Getting the Courier together always seems to end in a scramble every Thursday, no matter how hard I try to get articles and news written, formatted and in place as it comes in through the week. I usually start the next edition of the newspaper the morning after the current edition has gone online. Things come in at the last minute. Board meetings (Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Conservation Commission, School Committee, Zoning Board of Appeals) happen when they happen, and every Thursday I generally am working on the Courier from first thing in the morning until 11:00 p.m. at night, when I upload the new edition.

Although this was the routine right from the start, it's seemed to take up even more time ever since last March, when I decided to do my best to help local businesses and the school community by running updated information each week on what was open or closed and on what terms. The Courier got bigger and bigger. I rarely have to worry about not having enough to fill its sections now. Thank goodness it's a digital paper--everything fits! I sometimes have to scrounge for a piece for the Region, and especially for the Schools, since the Winchendon Public Schools is not forthcoming to the press. But often, I'll be looking at an empty page on Thursday morning, and in will come a press release, or two, or three, from somewhere, in the nick of time.

But I wonder, looking back at the last few months, and ahead toward the uncertain future...

What would I be publishing if the COVID-19 pandemic had not happened? What would be filling the pages if everything had not come to a complete stop the third week of March?

I was planning to meet with the school administrators and Superintendant Landers to talk about opening the lines of communication so I could publish as many stories about the Winchendon Public Schools and students as I was getting from Monty Tech, the Sizer School and Mount Wachusett Community College (who send me press releases...although they, too, had to close down in March). I hoped to find someone to cover school sports, and get to more of the school's arts events like the annual musical. I wanted to interview the team that produced the High School's videocast, Blue Devil Weekly (how I miss that! So much fun!).

I was going to expand coverage of the HEAL Winchendon program and its development of meal boxes and community gardens.

I wanted to cover town events like Solstice Fair, Fall Fest, Winchendon Winds and Winchendon Music Festival and GAR Park Summer Series concerts, and all the arts, fundraising and social activities our town organizations and churches put on--all of them cancelled.

I wanted to do a major drive to encourage local businesses to advertize in the Courier, with the goal of being able to launch a print edition. I was even getting quotes from printers to gauge costs. I do page layout, typesetting and book design professionally, and I created a template for a print Courier newspaper. It looks terrific. But I could hardly ask local businesses to advertize when they'd been forced to close their doors by a pandemic.

I haven't had to time to really think about this. I think we've all been in that place. COVID hit like a tidal wave, and we all came up for air, gasping for breath and paddling with all our might just to stay afloat, and ever since, every single day has been like that. We've had no time for what ifs and might have beens and I was about tos. Some people were flung up on a dry shore, waiting for their lives to start up again. But many of us have been working frantically since March, harder than we did in in pre-pandemic times. COVID has been a sudden and shattering change of direction for us, but not a change of pace.

I have now been publishing the online Courier for one full year, but I haven't held a celebration or even raised a glass of wine to my accomplishment. I don't feel like I can stop long enough.

I love it more than I can describe. I couldn't keep this up if I didn't love every second of it. But when I compare where the Courier is now with my plans and expectations six months ago, I can only wonder...

Where on earth will the Courier, and all of us, be six months from now? I've long since stopped trying to guess.

Wherever we end up, the Courier will be reporting on it. Thanks for reading!

Inanna Arthen