Over the past few months we’ve made some changes, including moving from the historic Gabber offices on 49th Street to our cozy space in the middle of Gulfport’s downtown. Why? Well, it costs less (we didn’t have the money to buy the paper and the building) and two, we wanted to enforce the idea that we remain part of our community.
Despite seemingly endless changes, we haven’t changed things for the sake of change. We changed because the old way didn’t work anymore. If it did, the paper wouldn’t have stopped publishing for a few dark months and the Reicharts wouldn’t have sold it. For that reason – and because my husband and I don’t have the luxury of operating in a non-pandemic or with a bottomless bank account – we made changes to keep the paper alive and relevant.
Change doesn’t come easily for people. We’ve kept some people: Laura Mulrooney’s returned, as an employee instead of a contractor, and Shelly Wilson’s at the helm of our editorial department. I wouldn’t be shocked if either of those talented, amazing women had a VooDoo doll in my likeness. Change is hard, and I’ve thrown a lot at them, and they’re doing a fantastic job.
Our delivery situation also changed. This came suddenly, although not unexpectedly, and it offered us an opportunity: We could drive the route and see exactly where our papers go every week – and where they don’t. Last Wednesday night, we met our printer and some 10,000 papers on the edge of Gulfport and started driving. Relationship pro tip: If you want to know if you and your beloved are well-suited, load your SUV with 10,000 newspapers and deliver them together in the dead of night.
Delivering newspapers isn’t as bucolic as it appears in a Norman Rockwell painting. The car creaked under the weight of the papers, the outside temperature hovered around 98º, and the routing software we used had some glitches. We got lost inside the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club. In Kenneth City, three police cars surrounded us when we pulled over to double check an address. As the night wore on, I grew uncomfortably, increasingly, disturbingly aware of a coverage hole in, as some may call it, an “economically disadvantaged area.” Plainly put, the Gabber Newspaper hasn’t done a good job serving people of color.
But you know what? I don’t want to pay anyone else to do this part of the job, at least not right now. Despite the many, many missteps, I love delivering the paper. Some of where we delivered made perfect sense (Gulfport, St. Pete Beach, St. Petersburg’s downtown) but other areas… well, let’s just say we’ll revisit where we deliver in the coming weeks.
At the end of the route – with morning traffic starting (we’re assuming we’ll get faster at this) – we realized a few things. One, our marriage had survived. Two, we knew the paper better than we did after several months of owning it (and, for me, after almost 13 years of working at it). Three, the Gabber has more opportunity than ever to be relevant in new neighborhoods close to home.
Change is hard. We want this to be a paper for everyone in South Pinellas. Over the coming weeks, our staff will have discussions about where the Gabber goes and what areas we cover, and how we can help all the communities we serve. We welcome your input; email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s change together.