If you build it, they will come—insights into our newsroom

Editor Column

Emilie Conlon, Editor-in-Chief


Wow—what a two weeks it has been. 

The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster, uphill battle and triumph all wrapped into one, and honestly, my head is still spinning a bit. 

To start, the first edition of Valley Sentinel is out, and that is such a triumph. I know my job is to be a writer, but I find myself at a loss for words to express just how excited I am. 

I’m also incredibly proud of the work and effort that our small, grassroots team has put in the last week, two weeks, six weeks, to make this amazing product that we can finally hold in our hands. 

After the fact, I can revel in that pride and look back on the chunk of time that we’ve been planning for this with happiness, from throwing around the idea to COVID organically bringing all of the pieces together. While publishing our first edition is a major triumph, let’s circle back to that uphill battle I talked about earlier.

The paper that all of you are holding in your hands right now was quite literally forged in fire. It’s truly made of our blood, sweat and tears—happy, sad, frustrated, exhausted, excited tears. 

Valley Sentinel is truly a grassroots startup operation, it was started by passionate people, armed with Macbooks and a copious supply of coffee in a home office (literally, we built the desk from scratch before we started—with filing cabinets, 2×8’s, espresso stain and way too much polyurethane). 

As we’ve stated, we don’t have funding from any large corporation or special interest. We cashed in savings and retirement accounts to get this started because we believe in rural community journalism so passionately. 

Literally, we started this with an idea, $1,775 in retirement savings, $750 in savings bonds and some serious determination—that’s it. 

While this vision has been in our minds for the better part of a year, and we’ve been organizing for a few months, everything truly culminated into a single point last Monday night when we began finalizing our content and layout our first edition. 

We had no dry run, we didn’t put together mock editions, what you saw last week is what we put together frantically from scratch, on very little sleep. If you thought our paper, website or newsletter looked good, it’s because we simply put the time in to make it that way. If you thought it looked bad, well then hopefully we’ll get more sleep next week.

To get our first edition out, we stayed up for two days to pull it off, all while balancing our day jobs and battling one of the worst colds I think I’ve ever had. 

— Quick sidebar, about that cold—I had chills, a sore throat, a cough, nasal congestion, a runny nose and dulled sense of taste and smell. It only takes a quick Google search to know those symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 (yes, those are also symptoms of a cold or flu, but does regular sick even still exist during a pandemic?) — 

With the way I felt, and the symptoms I was experiencing, I was convinced that I had coronavirus. I quarantined and got tested, and *spoiler alert* I was negative and now basically back to 100%. 

While testing negative for COVID gave me some peace of mind, it didn’t dull my symptoms or my need to get our first newspaper printed. 

Going through this process for the first time, while sick, while staying awake for two days straight, knowing that I couldn’t just take the day off, reminded me of how much we are just starting out. 

We have a wonderful team of interns and volunteers that give their time, skills and creative ability when they can and have the extra time, which is in short supply in our industry. 

But ultimately, we only have a core group of a few people dedicated to working on this publication each week. 

Throughout this process there were so many times that I wanted to give up, there were times that it changed me into a person who was stressed out, overworked and genuinely tired. There were times where I truly broke down and cried, because nothing about this has been easy. However, my belief in our communities steeled me through it, and it only strengthens, through ups and downs, with each day. We are simply starting out, and we have so many big, engaging ideas that we hope to be able to share with our community, but for now, we are a small group that grows and changes everyday. 

We want to thank David Giffey, he served in an honorary, advisory capacity as Valley Sentinel moved through its startup process, even though his schedule didn’t allow him to be actively involved in day-to-day editorial. After moving past publishing our first edition, David decided to step down from our editorial board. David’s insight was invaluable and we would like to thank him for his help and support.

To everyone that has picked up a copy, subscribed, and reached out with feedback and warm welcomes—thank you.  We can’t even begin to express how grateful we  are for your support. 

Please stay in touch as we grow, we always want to hear your feedback and your ideas.