130 years down; 90 to go?

Editors’ Notes: A message from Editor-in-chief Emily C. Skaftun & Assistant Editor Lori Ann Reinhall

Norwegian American turns 130

Recent studies have shown that heavy social media use leaves the user in an altered state of reality by hindering their ability to think rationally. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

Dear readers,

At the time of the publication of this issue, our newspaper will have been publishing for 130 years to the date. That’s correct: The Norwegian American, in one form or another, after various mergers, has been the voice of the Norwegian-American community in North America since May 17, 1889.

We may actually be able to boast that we are even older, depending on when you are counting from. We are tracing this anniversary along the Western Viking side, back to Washington Posten. Decorah Posten, which was also absorbed into today’s The Norwegian American, first published on Sept. 18, 1874, so maybe we’re actually more like 145 years old… but who’s counting? (We are.)

This is a fact that you, our readers and supporters, can take pride in. We, your editors, certainly do. It is a testament to the vibrancy and cohesion of our community. In a time when all print media are threatened by rising costs and digital media are subject to enormous competition, we have survived. This is, in part, due to the enormous dedication of the owners and staff of this publication over the years, but also due to your commitment to us.

These days, some ask why it is important that we survive.  With instant access to Norwegian news channels via the internet, social media posts, even live video streaming, opportunities to get news and entertainment from Norway seem unlimited.

We agree that these are all valuable resources, which have greatly enriched our lives, not least in the content and overall quality of this newspaper. Nonetheless, there is a perspective offered by this publication that is unique: that of the Norwegian who has chosen to live abroad and of the descendants of those who made that same choice in previous decades and centuries. 

Obviously, the circumstances of each individual reader may be different, but there is a common underlying thread in our community: we hold dear the culture and values that have been passed down to us and want to keep them alive for generations to come.

In recent years, the format and content of our publication has been greatly enhanced, if we do say so ourselves. With a more attractive layout and an expanded variety of articles, the paper now has something to offer a wider audience. More professional writers have joined as regular contributors, and we have been inspired and honored to work with them. With each issue, The Norwegian American seems to only get better.

But we cannot take any of this for granted. Each year we face increasing costs, and we cannot offer our staff and writers competitive compensation. Trust us: no one here is getting rich. We need to invest in our infrastructure to build up a stronger web presence with increased monetization. While our subscribership is stable, even on a slight increase, we need to increase it substantially—by thousands—to sustain our operations.

As always, you, our readers, are our greatest resource: we need you to help us spread the word about The Norwegian American. When you proudly pass your paper on to a friend or neighbor, why not ask them to make a commitment and subscribe to the paper? Or why not gift a subscription to one of your family members, especially the younger ones who might be curious about their heritage. And if anyone is hesitant, you can have us send them a sample copy.

We humans love round numbers; we love to mark the passage of time. This anniversary feels so special to this paper because of its rarity—between 1889 and today, May 17 has only fallen on a Friday 20 times, and only three of those times have coincided with a round number anniversary of the paper’s publication (30 years on May 17, 1929, in the last few months of Roaring Twenties before everything changed, 85 years on May 17, 1974, during the height of Watergate, and 130 years, today!).

But that’s nothing compared to the view ahead. Now that we only publish every other Friday, we can expect the frequency to be cut in half. In fact, using our current publication schedule, the next time a paper would come out on a round anniversary would be May 17, 2109—when the newspaper is 220 years old, but instead of newsprint it’s now a fourth-dimensional hologram delivered directly into subscribers’ brain implants.

No one really believes this little paper will last that long. But then, I’m sure that when Frank Oleson and company put out the first issue of Washington Posten 130 years ago, they would not have imagined the newspaper of today. So anything is possible.

On this 17th of May, as we celebrate our history, freedom, and values, why not make a new commitment to them with renewed commitment to The Norwegian American? The newspaper is a place where the voice of Norwegian Americans past and present can be heard, as we look toward a bright and meaningful future together.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment and happy Syttende Mai. Gratulerer med dagen!

Emily C. Skaftun & Lori Ann Reinhall

P.S. The next round date of publication using Decorah Posten’s birthday is “only” 35 years away, on Sept. 18, 2054, when by that math we’ll turn 180. It’s good to have goals.

This article originally appeared in the May 17, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.