We are back. It’s been three weeks since The Low Down put our print edition on pause, and in that time we’ve been conserving our resources, taking a hard look at how we operate and drumming up funds through various programs to help keep this newspaper going in the face of this pandemic. During that pause, we also revamped our website and significantly increased the number of news items we put online — we wanted to make sure readers still had access to important local information.
We said we’d be back May 13 and here we are; but for the month of May we are taking a staggered approach and The Low Down will be printing biweekly. The next print edition will be May 27. After that, we will do our best to resume a weekly schedule as soon as we can. But as many of you already know, there is only one thing certain about the COVID-19 pandemic: nothing is certain. We have been trying to anticipate what lies ahead and make a plan, but things keep changing at an incredible pace.
When will schools reopen? When will businesses reopen? What financial programs will we qualify for, and when will any of the funds from those programs actually find their way into business bank accounts? These are all questions whose answers change day-to-day.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all — this 40-page edition you hold in your hands. After watching many of our regular advertisers pull their ads after businesses were forced to shut down, we were gobsmacked to see so many ad bookings in this week’s edition. (And for those readers who may not realize how newspapers work, advertising makes up nearly 75 per cent of our revenue.) Wow. What a vote of confidence. We are so grateful for the support of our local businesses and our provincial government and local MP (shout outs to Robert Bussière and Will Amos) for this crucial source of revenue. We also received a spike in subscription purchases last month from readers concerned about our future. And then there were the small things that really warmed our hearts and stoked our fires: messages of heartfelt support on social media, hand-written letters of encouragement from readers, and a few businesses even sent us cheques, whose memo line read along the lines of: ‘for future advertising – to cash now’. A hard-nosed publisher finds herself a little teary-eyed reading these kinds of messages.
But it’s been a roller coaster, folks. Just like it’s been for all of you. This edition is definitely an up, but signs are that the next edition will be more of a dip on that roller coaster. We never seem to know what lies around the corner, and it’s incredibly taxing trying to figure out the right plan to keep everyone and everything safe, healthy and financially sound.
So we will get back to you at the end of May. Make no mistake, the plan is to return to a weekly print publication, it’s just a matter of when. The Low Down is in it for the long haul, but we have to pace ourselves to make it through this global pandemic, which has caused the demise of so many other community papers. We thank you so much for your patience, for your support and for being the kind of community that backs its local paper through tough times.