State of the newspaper

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
After three years of study, this is what it looks like when I try to read Aftenposten’s A-Magasinet.

Emily C. Skaftun
The Norwegian American

Hello friends. As strange as it is to say, I have been the editor of this newspaper for three whole years (side note: it’s wonderful to start a new job right after the new year—makes keeping track of anniversaries a snap!). At this point I have been the paper’s editor for almost twice as long after our “final” issue as I was before it!

For those of you just tuning in in the last two years, in February 2015 we came within a hair of putting out the final issue of the paper formerly known as the Norwegian American Weekly. It was so close that the paper actually went to press, and when I got the word that it wasn’t the last one after all it had been printed but not shipped. Phew!

We’re still here. We made a lot of changes in 2015 and even more in 2016, when in May we switched from weekly to biweekly and took on a new name and a new look. We think the bigger, prettier, less frequent papers are really working—but you tell me. As always we love to hear from readers about what you like and don’t like (politely, please!), what you want to see more of, and what you want to see less of. We may not always respond quickly, because despite the two-week schedule somehow Molly and I (the only full-time employees behind the curtain at The NA (and can I mention that we are still seeking a better way to informally shorten our name?)) are still busy all the time!

We’re busy all the time because just putting out a paper every two weeks isn’t enough. We’re constantly looking for ways to make the paper better, cut costs, and increase our subscription levels.

To that end we moved our office this year to a sunny suite of rooms much larger than our old Greenlake home that costs less than half what we were paying before. No, we’re still not in Ballard. But we go there sometimes for aquavit and waffles.

We’ve also been busy attending festivals and conventions and trying to get the word out about this crazy little newspaper. Our new Ad Manager, Ryan, has really gotten into manning tables at events within driving distance of Seattle. (As an aside, it’s also been fun watching this non-Norwegian learn a bit about us crazy Norskies. I enjoy no longer being the least Norwegian one in the bunch too!)

Getting to festivals outside of Washington and northern Oregon is a harder thing to manage, but I did take one hastily planned trip to Nordic Fest in Decorah, Iowa, which was a lot of fun. I hope to do more of this in the coming year.

For me personally, it was an exciting year. In addition to visiting Decorah and Minneapolis, I spent a couple days in New York visiting Nordic places and meeting Nordic people, and—the main event—finally took another trip to Norway! Sadly, I could only go for a week, because even a biweekly schedule is only so forgiving. But I saw a lot in that week, and spoke a little Norwegian, and still haven’t finished writing all the articles the trip inspired.

This I am really hoping to do more of.

Last year I reported that after two years of studying the language I still wasn’t able to scan headlines on VG. This year, three years in … I mostly can! There are definitely words I don’t know, but there are also pictures, and I understand enough to get the gist of it. Looking up a word or two is a simple thing. Maybe next year I won’t have to do that.

And as for the paper itself? People ask us all the time how we are doing and, well, we are still a newspaper in perilous times. Compared to 2015, ad revenues finished the year up in 2016. Hooray! Our number of subscribers remains maddeningly stable, but in the last half of the year we’ve devised new strategies to capture new readers and to re-capture those who got away. They seem to be working, but it’s a bit early to tell.

We’ve cut costs, but I pretty much spend it as soon as we make it. On silly things like wages, mostly, which account for close to half of our operating budget and really ought to be more still. We still rely heavily on volunteer writers, which I fervently hope to stop doing in the near future.

But before that can happen we have to stop losing money. Yes, for all of it we are still losing money. But the good news is that we are losing money much more slowly than before. Two years ago, after almost closing our doors, we ran an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that aimed to raise $30,000—one year’s shortfall at the time. We actually raised something like $40,000, and it has taken us a full two years to burn through it. In fact, there’s still a little bit left.

That being said, it’s time to raise some more money. Look for info on our second crowdfunding campaign coming this spring. We’re just starting to plan it, but we promise to offer loads of cool perks that you are going to want.

Times are still tough, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in three years at this job, it is that this community is tougher. I can’t thank you enough, dear readers, for all the support you’ve given us in this year and all the 127 years before that. Onward to volume 128!

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 13, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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