This month’s column is difficult for me to write because it’s an early job ad. Access Press has been a dominant part of my life for many years. I’ll be turning 65 in a few months (I know; how did that happen?), and I think it’s time for Access Press to hit the “refresh button.” Access Press needs new, younger leadership with a youthful view on what’s important to the disability community, and so I am planning my retirement next year, in 2019. I don’t want to leave entirely and hope to continue writing for Access Press for many, many more years. I also don’t want any of the staff to leave Access Press. The paper absolutely needs the talented Jane McClure to keep writing and editing, and for Dawn Frederick to continue her excellent office management and website administration. As long as you will have us, we all want to continue being a part of Access Press’s role in this incredible community.
We do need to get much more stable financially, however, and that will take a lot of help from you readers. The paper depends on your donations and your organizations’ advertising. I’d ask that each of you take some time now and at least once a year to send in a donation, and to talk to folks who can and will advertise in the paper: it’s the best way to communicate with Minnesota’s disability community. I especially ask those of you who are part of the philanthropic community to step up and help support Minnesota’s disability community newspaper. Access Press is one of two or three such papers in the country, and the only one that I know of that serves across disabilities. Access Press has been delivering a newspaper every month for the last 26 years, nine years with founder Charlie Smith as executive director, and for the last 17 years with me in that position. In addition to providing your monetary support, you could help me and the Access Press board identify my successor.
When Charlie asked me to take over, he said that I had the right “temperament.” I didn’t know what he meant those many years ago, but today, as the Access Press board thinks about succession planning, I think I do understand what he meant. Access Press needs leadership that is determined and patient, with a rock-solid commitment to the needs and the dignity of people with disabilities. Other skills that would be helpful would be the ability to quickly adjust to new circumstances and always be able to consider compromising. The paper needs a person who can provide direction for many personalities and make sure that things get done well and on deadline. And, of course, something that is necessary by all journalists is a thick skin and a tendency not to tak things too personally. We need to find somebody who is willing to put in the time to successfully procure grant funding and enough advertising and other revenue to pay all the salaries. Like every news organization, Access Press’s most significant expense, by far, is salaries, but our staff earns something close to subsistence incomes. (Once, a few years ago, I was featured at the low end of the scale in an annual survey of salaries among media professionals in the Twin Cities magazine.) The paper’s total income per year is just around $200,000. If you do the math, you will recognize, that considering costs of printing, distribution, desktop publishing, rent, phones, a website and Internet connection, we’re running on a needle-thin margin. When I had the energy, good health, and reliable caregivers, the paper had a reasonably good income and revenue. I think a new leader can bring in that kind of energy, and I am eager to help the board find that person and make sure
Last month’s Disability Day at the Capitol on February 20 should make us all proud. There were more folks at the capitol that morning than I can recall ever seeing at disability days and more than I’ve seen at many of the rallies at the capitol during a legislative session. Minnesota’s organization for fetal alcohol syndrome disorder was hugely represented. I hope they will succeed with their legislation and that all legislation that includes services for people with disabilities will find good results this session. There were a couple new legislative members supporting us, joining our champions Sen. John Hoffman and Sen. Jim Abeler.
We all have a lot to accomplish in this short session to shore up services for our disability and aging communities’ extra needs. Many aging citizens are helping the disability community now as caregivers, foster parents and in many other ways. Our seniors, in turn, need to have community services when they can no longer be the help that they’ve always been to the disability community. And remember, many of us will be in the aging population and have those extra needs very soon (for example, me). As Commissioner Piper and Director Benson point out, in their article on page 4, if we think about it, ultimately these are the people we all hope to be.
The state’s February financial forecast was more favorable than in the previous couple months. There still are not enough funds, though, to finance everything that everyone needs. As always in the disability community, when one faction needs help legislatively, we all try to help that faction; or, if one organization’s bill fails, that organization supports another association that is still in the legislative chase. Let’s not let up in our mutual efforts to funding the groups that are in the most need and that are most likely to succeed.
Have a great session, and please don’t forget that Access Press needs your help, too.