Highland-Bath Recorder Faces An Uncertain Future Pt. 1

“The new normal.” It’s a phrase used liberally these days as people struggle to adjust to the new realities being shaped in our world due to the coronavirus pandemic. And, incredibly to many in the Allegheny Highlands, one new reality may be life without The Recorder, the paper of record for Bath and Highland counties.

In the April 23rd edition, the current publisher, and incedentally my old boss, Anne Adams wrote a piece dealing with the current struggles, and I spoke with her last week about it. She started with the paper’s history, and her role in it.

“We were founded by a couple of guys back in 1877, who brought a press over from Pendleton County, and they kicked us off and published for quite a few years. I am only the 10th publisher, but we’ve had several long term publishers, including Harry B. Woo, who published The Recorder for almost 50 of its 143 years. And folks like the Pritchard family, who published for about 30 years, and the Campbells who published for about 18 years, and I’ve been at it now since 2007, although this is my 30th year with the paper.”

The Recorder has faced times of transition before, most notably when the decision was made to no longer print it in Monterey.

“That was a very difficult decision. But basically, it came down to Ralph Hammer being ready to retire. He had been running our press for gosh, I know at least 30 years, since he was a young man. And he was in his early 80s when he decided it was time to retire. I was a very physically demanding job, and he was masterful at it. So as he came to that point in his life, we also were looking forward to ways to expand the number of pages that we could print and increase the amount of color that we could print. So in 2000, that’s when we shut down the press room, and began getting our paper printed at Narrow Passage Press up in Woodstock.”

While difficult, that decision pales in comparison to what she currently faces.

“Well, as I mentioned in my piece, The Recorder still very much relies on advertising for almost 80% of its revenue. It costs about $10,000 a month just to print the paper, and mail The Recorders. And then you’ve got basic things like payroll, and taxes, and media liability insurance, which is very expensive, and all the basics of an operation. But since the recession when advertising fell off, we haven’t made much profit, if any, so we didn’t really have any savings to fall back on when this thing hit. And now it’s just – these poor businesses that I really worry about, small businesses just like us, are all struggling, if they’re open at all. So they don’t have the money to advertise, and there’s no point in advertising if they can’t even be open. So that pretty much fell off the minute the governor shut down the state.”

She continued, “We were able to calculate that we could print through May 21st. That’s the last payroll that I can guarantee my staff. And that’s with the assistance of the Payroll Protection Program, so beyond that, I just am not sure what happens.”

“I will tell you, in the last 30 hours since I announced how vulnerable things were, I’ve just been brought to my knees. It’s so humbling. So many of our readers have reached out and they’ve made good suggestions and they’ve had great ideas. And they’ve donated –  they’ve already raised over $3,000, just in the last 30 hours. And more importantly, they’ve given us so many words of encouragement, uplifting comments and prayers. And that has meant the world to all of us on our staff, because it just makes us want to fight even harder to keep going.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story .

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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