The News has some news to relate.
This week, we introduce our new Twisp columnist on the Valley Life page. Michelle Schmidtke replaces Sarah Schrock, who was our Twisp correspondent since taking over from the late Sally Gracie in 2016.
Michelle will tell you a bit about herself in her inaugural column, on page B8, in which you’ll learn that she has been a practicing veterinarian for more than 40 years. What she doesn’t mention is that she earned a certificate in nonfiction writing from the University of Washington with an emphasis on journalism. “The class taught the principles of fact-gathering, interviewing, editing and revision,” she said in her application letter. She has published several articles, and is a lifelong photographer, which is handy for our columnists.
“I have a thorough knowledge of the Methow Valley after spending many summers hiking, riding, river rafting and working for the U.S. Forest Service in Okanogan County,” she noted in her application letter.
In the community, she has been a volunteer for Methow At Home, Classroom in Bloom, Methow Arts and C6F2F, and is a long-time member and officer of Methow Valley Back Country Horsemen.
We had other applicants who I am certain would have made fine columnists. It’s encouraging to know that there is so much talent in our little community.
Michelle has lots of her own ideas, but she welcomes yours. To reach her, email email@example.com.
It’s been nearly four years since we raised our mail subscription rates in March of 2020, and lately people have been suggesting that we raise them again — out of concern that we continue to stay viable as a locally produced newspaper in an uncertain journalistic environment.
It’s sound advice. Out of prudence and necessity — with some reluctance because we know the cost of everything is going up — we will raise our subscription rates on Jan. 1, 2024. They will go from $39 to $45 a year for in-county mailing, from $50 to $60 for out-of-county subscriptions, and from $65 to $70 annually for out-of-state subscribers.
Before that 2020 increase, it had been six years since we hiked the subscription prices. Two price hikes in 10 years isn’t excessive, given how dramatically all of our operating costs have gone up during that time — for personnel, printing, supplies, postage and pretty much everything else. Meanwhile, while our revenues have recovered from the hits they took during the COVID years, they have never reached the levels they peaked at before I got here more than 12 years ago.
Also on Jan. 1, for the first time in more than 10 years we will be raising our newsstand price from $1 to $1.50. I haven’t wanted to do that because it’s easier to hand over a dollar bill for the paper than to add some change. We split the newsstand revenues with our retail partners, so they will also see a slight increase in their share of individual sales.
A subscription will still be a pretty good deal for our in-county readers: less than $1 a week, and we pay the postage. That makes it advantageous over a newsstand purchase, but many people still like to buy the paper at one of our outlets rather than wait for the mail. We hope not to discourage them.
All told, subscriptions and single-copy sales still only account for a fraction of our overall revenues. As has historically been the case, readers continue to be subsidized by advertisers, who pretty much pay the way — for which we are grateful.
I recently surveyed other weekly newspapers, in Washington and elsewhere, to get a sense of what they are charging for subscriptions these days. Our new rates won’t be the highest or the lowest.
As we did in 2020, we’re going to give readers some time to extend their existing subscriptions at the current rates, for up to two years. We hope some folks will take advantage of that offer.
We are always looking to strike a balance between keeping ourselves afloat and keeping costs manageable for readers and advertisers, while continuing to produce the best local journalism we can. Over the past several years we have periodically raised rates for our newspaper and special publications advertising by small incremental amounts. Sometimes we go a couple of years between increases, mindful of our advertisers’ costs. The price for classifieds has stayed the same as it was when I arrived in 2011.
As always, we appreciate your support and feedback. Our commitment to quality community journalism remains absolute.