When the CVS clerk saw me walking in holding 35 copies of the RN&R June print edition, she gasped.
“Oh my God. Is that the News & Review?” she asked?
I said that it was indeed, and handed her a copy. She took it, looked at it, and looked at me.
She had tears in her eyes.
We expected a lot of things when seven friends-and-family volunteers joined me to distribute the RN&R for the first time in more than 26 months. We expected that a lot of our old locations would be gone—and sadly, that proved to be the case. Small, local businesses make up a lot of our distribution spots, and the pandemic was rather unkind to small businesses.
We expected a lot of our old racks and boxes would be gone—and that, too, proved to be the case. The RN&R’s former owners gifted our Reno-area outdoor distribution boxes to the Karma Box Project, so we knew almost all of them would need to be crossed off the list (before being replaced at some point down the line, budget allowing). We correctly anticipated that a fair number of our wire racks had been thrown away, seeing as most everyone figured the RN&R’s print-version days were completely in the past. We also found a not-insignificant number of our racks, uh, being “borrowed” by other print publications; we politely took those back, re-stickering them and placing our papers on the top rack, with the invading-publication copies placed on the bottom rack, if possible.
We also expected that despite all the change and chaos, we’d have no problems finding enough places to put out 25,000 copies of the paper across Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Minden, Garderville, Truckee and Tahoe. Fortunately, we were right about that, too.
What we did not expect was the emotion.
Based on the overwhelmingly positive response to our print-edition-return announcements on social media, we figured that, for the most part, people would be happy to see us. But never in a million years did I anticipate that anyone would get choked up upon seeing the RN&R back in print. Yet it happened.
My guess is that some of this emotion is due to the fact the RN&R is an area institution. For more than 2 1/2 decades, we’ve been part of the area’s fabric. Red racks and distribution boxes were seemingly everywhere, while plaques and certificates from the Best of Northern Nevada readers’ poll are common sights on businesses’ walls. The RN&R for decades has led arts and culture coverage in Reno, and broke numerous important stories over the years.
But the emotion, I think, also came from another, deeper, place.
The pandemic has cost all of us a lot. It’s taken the lives of more than a million Americans—our friends and loved ones. It wreaked havoc on the economy, on our supply chain, and our psyches, collective and individual.
And in the case of Northern Nevada, the RN&R was a representation of COVID-19’s costs. Before last month, the last RN&R print edition—with a bright, red cover announcing the publication’s suspension—was published on March 19, 2020. Reminders of the loss of the RN&R remained everywhere, in the form of those empty racks and boxes, and those Best Of certificates. So when I showed up, or one of my fellow distribution folks showed up, with a big stack of RN&R print editions in our arms, it represented—in a way I did not anticipate—a reversal of that loss.
It represented healing, and a return to normalcy, and perhaps even the end of the pandemic (even though the pandemic is not over), because one thing the pandemic had cost us was back.
It made me realize how truly traumatic these last 27 months have been. It made me confront some of the ways in which I, personally, have been affected by the pandemic and all the havoc it’s wrought. And it reminded me how powerful healing can be—and how much healing we all still have to do.
Here’s hoping that our return to print can continue to help with this healing.
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Portions of this column previously appeared in the Indy Digest newsletter of our sister paper, the Coachella Valley Independent.