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Editor’s Notes: A message from Editor-in-chief Emily C. Skaftun
Emily C. Skaftun
The Norwegian American
After 5 years, 9 months, and 195 issues of The Norwegian American, it’s with a lot of mixed emotions that I make this announcement: this was my last issue as Editor-in-chief. Yep, that’s right—I’m already gone. Bye! I’ve packed my things home from the office, taken the keys off my ring, and with any luck as you’re reading this I’m sleeping late or reading something non-Norwegian for fun or sipping a cocktail.
I’ve loved this job. It came along at the right time for me, when I needed a taste of financial stability after years of freelance editing, adjunct teaching, and restaurant work. This job got me back in touch with a heritage I might otherwise have entirely ignored, and forced me to (partially) learn a second language. It allowed me a very close look at a country that, while similar to mine, approaches problems in very different (and, in my opinion, often superior) ways.
I also came along as Editor at the right time for this paper. It was only a little more than a year into my tenure that we almost shut down forever. It certainly took more than just yours truly to keep us going this long—shout out to Ragnar, the board member willing to stick with this endeavor; all the heroes who donated to our two fundraising campaigns; Molly and later Lori Ann, both of whom have done serious heavy lifting; and all of you loyal readers—but I was there and crazy (or stubborn) enough to try it.
I’m proud of the work I’ve done as Editor. Aside from dodging crises, we’ve gone biweekly, changed our name, and redesigned the print and digital versions of the paper. I’ve also worked to continually raise the paper’s standards in terms of looks and content. Those of you who’ve written, emailed, sent Facebook messages, or scrawled notes on your renewal slips saying that the paper keeps getting better and better: thank you. That recognition gives me life.
But though I was the right editor for The Norwegian American (Weekly) of 5.75 years ago, I am no longer the right one today. For all the successes I’ve seen, there have been as many failures, the primary one being that we’re no better off financially than we were in February 2015, when our “final issue” was printed and almost mailed. In many ways we’re worse off than we were then, because while I’ve increased spending on salaries our subscriber base—and therefore income—has stayed maddeningly stable.
I’ve tried everything I know how to do to make those numbers change; it’s time for someone else to try, someone who knows how to do different things.
I want to be real with you about the primary reason that I’m leaving. It took everything I had to keep this paper going this long. There were times that it took more than I rightly had to give; my family and friends could tell you plenty of stories that I’m not in, stories that I exit with the words “I have to work.” Monday holidays meant nothing. Being sick meant nothing. There was a deadline I had to make. If I step back and ask myself what I got in return for all that time… well, I don’t want to ask myself that. Which means it’s time to go. I’ve given all I had; there is no more.
Let me be even more real. I lasted in this job much longer than the two editors before me (longer than both of them together!), but it isn’t because I’m better than they were. It’s because, as hard as the circumstances facing me were, I had much more support than they did. The scope of the job I was asked to do was less, even when I started, than it was for Christy or Kelsey, who had no section editors helping them source content, nobody dedicated to answering phones or processing subscription renewals, at times nobody but them even to sell ads, send out bills, and handle the million other things that go into making this paper, issue after relentless issue. And for as little compensation as I receive, theirs was less. There were even times, I have been told, when paychecks bounced.
Why air this dirty laundry now, when it’s ancient history and so am I? I feel it’s important to say that producing this paper is chewing people up. This problem is not unique to this paper. Every time a paper—or for that matter a café or a bookstore or any other small business—closes, it’s because those behind it just couldn’t do it anymore.
Every week, someone writes me or comments on Facebook or otherwise tells us that we’re too expensive—that it’s a travesty that we have a paywall on our digital site, that content wants to be free—but content doesn’t come free. There is a cost to it of people’s time, their very lives. So I feel it’s important to say that I’m starting to regret having sold this paper so much of my time so cheaply.
I want it known that Lori Ann, in whose capable hands I leave you, is working here largely as a labor of love—and love only goes so far. She is going to need your help and your support.
I’m optimistic that she’ll be able to succeed where I failed and come up with creative ways to make this paper break even, or even—dare to dream—turn a small profit that could be reinvested in the many talented and hardworking writers and other contributors who make it possible. That dream kept me going for years, and though the time is right, it does sadden me to let go of it.
So I will leave you with the dream. Please take good care of it.
Emily C. Skaftun took over the reigns of The Norwegian American in Jan. 2014 and has done her best to keep it afloat ever since. With that adventure over, she hopes to spend more time playing roller derby and writing science fiction and fantasy. You can find links to a number of her published stories at www.ecskaftun.com.
This article originally appeared in the September 20, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.