January to June 2007: Settling in

During the winter and early spring of 2007, we focused on strengthening the paper's content.We had welcome help from two former editors of the old Harvard Post, Ann Levison and Connie Larrabee. They would arrive each Wednesday afternoon as proof pages were printed, and would copy edit every word. Often their probing questions resulted in confirming phone calls, tightened leads, and as often as not, major rewrites, or a decision to hold a story until questions could be answered. Ann, who had been editor of the Post for more than 20 years before it was sold to CNC, would also send us a red-lined copy of each published issue with format and content suggestions, which the team digested in its quest to improve quality. When Ann died in April 2008, a sign went up in the Press office"WWAD" (what would Ann do?). Her influence and guidance is very much a part of the Press heritage.

We looked at several alternatives to expand reporting coverage, including an attempt to hire a good reporter from a competing paper. That was unsuccessful (other than getting him a nice raise for staying put), but it made us examine our budget capacity to add staff. At that time, we did so in part by further reducing compensation of owners/partners. The substantial start-up contributions also helped make it possible. We hired Bill Latimer, who had been editor of the old Post's sister publication, the Bolton Common, on a part-time basis, and he served as news editor from mid-May through early September.

The March 30 issue was a blockbuster. We had decided that, periodically, we would distribute to the whole town. We felt that would be attractive to advertisers, and it would help promote subscriptions. We chose March 30 as the first such townwide issue (since starting subscription-based distribution in January). Because it was the issue before Annual Town Meeting, we knew we would have a lot of news (the center four pages were a pullout section covering the warrant articles in great detail). With the combination of extra advertiser interest and political ads for the town election, we had nearly three times the normal amount of advertising, and we ended up printing our first 32-page paper! A bright yellow insert invited readers to subscribe, and we got a nice burst of new subscriptions in the following weeks. Additional 2007 townwide issues were June 8 and October 12.

 

5 Littleton Road
5 Littleton Road - new home
of the Press in April 2007.

In April, we moved Press operations from the editor’s home to 5 Littleton Road, just off the Common in the center of Harvard. This was the first stage of a two-part move. The new owners, Erin and Danno Sullivan, refurbished barn space at the back of the house to be the new home of the Press. We completed the move in July, moving from the house to the barn office space.

 

In May, after three months’ development by the Robbins' son Ken, we launched www.harvardpress.com, the Harvard Press website. Designed to be comprehensive, it contained all news, features, and columns of the paper, and was updated each week by Friday morning when the print version hit the streets. It was freely available except for a few pages available only to subscribers (letters to the editor, classified ads, the People page, and the ability to search the archive of back issues). Utilization grew steadily, and by the end of 2007 there were more than 5,000 visits to the website each month.

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