A year ago this month, my husband and I decided to buy the Gabber Newspaper, which former owners Deb and Ken Reichart closed after the March 26, 2020 issue. Before we finalized the sale, we resumed publishing stories online while we waited to bring back the print version.
Now seems a good time to let y’all know how it’s going.
I wrote for the Gabber from 2003-2015. In the dash, I earned my MLA, met the man I would marry, Barry (longtime readers of my “Hard Candy” column remember him as El Cap) and together we bought our current home in Gulfport. Over the past six years I freelanced, published a book and worked as the arts + entertainment editor for Creative Loafing. I have a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, and before working in print, I worked in radio and public relations.
Barry retired from his second career as boat captain in 2019, but before that, he retired from television. He hates it when I tell people this, but he has two Emmys. This is significant because one of them is for news. His degree? Broadcasting, with an emphasis on management.
At our core, we’re both water people who love Florida and have a news addiction.
We bought the paper because hyperlocal journalism matters – it’s part of what builds a strong community. We hope, one day, it will once again turn a profit and we’ll see a reward on our investment. We take no money from the paper – we promised you we wouldn’t for the first year, but it will likely take longer than that. We earn our living from my writing and speaking and Barry’s retirement. Barry is the board of the Gulfport Merchants Chamber of Commerce; I currently preside over the Gulfport Historical Society.
Right now, the paper costs at least $7,000 a week to run. In a perfect world, it would generate $10,000 a week so we could have some extras (right now several of the staff use their personal computers, for example). Most of that money goes to pay staff salaries, and since so many of you donate or have donated to the paper as we ramp up to our needed revenue, it seems fair that we tell you about them.
Shelly Wilson started at the Gabber in 2001, and, other than a stint in Denmark and going back to finish her college degree, she’s worked here ever since. She’s our editor-in-chief and one of the two best editors I’ve written for in my life. I trust her implicitly with the editorial content; I technically have veto power, but I have never used it. I stand behind her decisions 100%, even when I disagree (and trust me, we disagree on a lot).
Joey Neill and I met when I worked at Creative Loafing. He and I share some neurotic tendencies, which is a great thing in a creative director, because he cares so much about getting everything right. If you love our new look, that’s 100% Joey.
Chris Madalena, our sales director, and I also met at Creative Loafing, and he’s probably the only sales person I’ve liked instantly. If you know him, you know he’s the antithesis of every negative sales stereotype out there, and he is particularly passionate about local businesses.
Leah Petrakis got the job, quite honestly, because she’s one of my closest friends, and, in a nod to her Boston roots, wicked smart. She handles our social media (as well as our social media clients, because yes, we do that, too), manages our classifieds, answers the phones, and makes sure the trains run on time. She grew up working in her parents’ restaurants and knows what it takes to keep a family business afloat.
Abby Baker previously worked for the Gabber, moved to New York, and then – luckily for us – moved back. She deftly manages all our event listings, covers breaking news, arts and a host of other things.
Ryan McGahan covers Gulfport City Council. I mention him because George Brann started this paper in 1968 to cover Gulfport politics, and it is still one of our primary missions. I covered council for years and don’t say this lightly: Ryan’s the best council reporter I’ve met.
Other talented freelancers write the rest of our content, and I only omit them because of space constraints.
Currently, Barry and I deliver the paper on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Barry manages our delivery and I support our staff as needed. We proof the paper on Tuesday and send it to the printer on Tuesday night. This new deadline halved our printing bill.
We publish content online – more than you see in print – because, as much as we all love print, we know there will come a day when everyone reads news online only. Right now, we have five times as many readers online as we do in print; you can find the print version everywhere from Madeira Beach and Kenneth City to the Skyway Bridge.
We bought the paper with a combination of donations, loans from the community, and our own savings. While we miss a nest egg, we love that this community believes in the paper so much that people would donate or loan us money.
Right now, as our advertisers emerge from the pandemic, we still depend on those donations. We hope we won’t always, but today they’re a crucial part of how we pay our staff, our printer, and our landlord (those last two are also small businesses). So, for those of you who donate once, or every month, thank you. If you want to donate, we make it easy – there’s a donate button under every article we publish online, or you can mail a check to us at 2908-B Beach Boulevard South, Gulfport, 33707.
You can support us in other ways, too: Please give your business to our advertisers and – this is key – let them know you did so because you saw their ad in the Gabber. Use our classifieds to sell something. We’re like Craig’s List, but without the spam and scams. When you need an obituary – and I sincerely hope you don’t – have the funeral home place it through us. The obituary still appears at legacy.com, but at a fraction of what other papers charge.
With your support, Barry and I – along with everyone here at Team Gabber – will keep telling your stories – one Thursday at a time.