Access Press Year in Review - Despite Big Loss, Ship Still on Course

It would be an understatement to say that this past year has been a historic one at Access Press.  Founder, editor, and publisher Charlie Smith was diagnosed with cancer on the day before Thanksgiving last November and died just as the May 2001 issue was going into production.  Charlie hired me as the interim editor in January, but he continued to direct the paper from his sickbed right up until the end.  In fact, he and I had an editorial meeting about the May issue only five days before he died.  Just as he would have wanted.

Remarkably, through all of the turmoil caused by Charlie’s illness and death, ACCESS PRESS never missed a single deadline during the past year, hitting the streets on the 10th of every month, right on schedule.  Charlie was a stickler about getting the paper out on time, so he would be happy about that!   Credit for this remarkable achievement is due to more people than I could possibly name in this space, but I will single out a few.

First and foremost are the central production team, those “behind-the-scenes” people who make each issue happen.  Nathan Halvorson, editorial assistant, did yeoman’s work during this past few months.  Despite only starting with the paper in May 2000, he stepped into the breach between Charlie’s entry into the hospital in November and my coming on board in January.  Thanks, Nathan!  Ellen Houghton, ACCESS PRESS typesetter and paste-up wizard, extricated the office crew from many a jam over the past few months.  Her years of experience with the paper have been invaluable during the past year.

Our regular columnists Lolly Lijewski, John Schatzlein, Nicole Roberts, and Pete Feigal have been great, as has cartoonist Scott Adams, and the numerous advocates and personal friends who have chipped in to help in a million ways.

Once again this year, the Friends of ACCESS PRESS provided crucial and ongoing support.  The total Friends contributions this year came to more than $10,000!  Our thanks to all of you.  The support of the Friends is always critical, and even more so in a time of turmoil such as we are going through right now.  Not only does the financial support provided by the Friends support the paper directly, but it also provides the concrete evidence that we will need to document as we seek out grants and other support in the months and years ahead.

The Medtronic Foundation once again this year saw fit to make a generous grant to Access Press, as reported in the April issue.  Some of these funds will be used to pay extra costs involved in re-organizing the paper in the wake of Charlie’s death, such as training for new staff, new accessibility systems for the new editor, new computer software, and so forth.  This year in particular, the importance of the Medtronic Foundation’s generosity cannot be overstated.

During the past year ACCESS PRESS continued to bring you profiles of outstanding community members, announcements of new information resources, notices and reviews of arts and cultural events, letters to the editor, and even a report on how our severe winter weather affected people with disabilities!

Of course, ACCESS PRESS also always strives be true to our mission “to inform the disability community about topics of concern to us and to provide accurate information about disability issues to the general public.”  Whether it was reporting on such national issues as Social Security and the Supreme Court, or on local issues such as the closing (and reopening) of Allina’s Wound Clinic and the new state hiring goals for people with disabilities, ACCESS PRESS continued during the past year to provide coverage of issues that were often under-reported or unreported in the mainstream press.

Finally, new editor Tim Benjamin was hired by Charlie in April.  Over the coming months he will be meeting and getting to know many of you   feel free to share your thoughts and feelings about the paper with him!

This article is supposed to be about the past year, so I won’t talk about some of the exciting projects that Charlie initiated and that we hope to bring to completion in the near future.  You’ll be hearing about them.

During the past year we received a letter from a local law firm telling us that ACCESS PRESS is now considered by the legal community to be “the resource for people with disabilities” in the region.  With your help and support, we hope remain so.