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The ties that bind

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To say The Sopris Sun is a team effort is both a cliché and an understatement, but it’s still the response I give every time someone compliments the paper (the same approach does not apply to complaints, I’m afraid).

That truth could not have been more perfectly illustrated than it was at our sold-out tenth birthday party at The Way Home on Sunday. We filled every one of 70 seats with folks who had contributed to The Sun’s success in one way or another: board members, staff, columnists, donors, advertisers and readers from the very first issue ‘til today.

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We’ve talked a lot lately about the tremendous uphill battle of founding a paper in six weeks during the height of the recession. Perhaps we haven’t said enough about the decade since.

The job of journalism has not become any easier, at least on the large scale. Newspapers continue to close, and those that endure are subject to cuts and compromises and distrust.

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But against that backdrop, Carbondale has supported its hometown paper, and The Sopris Sun has come out every week, 523 times in a row.

It hasn’t always been easy. Our small staff feels the impact of every sick or personal day, and I’ve watched folks at our paper and others work under circumstances that might justifiably have sent them to bed for a month. Even when we’re at our best, there are hard decisions to make and tough issues to tackle. We will never please everyone and, honestly, that sometimes bothers me.

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But at the end of the week, we have something tangible to show for all our efforts — a blend of words and images from different minds and different eyes woven together into a whole that, I think, is more than the sum of its parts.

And while I’m very proud of our award-winning website, I still see the physical paper as our flagship product and best possible showcase of our editorial and submitted content, advertising and layout. Perhaps that’s because of all the time I’ve spent digging through the bound volumes of The Valley Journal in the back room at the Carbondale Branch Library.

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The process of writing “Pages of the Past” every week both pushes me to improve and keeps me grounded. It reminds me that the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. In my mind, those volumes are nothing less than the history of Carbondale, tapping into roots even deeper than the paper’s own 35-year run.

Until now, that story ended abruptly with 2008, for while The Sun kept chronicling, our archives have not been available alongside the Journal’s. But with some assistance from the Pitkin County Library and Michael Scher, the support of the board and some lovely work by Denver Bookbinding, we’re remedying that.

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I had the pleasure of showing off our first nine bound volumes at the birthday brunch, and am working with Carbondale Branch Library to make them publicly available there. We’re also planning to bind a second set to keep at the office.

A few people have already stepped up to “sponsor” a year — cutting $150 checks to ensure a continued Carbondale chronicle. We’d love to have a backer for each issue, so please let me know at 510-0540 or if you’re interested.

Regardless, I hope folks will take the opportunity to peruse the nearly 10,000 pages production designer Terri Ritchie has laid out and appreciate the different perspectives Trina, Terray, Lynn and myself brought to this role alongside a wide array of other contributors. I bet they’ll run across a memory they’d forgotten or a face they think about every day.

Meanwhile, we’ll be hard at work writing this year’s history book as we try inform, inspire and build community on another trip around the sun.

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