Here We Go Again:

a note of encouragement

By Zach Hagadone

In October 2004, Ben Olson and I were wandering up and down Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, ducking into bars to escape a torrential autumn rain storm. I was in LA to join Ben for a Hunter S. Thompson book signing, and with each successive bar trying to get him to quit his semi-lucrative career as a production assistant on commercials and move back home to work for a yet-to-be-published newspaper called the Sandpoint Reader.

I promised him a steady paycheck and the chance to be involved in something that would be important to our hometown. Sitting in Barney’s Beanery over our third or fourth round of Red Stripes, he laughed at me, and rightly so. A day or two later I rode the train back to Sandpoint and busied myself with all the paperwork and planning that went into launching the paper.

A month after our conversation at Barney’s I got a call from Ben. My promises of riches and civic glory had been working on him. He was in.

SPR Vol. 1 No. 1 published Dec. 24, 2004 with Ben on the masthead and his byline on a feature story about construction of The Home Depot and a lenghty travel piece on our trip to see Thompson. Ben’s name would appear on dozens of stories over the next several years—tens of thousands of words on everything from killer bees and so-called “Aspenization” to post-tsunami relief work in Thailand. His four-part series on riding the rails around the country turned into Ben’s thinly-veiled autobiographical novel Wanderlost.

Ben began as the Reader’s chief staff writer and even did a short stint as an ad salesman. By the close of the paper’s eight-year run, he became its biggest internal critic—going so far as to challenge then-co-owner and publisher John Reuter to a public duel. In all those years he received a total of about $900. That’s $100 or so a year. Bad wages, even for Sandpoint.
In its waning days, with both Reuter and former co -owner Chris DeCleur living in Boise, I asked Ben if he’d join me as a partner in the business. Again, he laughed at me.

Shortly before the birth of my first child in April 2012, Reuter and I closed the paper and I, too, moved to Boise where I am currently editor-in-chief of the Boise Weekly.

It’s hard to express the mix of emotions I felt when Ben called me in October 2014 to tell me he was thinking of re-starting the Reader. A decade after our rainy walk around Hollywood the roles had reversed. Even stranger, the publication date of this new iteration of the Reader coincided—almost to the day—with the birth of my second child. Alignments like that make it hard, even for a cynic, to discount the concept of fate. Or kismet. Whatever you want to call it, there seems to be some kind cycle at work that I can’t help but feel is working for the best.

This version of the Reader has a lot going for it that the original lacked. For one thing, it’s not managed by a bunch of 22–24 year olds with zero experience running a professional news operation. Ben is taking the helm as publisher after more than 10 years of involvement with the paper, Editor Cameron Rasmusson is a university-trained journalist with four years experience in the trenches as a working grunt reporter. The operation is receiving support from Keokee, whose bona fides need no qualifications. John Reuter and I have committed to sharing our do’s and don’ts, learned from years of bootstrapping this thing with little more than a couple of old desktop computers, the generosity of friends and family, and a song in our hearts.

Helping own and operate the Sandpoint Reader was one of the hardest, best, most complex things I’ve ever done and is therefore among the most personal associations I have with anything outside my wife, children and immediate family. Ben asked me to write this little missive as a “passing of the torch,” and I do it happily with great excitement and gratification that it will live on in a form whose pedigree hews as close to its original intent as could be possible.

To hazard a lifted phrase from Hunter Thompson, who in many important ways inspired this project in the first place: Good luck, Bubba.

Zach Hagadone is editor-in-chief of the Boise Weekly. The Sandpoint Reader will forever include his name on our masthead as editor (emeritus) for the years of dedication he has given, and the character he has imparted upon it. To be blessed by Zach is akin to being whonked on the head with a bottle of champagne before a long voyage at sea. He is one of the best there is, and we at the Reader feel damn humble to follow in his footsteps.

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.