it comes online.
So here is my plan.
January 19 will be a return to the printed paper. It’s a risk, but I believe it is the right risk.
I sought quotes that would work with a small run and the Frontiersman in Wasilla came through again, although I had to increase the run to 500 papers. They will also help me mail them out.
The January 19 issue will come to the current online subscribers who have listed USPS mailing addresses and there will be free copies available at the bookstore – I am hoping for at least two other places. That first issue will be free to you with hopes that you will scan the QR code and subscribe. A printed subscription will be $50/ year no matter where you live. I’ll work with current subscribers to pro-rate. Online-only subscriptions will still be available for $27.
Starting in March, The Skagway News will have a paywall. Print and online subscribers will have unlimited access, but non-subscribers will see an article limit. The interactive PDF will only be available to subscribers.
The Skagway News doesn’t have an office. I’m thinking I could have rotating office hours in different coffee shops and the library from April through September. Using the phone seems to still work great.
I’m not sure where I will stay. I really can’t afford more than the tent or my car. But I’m sure things will work out.
Several people have already shared their photographs with the paper and a few locals are offering to write for the paper without charge. Hopefully the paper will be able to pay them in the future.
And finally, I am going to take support (help). The Skagway News is not a non-profit organization, so any support that comes along will not be tax deductible and I’ll need to count it as income for taxes. But with that disclaimer out of the way, I’ve added a Support The Skagway News button on the webpage and will include a QR code in each issue.
I really haven’t tried everything unless I’ve also asked for help.
Besides the button, other ways to support the paper might be to buy an ad to honor someone’s birthday or sponsor ads for non-profit groups. When you push the support button you’ll see a comment that lists some of the costs of running the paper and the Skaguay Alaskan. Small amounts can go a long way and will be humbly appreciated.
For those of you advertising in the 2024 Skaquay Alaskan Visitors Guide, you will get your 5% discount for being a repeat customer and another 5% for paying by Dec. 31. I’ll be calling you, but that early payment can give the News a head start.
I am taking these steps with a great deal of humility – asking for help is not easy, but publishing this paper is important.