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Marking year of Vindy publication, other challenges

Things were a little more hectic than usual in my newspaper building one year ago this week.

That’s when we were spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to devise our plan of just how we would handle taking over production and publication of The Vindicator — more than doubling our then-circulation, coverage area and distribution of the Tribune Chronicle.

If you’re a subscriber or longtime Vindy reader, you probably already have heard the story. It was June 2019 when The Vindicator announced it would close its doors, permanently ceasing production.

After the initial shock, we got to work at finding a way to guarantee our Mahoning County neighbors would continue to have a reliable newspaper delivered both online and to their door. Trusted local news is critical in every community, and, certainly, a community the size of Youngstown and Mahoning County could not go without the service we knew we could provide.

Frankly, the takeover was a no-brainer, especially since we already had been providing reliable, trusted news coverage without fail for more than 207 years. We had a solid corps of journalists already well-trained on how to gather and cover the news. We had a fleet of delivery people, an excellent press and production crew, and all the other important departments that keep us humming along, including advertising and business operations.

And so, we got to work.

After the deal closed, transferring The Vindicator’s name, subscriber list and the www.Vindy.com website domain to the Tribune Chronicle, it left us just a couple weeks to be ready to publish our the first new Vindicator on Sept. 1, 2019, with absolutely no gap in service. The previous owners had ceased publication Aug. 31, 2019.

My department was fortunate to be able to bring on several very talented, strong journalists in the form of reporters, editors and page designers who previously worked in Youngstown.

Other departments in our building, too, shored up staff by bringing on new people, including more than 100 carriers from the old Vindicator.

We pushed through many growing pains, some of which undoubtedly affected may readers like you. It included things like clogged phone lines while we waited for the addition of new lines, or problems with delivery and billing, all due to overwhelming amounts of new accounts.

In the newsroom, our coverage of Mahoning County was slightly more seamless because the talented journalists we added already knew the area and simply continued doing what they were good at.

There was, of course, a learning curve as new page designers became acquainted with our programs and systems.

After a few months, we had worked out most of the kinks and we were humming along beautifully. We were focusing on community events, local government, courts and crime, high school sports and holding our elected officials accountable.

I was extremely proud of the very unique products we were turning out in both counties, and the hard-working staff we had assembled.

Then, like many businesses, March came, and we hit a huge speed bump — COVID-19.

While COVID-related stories were plentiful, other news slowed. Events, both big and small, were canceled leaving little opportunity for coverage and local photos. Feature stories became rare — at least those without a health crisis angle. An abrupt end to sporting events left my sports department struggling to fill even half the daily space they previously filled.

But giving up was not an option. We have an obligation to tens of thousands of readers who rely on us every day. With more than 200 years behind us, the leaders at this newspaper knew we would persevere.

And we have.

As we work together as part of this Mahoning Valley community, we know we will emerge from this COVID health crisis. We will rebound and continue to grow. We will continue to collect and present all the local news that you need.

Thank you for staying with us as we have transitioned and evolved this past year. It’s been exciting and challenging, and now we look forward to many, many more to come.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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