Rollie column

Rollie Atkinson

The origins of this newspaper date to 1889 and the first single page printing of The Sebastopol Times. In 1995, me and my family became owners of Sebastopol’s newspaper and Guerneville’s Russian River News. We merged them into a bigger Sonoma West Times & News. The move was not accepted by everyone but the two papers were struggling on their own and our new business plan has proven successful over the past 25 years.

I have been a newspaper man since I was a boy. I never set out to be an owner, but one of my proudest moments was becoming publisher of this newspaper. That is why I am deeply saddened to announce that we must suspend our regular print schedule until further notice. Unfortunately, a virus, a changed local economy and the loss of too many newspaper readers to Facebook, Google and elsewhere has put this newspaper on unsustainable footing.

We have been detailing in recent weeks our plan to “pivot to digital.”  The same dedicated team of journalists will continue to cover all the local government decisions, local school re-openings, business community challenges, socially-distanced gatherings and many more stories about local people. How long we can continue to do this depends on you. We need your financial support and we need it now.

We will now be delivering the local news on our website (www.sonomawest.com), daily e-newsletters and sharing it on social media. We are changing from a once-a-week printed newspaper to a daily digital news organization. Our work will meet the highest standards of professional journalism. We will only “print” verified, fact-checked news, clearly labled opinions and trustworthy information. We will try to be a little entertaining, too. Our staff remains totally  dedicated to our local news mission and your information needs.

Way beyond the past 25 years of local news, this newspaper has chronicled historic floods, a century of high school graduating classes, pages of local businesses’ successes, embittered land use changes and an evolving agricultural industry.

Imagine none of those highlights, landmarks and accomplishments ever being recorded for history. Only a newspaper can do that — especially one dedicated to a local place and its people.

So now what? The ultimate fate of Sonoma West Times & News is the responsibility of its owners, me and my wife Sarah Bradbury. Journalism has always been hard work, both for us and for concientious readers. The best news comes from converstions and storytelling. We are grateful for so many of you who have joined us here on these pages for so many years.

We must now move into the future where people prefer instant communication and digital convenience. Faithful newsprint followers must now pivot to our websites, social media feeds and daily e-newsletters. Give it a try and you will be rewarded with the most local news you can find from any other source.

 Our basic reader and web access fee is just $5 a month, or $60 a year. But we need more support than just this basic amount. As we previously announced, we are converting the ownership of this news organization to a new nonprofit we helped found, Sonoma County Local News Initiative. The nonprofit is now open for business and accepting tax-deductible donations and other support.

None of us want to abandon print forever. We will continue to print special local news reports, community event and local festival programs and publications dedicated to promoting local businesses. Please support us in our community mission. Thank you.

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