It is not often that I get the chance to wish a one-year-old “Happy Birthday.” As an octogenarian, our little ones are graduates now, either from high school or college. So here goes:
HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY MARBLEHEAD CURRENT.
It was on June 16, 2022 that we launched our online news site that is the predecessor to the Marblehead Current.
Six founders spent the bitter pandemic winter of 2022 meeting every Wednesday on Zoom and planning the steps that took us from concept to online and later a printed newspaper.
Our local news site was rushed onto the internet just before the town elections because we knew there was a thirst for information about the candidates. The Marblehead Reporter, owned by the Virginia-based Gannett newspaper conglomerate, had abandoned local coverage and pulled its talented reporters out of the community.
Founder and consulting editor Kris Olson burned the midnight oil to get the news site up and running while our founding writers Will Dowd and Leigh Blander churned out copy and candidate profiles to go up online. Olson described it as building the plane while we were flying it.
Meanwhile, three other founders, Salem State University Instructor Jessica Barnett, retired Associated Press Bureau Chief Ed Bell (that’s me) and Attorney David Moran structured the business side, gaining 501(c)3 tax exempt status from the IRS and nonprofit incorporation papers from the Massachusetts Secretary of State. We also went about recruiting a talented and highly regarded board of directors. All are Marblehead residents who shared the concern about a news desert in town and volunteered countless hours to the cause.
We made our plans with equal portions of hope, optimism and a deep and abiding love for the town of Marblehead.
Of course, there were others who stepped into the breach, too. One was a blog started by former political office holders and the other a weekly print edition from a daily newspaper company based in neighboring Lynn. We welcome the competition, and we wish them well.
We have been blown away by the warm reception the people of this town have given us. When you tell us that you love our paper, we are thrilled. And we thank you for your support.
We adopted the non-profit model because as hundreds of newspapers shut down across the country, it has become apparent that the for-profit model is not sustainable. We do not want to see what happened to the Marblehead Reporter happen again. Hence, we are out and about town raising money to augment our advertising sales. We are holding “listening parties” to hear your thoughts and seek your financial support. We have become members of the Institute for Non-profit News (INN), which gives support to us and similar enterprises across the country.
Under our non-profit model, all the money we receive stays in Marblehead and goes back into the product. As we gain our financial footing, we hope to beef up our sports coverage, have regular contributors from the high school and increase our coverage of culture, arts and social events. We may even add a political cartoon and a crossword puzzle.
At a recent listening party, someone asked, “What is the secret sauce that makes your newspaper so good?” In a word, our answer was love. We love our town, we love to write and we love our newspaper.
Marblehead Current co-founder and board member Ed Bell retired as Boston chief of bureau from the Associated Press after a 50-year career in print and broadcasting. He is a Paul Harris Fellow at the Rotary Club of Marblehead Harbor and, until recently, hosted “Up for Discussion” on MHTV.