This week, I was making plans to go up to the mountains to ski. My little sister is in town, and she’s never been skiing before. It got me thinking about when I used to ski on a regular basis, as a child growing up in Watertown, New York. It got me thinking about how much my life had changed between then and the last time I went skiing, three years ago, and how much my life had changed between three years ago and now. I wondered what might change after this next trip.
Turns out, change comes swiftly and mercilessly: Mere hours after my writing, the newspaper that I work for, that my husband works for, was put up for sale. In this economy, at this difficult time for our industry, the announcement was a veritable death knell for a 150-year-old institution, the longest running business in Colorado.
These are tough times. I know my husband and I will survive. We might end up in another city, doing something else entirely, but we will survive. About our industry, I am less sure. This story will tell you why.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl with lemonade stand. She made lemonade, poured it into paper cups and sold it to people who drank it happily. All was well. She made money and business was steady.
Still she wondered if she could make more money. Lemonade was expensive to make – was there a way to cut costs? Her solution was to pour a little less lemonade into her cups. Some customers noticed and grumbled, but business was steady and she got to keep a few extra dollars. So the next week she poured a little bit less. Same result. Some customers noticed and grumbled, but business was steady and she got to keep a few extra dollars.
Eventually, the things began to change. Other drink stands were popping up on her street. Some sold lemonade. Some sold other things. Suddenly, business was not as robust as it used to be. The little girl started to panic. So she did what she had always done: pour even less lemonade into her cups. She was still making money but less than before and with fewer and fewer customers. Some left for other stands where the drinks were cheaper or free, not as good perhaps, but free. Some left because, even if hers was the best lemonade on the block, they were getting less and less of it.
The little girl didn’t know what to do. She just kept pouring less lemonade until one day, she was selling empty paper cups.
When she finally closed her lemonade stand, her customers gone for good, she went to ask her father what she did wrong.
Her father, a newspaper publisher who had just laid off another dozen journalists to cut costs, didn’t know what to tell her.