When I first came to Healdsburg in 1981, I visited the Tribune offices to buy a subscription to my new hometown’s paper. By coincidence, they were looking for a new sports editor and I was hired on the spot.

Almost 40 years later after serving as editor and general manager, my wife and I have now owned the newspaper for 20 years. Call it accidental good fortune.

Rollie column

Rollie Atkinson

But now, 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 Healdsburg city council decisions, local school re-openings, business community challenges, socially-distanced gatherings, hopefully future community celebrations and 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.

As we have been saying, we are not abandoning print and we will continue to publish a weekly Tribune until further notice. However, these historic times for the newspaper industry have forced us to suspend the weekly print versions of our other three newspaper in Cloverdale, Windsor and Sebastopol. We are keeping all of our news staff and will continue to provide essential news to those communities with a full digital pivot to our websites, daily e-newsletters and social media sharing.

Regardless of the format or platform, our work will meet the highest standards of professional journalism. We will only “print” verified, fact-checked news, clearly labeled opinions and trustworthy information. We will try to be a little entertaining, too. We are still eager to receive your press releases, news tips, comments and suggestions. Our staff remains totally dedicated to our local news mission but we must rely on your willingness to step up and keep the Tribune alive.

Through my work at the Tribune I have seen this place grow from a very small town surrounded by prune orchards to a world-class destination full of energetic, smart and friendly people and small businesses. We chronicled the redevelopment of the downtown, the modernization of Healdsburg High School, the preservation of our hospital in 2000 and the emergence of a thriving hospitality 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  The Healdsburg Tribune is the responsibility of its owners, me and my wife Sarah Bradbury. 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 follow us on our websites, social media feed and daily e-newsletters. Give it a try and you will find as much Healdsburg and north county news as you will find anywhere else.

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.

Your increased support is urgently needed. Help us accomplish our community-focused mission. Thank you. 

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