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Opinion >  Column

Rob Curley: Return of Spokane Daily Chronicle – this time to your inbox – highlights reader interest in iconic newspaper

There have been so many emails and calls. From all over. All with questions about the return of the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

Some were from newspapers and magazines. Even television.

Most wanted to talk about the unlikely story of an afternoon community newspaper attempting a comeback in 2021. Even if just digitally. Like some newsified version of Rocky. Only much, much older than the fictional boxer.

Others were from editors and publishers wanting to know if “it” had worked – which is kinda hard to answer when you’re only a week into something that doesn’t have any sort of instruction manual. Or precedence. And, no, we don’t know if “it” worked yet. Or even what that might mean.

The best notes and calls were from readers. Even former readers, who now are readers again.

Yes, people actually subscribed over this past week so they could read a long-gone newspaper they grew up with, or even delivered, decades ago.

Some asked if it might ever be printed again instead of just available on their tablets (highly unlikely), while others wanted to know why the email with the link for that night’s Chronicle hadn’t arrived yet (it can very much depend on your email provider). One person even wanted to know if this was just a publicity stunt. (It’s not. We’re going to keep doing this for as long as our community wants it.)

Others, who really haven’t been that interested in reading a newspaper digitally – or anything else, for that matter – now wanted to know how to set up their computer so they could read the Chronicle again.

A whole lot of us were in new territory here. Especially in our newsroom.

Over the past three or four decades, newspaper-publishing software has changed. A lot. Mostly to help with publishing stories and photos to the internet, along with putting out a printed version of the paper each night.

As modern as all of this software is, a lot of those same systems had no idea what to do when asked to publish a second newspaper each day. Even if we weren’t going to actually put that newspaper on the press. We quickly realized we were breaking software we didn’t even know we could break.

We also learned that, despite building prototypes of what a new Spokane Daily Chronicle might look like and what sorts of stories, photos and features might be in it each weekday, even reaching out to the paper’s former reporters and editors to get their input, and putting out three test versions of the Chronicle (that you totally can find on our e-Edition website and app), actually building an evening newspaper every day would feel and seem much different.

This past Monday’s edition of The Chronicle – the first in nearly 30 years – was good. But our newsroom clearly got more and more comfortable each day with how not only to do this, but how we should do it. By the time Friday’s evening “paper” hit digital doorsteps, we all were starting to have a better understanding of what a 21st century-version of the Spokane Daily Chronicle might be.

The best part was that a whole lot of people were really reading it.

Roughly 15% of The Spokesman-Review’s subscribers only get the newspaper via its e-Edition, and even a large percentage of our print/home-delivery subscribers still choose to read the paper each day digitally instead. On Monday, and throughout the entire week, our evening readership soared. The numbers at 7 p.m. reading the Chronicle e-Edition were nearly identical to the numbers reading the e-Edition of The Spokesman-Review at 7 a.m. each day.

In the early part of the week alone, our evening e-Edition readership grew nearly 600%.

And they all were reading Spokane’s oldest/newest newspaper, the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

Yet some of you aren’t. Not because you aren’t interested. But because you haven’t activated your digital account with us. Which is free. So is the software. We’ll even help you download it. For free.

So we wanted to show you what you are missing.

The Chronicle is likely never returning as a home-delivered print edition again – not with the downfall of the local advertising markets that actually paid for most of the costs associated with a daily newspaper.

But we’re making one exception.

Today, we are printing you Monday’s edition of the return of Spokane’s beloved evening paper.

We wanted to remind you how fun it is to see what’s happened throughout the day around Eastern Washington, the state and even the country. We felt like you needed to see what it’s like to have a fresh look at everything that’s on TV that evening.

And we wanted you to remember what it was like to read Peanuts, Dick Tracy and all of those other comics you’ve missed. We wanted you to see that familiar-looking logo and name across the top of its front page.

More importantly, we wanted all of those who sent us photos of the old editions of the Chronicle they had saved through the years to be able to save one more copy: the return of a Spokane icon.

So, yes, it’s an old copy. From earlier in the week, Monday, July 12, 2021.

Think of it as the more appropriate match to that copy of the Chronicle many of you saved from Friday, July 31, 1992.

The headline on that final edition said “It’s Been Great …”

There are many reasons why the new version is different. But the spirit is the same.

And all of your notes over the past week have reminded us just how much Spokane missed the Chronicle. Because even after being gone all of those years, we hope it’s still great.

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