Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the

November 7, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights


Between the Lines

Maybe you or someone at your office has had an


like this: Somebody has a birthday, or a special event of some sort

to celebrate or commemorate. You put it off because your work schedule

doesn’t quite permit it. Then you put it off, forget to reschedule

it, and then something more dramatic happens and the event gets



We had a nice little gathering last May in our office lunchroom for

our boss, celebrating his 54th birthday. Not a big one, to be sure,

and one some people would rather not call attention to. Someone bought

a bottle of champagne for the occasion, but the bottle was never


We would do it later, some other day, when everyone had a few extra


Spring gave way to summer, summer to early fall. Our boss took his

boys up to their cottage in Pennsylvania on July 21, and then was

too busy to return. That was okay, he figured. He would return on

some glorious day of Indian summer and drain the pipes and pull the

dock out of the water. Then September 11, an event that hit very close

to home for U.S. 1. And then the anthrax. Our post office on Roszel

Road closed. Our bank on Nassau Street closed. The only thing we know

for sure is that the bottle of champagne still sits in the kitchen,

gathering dust.

Along the way another birthday came and went: November 1, U.S. 1’s

17th anniversary. The boss, who usually does a fanciful and sometimes

revealing interview with himself to mark the anniversary issue, this

year slogged ahead with business at hand. While the 17th, like the

54th, is not a big one, it does deserve a little attention.

For any business, making it through 17 years is an accomplishment.

In the industry as a whole newspaper readership is down in the last

decade. The multiples of earnings and revenue paid for the large daily

newspapers are less today than they were 10 years ago, despite the

flourishing economic times. The technology-driven Princeton economy

took a hit beginning early in the year 2000, with the decline in the and tech sectors. And then came September 11 and anthrax —

no one’s immune to the actual disruption and the perceived fear.

And a small newspaper that holds its readers through timely articles

written for a specific audience suffers more in a downturn than a

large chain that can use a recession to cut the inevitable fat that

grows during the good times. In U.S. 1’s case, with fewer than a dozen

fulltime employees, when one person is out that’s 10 percent of the

workforce. When the boss, who arguably does the work of more than

one person, spends a day getting a dock out of the water, that’s like

15 or 20 percent of the workforce getting a dock out.

The dock still sits in the very cold waters of a lake in the Endless

Mountains of Pennsylvania, nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. The

champagne sits in the kitchen.

We caught up with the boss for at least one comment, and got the brush

off as he walked out of the building.

Where are you going? we asked. "Out," he answered.

When will you be back? "Later."

On the bright side, the boss is acting more like 17 than 54. We think

we will all come out of this okay. We promise to revisit the subject

in a year — our 18th.

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