State of the NAW (and its editor)

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun Is this a big newspaper or what? Nils Anders Wik thinks so.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
Is this a big newspaper or what? Nils Anders Wik thinks so.

Emily C. Skaftun
Norwegian American Weekly

This issue marks my second anniversary as the editor of the Norwegian American Weekly. Wow!

A year ago I wrote a cheerfully optimistic State of the NAW column, detailing our ups and downs through the year, and then within two weeks felt like an utter moron when I got the decree to cease operations. February 6, 2015, was to be our last issue.

It took us all by surprise. I said last year that we were treading water financially, and I stand by the assessment. In the year since, we’ve cut some costs and increased our subscriber base a little, and today we are almost in the same place financially that we were a year ago. We get new subscribers every day, but the total number somehow stays about the same.

So in other words, we’re going to have to make some (more) changes. I was in New York last week investigating what some of those changes might be, and while I don’t have any concrete changes to report at this time, expect 2016 to be another year of flux.

While we are reimagining a new future, let me ask you: what would you like to see? What sorts of articles would you like to see more of? Fewer of? Would you like new sections in the paper? Would you like it to look different? Feel different? How about a new name? Perhaps one that’s a bit vaguer about the periodical’s frequency?

It’s become clear to us that if we’re going to make it we have to go after a new audience, so we are formulating a plan of attack for that. But rest assured, dear readers, that your continued support is the most important thing to us. Without you, we wouldn’t have made it through the last tumultuous year, and without it I don’t see much of a future either. In short, we heart you more than waffles.

Two years ago I sat down in this office and, after a day of being shown the ropes by Kelsey, the previous editor, took control. I knew basically nothing about Norway then. I’d been there once, almost by chance, having finally made it over there for a family reunion. At the time I spoke about 10 words of Norwegian (takk for maten, klem, god jul, julenissen, and uff da), so I honestly didn’t get a lot out of the reunion. Until two years ago most of my Norsk memories were way back in the past, walking in Seattle’s Syttende Mai parade in my Norwegian costume as a little kid.

A few days after my butt hit the editor chair it also sat down in a classroom, attempting to get up to speed in the language. I’ve been working on that almost every day since, and I’ve gotta say I’d hoped to be closer to fluency by now. Ambitious, I know. I sort of hoped that by working with Norwegian words basically all the time that I would learn them by osmosis. To an extent I’d say it’s working. I haven’t met my goal of being able to easily scan the headlines of VG and Aftenposten yet, but I can slog my way through articles with a lot of effort and the help of google translate. When people write us letters in Norwegian I can occasionally read them. So it’s progress of a sort. We’ll see how far the next year gets me.

In this time, though, I have learned a LOT about the country. I’d feared, when I took the job, that finding enough content would be a problem. I mean, how much can you say about a little country at the top of the world, with about the same population as the state of Minnesota?

A lot, it turns out. That little country is outsized in its personality and contributions in technology, science, sports, global leadership, and the art of living well. I’ve become one of those insufferable people who’s always talking about the same topic: Norway. I’ve never been one to watch or read the news much. I’m typically clueless about the latest current events… unless it happened in Norway.

Political discussions turn inevitably toward that country: “This is how they do it in Norway.” My friends have learned not to get me started about Norway.

But I have started. I’ve just begun, in fact, and the same is true of this 127-year old publication. Big things are afoot in 2016! Please stay tuned.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 15, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

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