Measuring Progress

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas tree has been dismantled, the empty champagne bottles from New Year’s Eve are in the trash, and the pages in my day runner are brand-spanking new and alarmingly blank. It’s a typically slow time of year in the world of news – the post-holiday lull seems to have everyone moving in slow motion.

Not so at The Evening Sun. In just a few short weeks, we’ll be bringing you our biggest, most ambitious project of the entire year – Progress Chenango 2008. Every year during the last week in January, we publish a multi-section report on the state of business, education, health, arts, religion and just about every other subject area imaginable that touches the lives of the citizens of Chenango County. Our annual Progress edition has grown over the last two decades from a 16-page tabloid to an 80-page broadsheet section last year. If past performance is any indication, Progress Chenango 2008 will be even bigger and better.

A formidable amount of work goes into producing The Evening Sun on a daily basis, and that work is just about quadrupled as Progress time rolls around. Deadline for the reporters to finish their stories, and for the salespeople to sell all the ads, comes sooner than they’d like to admit, and the following two weeks are spent putting the whole thing together. It is a labor of love, and perhaps the best thing we do – outside of our daily news coverage – all year. Progress is a comprehensive picture of life as we know it in Chenango County, and it is used far and wide throughout the year as both an educational resource and as a recruiting tool for outside businesses and individuals. It shows that despite the bad news you may have heard during the course of the year, Chenango County still has a lot going on. I wouldn’t hesitate to put our Progress edition up against similar efforts from newspapers five times our size. From the editorial staff to the sales staff, the pressroom to the carriers, Progress is a tremendous effort on the part of everyone involved.

It is also a tremendous pain in the neck.

Over the course of my 17 years at The Evening Sun, I’ve come to measure stages in my life as compared to what was happening when I was doing Progress. In 1991, my predecessor left the job to me and another cub reporter. We came in on a Saturday afternoon and slapped the thing together. It was not one of our proudest moments. Changes in management and ownership shifted the focus and importance of Progress over the years, and it became more ambitious, and correspondingly more difficult. One higher-up who has long since moved on suggested changing the name to “Thumbs Up Chenango” – the lack of proper punctuation would have made that a keepsake, I’m sure. I took my first-ever trip to Florida after the grueling experience of a later Progress. The Evening Sun printed its first full-color photograph on the front of another year’s Progress. I got my dog Bailey as a self-reward after another (in fact, his seldom-used middle name is indeed “Progress”). My father passed away during Progress ‘98, and I’m still not quite sure how I made it through that one. And last year, as I burned the midnight oil through all 10 sections, the top of my desk became cluttered for the first time ever.

It seems each subsequent edition of Progress has been a benchmark in my life in some way or another. I can’t wait to see what Progress 2008 might bring.

And, as if this entire column weren’t a shameless enough plug as it is, I’ll leave you with this ... Progress Chenango 2008, coming to a newsstand near you Jan. 28-Feb. 1.

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