“Only an arrogant Michigan grad would think he could enter a dying industry and succeed in his spare time.” That comment (or something close to it) was delivered with a wry smile from Larry Werner in the summer of 2010 at a family gathering. The proud uncle, Michigan State alumnus and accomplished newsman was reacting in jest to learning that his Wolverine nephew had ventured into the print newspaper business, thus discovering and sharing his passion.
The comment was one of many memories that have filled my mind this week.
The March 6th edition of The Belleville Lake Current was the 195th and final print edition for the foreseeable future. Quite simply, the significant sacrifice and commitment required from the ownership team (myself, Lori Werner and Bob Thorne) has come to exceed what we are willing and able to give. The rationale to cease production may be simple, but coming to this conclusion was difficult and came after weeks of consideration of alternatives.
Our website, www.bellevillelakecurrent.com, will remain on-line and active in the near term and our Facebook page will also remain active to serve as a forum for the community to converse on matters impacting the tri-community. Further, our ability to resume printing of The Current, even if only for limited editions, remains and may be capitalized on if needed.
We were initially drawn to serve a community that seemed misrepresented at times and whose reality seemed to lag strangely behind its potential. The circumstances that followed this initial desire will always amaze me. A remarkable group of individuals worked incredibly hard and with selfless determination to bring a vision to life.
Empowerment of the individual is a theory taught in business schools. Our operation epitomized empowerment, not necessarily by design, but by necessity. Several individuals made contributions that were essential to The Current’s existence.
Without the leadership, drive and wisdom of Bob Thorne – whose commitment to his hometown is as sincere and determined as his heart – the paper would not have gotten off the ground and survived the first year. I still can’t believe he agreed to start a newspaper with a married couple that had neither business nor newspaper experience. I suppose there’s a fine line between wisdom and insanity.
Carol Thorne refined our business processes and developed technical tools to support them that provided a rock solid foundation for our operation.
Lori Werner, the most productive human I’ve ever met (yes I am biased, but this opinion is shared), taught herself how to use the software program InDesign in order to assemble the paper each week and did so for the first year and a half of the paper’s existence. This was in addition to working with Bob to secure our initial advertisers and then managing those sales (while finding time to be a model employee, a great mom and the best wife a guy could ask for).
William Zilke, the only member of our staff with any industry experience, brought credibility, guidance and a unique personality that made us, using his term, “Positively Belleville”. The contributions William and his wife Paulette Bint made to The Current will never be forgotten.
Sales representative Kathleen McQuaid came along at just the right time and grew our business to the point where we could bring in a news manager (and eventually managing editor), Rich Jenkins, whose consistency and professionalism elevated the quality of our product.
The work done behind the scenes, by bookkeeper Kristina Cotes and graphic artist Michelle Baker in particular, was remarkable in its reliability and consistency.
The rain, snow or shine dedication of Gail Ellis and Mike Ross physically delivered The Current to the community each week.
Contributions from individuals such as Cindy King (features) and Dave Merchant (Belleville High School sports) added so much to the publication.
All these parties (and more) managed to coordinate the production of a newspaper each week without shared office space and communicating exclusively by e-mail and phone. The efficiency, commitment, professionalism and selflessness required on the part of these individuals is something I’ll always marvel at. I am deeply grateful to you all.
I know I speak on behalf of our unique team when I encourage the community to think big. If there was one recurrent theme I observed that contributes to the gap between the tri-communities’ abundant potential and its humble reality, it was pockets of small thought and petty, inefficient action. Invest your unique gifts in those persons, businesses and causes whose vision and actions are as grand as our sunsets. Follow the lead of those who walk past, over and around the mud that contains territorial squabbles of irrelevance and unnecessary roadblocks to progress. These positive visionaries are the neighbors – and my time with The Current revealed there are plenty – who will walk along our side to a higher ground, a better day for our community and better future for our children.
There may have been some truth in Uncle Larry’s jest. It took a touch of naivety, a boatload of determination and perhaps a dash of arrogance to set out on this difficult but rewarding journey of service to our hometown. However, I am in full agreement with my partner and dear friend Bob Thorne who said this week, “I don’t regret a minute of it.”
On behalf of everyone at The Current, I want to express our gratitude to our advertisers, particularly those that have been with us from the beginning. Your belief in us allowed a dream to become a reality.
We’d also like to thank all of you for allowing us to tell your stories for four memorable years. We like to think our modest publication made a positive contribution to the community. We are certain that the opportunity to serve you made a positive impact on us.