REFLECTIONS/Jonathan Gramling

                                                             Can’t Believe It’s 400

Jonathan Gramling

It’s hard to fathom when I think about it. As the publisher & editor of The Capital City Hues, you have to grind it somewhat in order to get an issue out. Over the course of every two weeks, I go through a roller-coaster of emotions, from “It’s a great paper” to “Nobody reads the paper” to “There is no way I’m going to meet my deadline” to “It’s an act of God, a miracle, for this newspaper to be coming out once again.”

I often times think about it like a Grimm’s Fairy Tale where like the shoe cobbler, I get locked up in my room with a lot of raw ingredients and somehow a newspaper gets published and I am left to wonder how that happened. Who are those elves anyway?

I say this with all sincerity, I still wonder how the paper gets out because its demands are beyond my talent and abilities. Now I can be a pretty smart guy, but it is beyond me how it has been published week in and week out for over 15 years. It’s beyond me.

And so my elation over getting another paper published lasts a whole two hours I think before the reality sets in that another paper needs to be published in two weeks and I don’t have a cover story lined up and I don’t have anything for the middle spread. Plus there is all of the non-profit accounting work and volunteer work that I have put off.

And so I put the blinders on and get to work.

My good friend Kwame Salter, with whom I’ve had great philosophical and political discussions with since 1979 when I pumped gas at the Clark Oil Station he bought his gas at, called me up once to tell me that I had really mailed a column on race and the Republican Party. To be honest, I had to pull the column up on my computer because I had forgotten what the column was about. I’ve been on a sort of an intellectual assembly line of sorts, putting out high quality — in my view — papers on a biweekly basis. There is no time to relish a column or article well-written. It’s written. It makes sense. You hope someone reads it and gets a benefit from it. And then you have to move on.

And so for the length of time that it takes for me to write this column and perhaps two hours after — although someone just called and will call me back right after deadline — I can savor the fact that this issue, July 26, 2021, is our 400th issue. Can you believe that?

I had one of my financial partners and a good friend candidly tell me that he thought the paper would have folded a long time ago. And there were a couple of times that I might have agreed with him. The first was back around 2010 when the advertising market for print just disappeared. Many papers stopped printing and went to online. The Capital City Hues was losing money and I had a bunch of my “go to” money in the mix. And so the question became, “Do we hang in there and ride it out to the end? Or do I pull up short so that I have some funds to fall back on?” And even though we were a for-profit, I remember people buying virtual subscriptions and benefactors like Paul and Atsuko Kusuda just gave the paper money because they believed in it. And so we survived.

And of course the second time was when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything was shut down and many papers stopped printing. And so the question was, “Do we stop printing like every other sane publisher was doing? Or do we close up shop and save our resources for another venture?”

And it was my good friend Ada Deer who inadvertently encouraged me to continue printing. She is a subscriber and was telling me how wonderful it was to get the paper through the mail. And so I realized that I had a duty to our subscribers to continuing printing and distributing it at grocery stores and other essential outlets and through the mail to our subscribers. And I am so glad we kept printing because I do think The Hues might have folded if we went to a totally virtual presence.

And so it has been 800 weeks since The Capital City Hues began printing on March 22, 2006. We are older than all of the 15-year-olds in this community. And I haven’t had a true vacation since then.

I must admit that there have been some personal benefits to publishing a multicultural biweekly newspaper. I have been a witness to history and attended both inaugurations of President Barack Obama. I even shook his hand once and saw him be re-nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2012.

And I have to admit that it kept me connected to my son Andrew when he was living in China. He went to teach English as a Second Language in Hefei, China back in 2005, I recall. And so I went to see him for the Chinese New Year in late January 2006. We met in Shanghai — Andrew, his girlfriend and I — and spent four days exploring the marketplaces and history of China contained in that international city. And then Andrew and I headed for Beijing for 3-4 days and saw Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

I had made up my mind that I would start up The Capital City Hues and I wanted to interview Andrew for a story. I realized there was too much there and so we decided that he would write a column called China Dispatch about his experiences in China. As a father, it kept me in touch with what was going on with him and I found out a lot of things he would never tell me.

I came back to Madison at the beginning of February 2006 and Heidi Pascual who would be the associate editor took off for The Philippines to visit her family. And six weeks later, the whole structure of the paper had been developed including distribution, columnists, lay-out, printing arrangements, advertising and lead stories.

Those production elves were with me even back then. And 400 issues later, The Hues is still publishing strong. Thank you everyone!