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Against the odds, the Lightning marches on

All creatures great and small devour the Lightning. All creatures great and small devour the Lightning.

Shanghaied by coronavirus coverage, our graduation section, planting tomatoes and walking the dogs — census down to two Jack Russell rescues after Tater Tot died at age 16½ last month — I failed to note recent anniversaries of the Lightning.

 

We went live with HendersonvilleLightning.com on April 24, 2012. We debuted the print product a couple of weeks later, on May 9. As friends of the Lightning have heard me say on Lightning radio (8 a.m. Thursdays on WTZQ) or in those long-ago in-person stump speeches, they told me we wouldn’t make it nine months, nine weeks or nine days. We’re marching toward our 10th birthday, still running down tips, covering politics, government and culture and, of course, new restaurants.

Back in early 2012, my newspaper friends were the biggest skeptics when they read our prospectus. Your advertising and paid circulation numbers are too aggressive, they said. You’re fighting a legacy daily that’s well-established, plus TV, radio stations and other digital products.
I knew what they didn’t know. I knew the audience. On a gut level, I sensed the need for the kind of product I wanted to deliver. The Lightning, as one reader said, “scratches the itch” our community has for wanting to know. Not just the headlines but context and history. Not just the who, what, where and when but the why. I tell young reporters: Ask open-ended, not yes-no, questions. Then shut up. Then ask why.
Which brings me to one of the ways we’re staying afloat. The Google News Initiative recently awarded the Lightning $5,000 from its Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to continue to report original local news at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has demolished retail print advertising.
AndrewDundasAndrew DundasThe Google award is one reason Lightning readers have seen new bylines in recent weeks. Our chief correspondents this summer are Andrew Dundas, a rising senior at UNC at Chapel Hill, and Gracie Milner, a rising senior at Hendersonville High School.
Andrew grew up in Kansas and Iowa before moving to Western North Carolina in 2015. He lives in Fairview, where he was homeschooled. After two years at A-B Tech, he transferred to UNC last fall and is studying media and journalism.
GracieMilnerGracie MilnerGracie, whose beat includes how the public schools are operating in the pandemic, is at the top of her class. She volunteers throughout the community as a member of the National Honor Society and the Keywanettes. In addition to her reporting work for us, she works at Survival Innovations in Mills River as a seamstress making personal protective equipment for the fight against covid-19.
While the coronavirus taketh away retail advertising, it giveth new online readers. We had one other anniversary to celebrate recently and it’s a part of our business strategy, too. We installed the paywall for the website on July 17, 2019. We continue to see a surge in new online readers, from people mostly staying home and taking advantage of our All Access subscription, which includes the website content plus the weekly print product, delivered via U.S. mail on what we call Lightning Thursday. We’re getting new readers but always welcome more. To subscribe, go here or call Jan at 828-698-0407.
Thank you, everyone, for being friends of the Lightning. The Lightning survives, the Lightning thrives, because of you.

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Contact editor Bill Moss at billmoss@hendersonvillelightning.com.