Fiddlehead Focus founder Andrew Birden has reported many difficult stories – tragic fires, deadly accidents, and the like. But what he published on Wednesday was perhaps the hardest thing he’s ever had to write – telling his readers the paper had printed its final issue.
Andrew Birden, publisher and founder of the Fiddlehead Focus says, “It was a horrible feeling..it was a feeling like someone had died..or that I’d hurt someone.”
Birden said he had to pull the plug because the paper was not making enough money with the print edition. The paper has been a source of breaking news online and in print for the St. John Valley since it was started back in 2010. Birden says over the years it has grown to have tens of thousands of readers and millions of page views each month – and the news of it shutting down has truly saddened this community – and caused a huge outpouring of support.
Fort Kent resident Kelly Martin says, “I think everybody has a general sense of sadness now that its come to this.”
Martin Bernstein of Fort Kent says, “It’s important to get news on a timely basis up here in a very rural area and Andrew and his reporters did an excellent job I thought”
Birden says beyond the ability to break news quickly, what makes this paper so special and important to its readers, is a genuine interest in every aspect of life in the St. John Valley.
Birden says, “The folks here are some of the hardest working, most intelligent, kindest, most amazing people I’ve ever seen in my life and I think that that appreciation we have for the community comes through our writing. We love this place.”
Martin says, “People have become very reliant on it. Not just the people from the Fort Kent area but people from around the world – people that have had ties here, family here, have visited the area, the amount of hits that he gets worldwide its incredible.”
And because of that reliance – Birden is already considering a plan moving forward. He says he’s looking at having an almost exclusive online version of the paper with a minor paywall – and perhaps having a quarterly print version.
Birden says, “Going online is great but its gotta be paid for. And we’re gonna go to our community and hope that they will support us and I feel absolutely confident that they will”
Birden adds that if the paper does continue, they will continue to donate portions of their funds to local organizations.