News from The North Woods Call:
Marguerite Gahagan's wrting desk at her cabin near Roscommon, Michigan. Gahagan wrote and published The North Woods Call from here for ten years -- 1959 to 1969.
September 27, 2014
The North Woods Call has ceased publication—at least temporarily—due to family and medical issues that demand greater attention and freedom from unforgiving deadlines.
Regular production of the newspaper was halted indefinitely after the Late September 2014 issue and active subscribers were to receive pro-rated refunds for the unused portions of their subscriptions. (See additional information and the related column below).
“It is with deep regret that we make this announcement,” said Call Editor and Publisher Mike VanBuren. “This is not something we would choose to do under normal circumstances, but life has thrown us some unexpected curve balls during the past year and we feel that we have little choice in the matter.”
“We apologize to those loyal subscribers who have enthusiastically stuck by us since we resurrected the paper following the death of former Publisher Glen Sheppard,” VanBuren said. “We greatly appreciate your support, as well as that of the many new subscribers who have joined us during the past two years.”
Some of these individuals have purchased first-time subscriptions, or renewed old ones, in just the past few weeks, VanBuren said, and “it’s awkward to pull the plug on them so quickly.” “But we trust that readers will understand our decision to do this in the face of the personal challenges that we are now facing,” he said.
VanBuren said he hopes The Call will return in the not-too-distant future and be able to do a more thorough and focused job of covering conservation issues in Michigan and beyond. If so, past subscribers will be notified when the publication again becomes available, he said.
In the meantime, a comprehensive history of the newspaper and its role in Michigan conservation journalism is in the works.
“Despite the continuing economic difficulties facing newspapers today, we still believe there is a niche for The North Woods Call,” VanBuren said. “and we’d like to have a role in that, if possible. Unfortunately, we don’t have a partner who can keep things going for us during this forced sabbatical.”
Whoever ultimately carries the North Woods Call tradition forward, it’s clear that he or she will need to better accommodate the needs of modern news consumers and more aggressively adapt to changing communication technologies, VanBuren said.
And returning the base of operations to the north woods would be helpful, he said.
Glen and Mary Lou Sheppard published The Call from the Charlevoix area for more than four decades after purchasing it from founder Marguerite Gahagan in 1969. Gahagan had operated the newspaper from the Johannesburg and Roscommon areas for 16 years prior to that.
Glen Sheppard died Jan. 5, 2011, and VanBuren bought the defunct newspaper later that year from Shep’s widow, who had mothballed it after her husband’s death. Publication began anew in September 2012 after an 18-month absence.
Since then, VanBuren has tried to create what he calls “a conservation community,” or a “public square,” where citizens interested in the conservation of natural resources could come together to learn about and discuss related issues of the day.
The overall goal has been to serve as a trustworthy news source for people who love nature and the north woods, VanBuren said.
“Essentially, we have wanted to be a practical journal of human ecology that chronicles our ongoing relationship to the natural world,” he said. Sometimes this has meant exposing readers to alternative viewpoints in an effort to stimulate thought and jump-start discussion, according to VanBuren.
“We’re interested in the truth about the relationship between people and the earth,” he said, “and have tried to find it in a politically distorted world that often prefers deception to reality. It’s clear from the reactions of readers that some folks are comfortable with this and some are not.”
Still, we need dissenting voices and independent thinking if we are going to find viable solutions to our problems, VanBuren said. “We can’t merely push prefabricated agendas and demand that others validate what we already believe,” he said.
Subscription refunds to be made
Current subscribers to The North Woods Call will soon receive pro-rated refunds for the unused portions of their subscriptions.
The individual refunds will be figured based on the newspaper’s regular production schedule—twice monthly (except one issue each in January, April, July and October).
Please note that several electronic and print subscriptions are expiring in early October, before the next scheduled edition would have been produced. Obviously, in those cases, refunds won’t be required.
“Those who are due refunds are asked to be patient, allowing us a few weeks to calculate what is owed and get checks in the mail. Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 27, 2014
A column by Mike VanBuren, North Woods Call editor & publisher:
Dreams die hard.
Such is the case for our grand experiment in publishing The North Woods Call.
Owning the publication has been a dream of mine since I was a boy—one that serendipitously came to pass a few years ago, following the death of longtime publisher Glen Sheppard.
I figured we could make a go of it and I’m pleased with our progress over the past 24 months. Yet, that’s a rather short run if you consider The Call’s 61-plus year legacy.
A couple more years and some additional financial resources would likely boost our chances for success.
If only we could keep at it.
But sometimes the master of the universe has other plans.
The dream began to fade a bit last year when a medical scare put me in the hospital for a couple of days—staring at my own mortality. But that was minor compared to what happened next.
My mother’s unexpected illness and subsequent death last December changed a lot of things about our world and forced our family to pay greater attention to numerous things we would rather not confront. Now my wife’s life-threatening cancer struggle has further driven us to re-examine priorities and time commitments.
Like it or not, I must—for the forseeable future—expand my role as caregiver, and tend to myriad other personal and family obligations that have come my way.
This is not to complain. There are still many blessings in our lives for which I am thankful. But circumstances dictate that I free up some time and sidestep the relentless deadlines that come with owning and operating a small newspaper.
It’s a stab in the heart on numerous levels, but something that has to be done.
It could be that the glory days of print publishing were already long past by the time we purchased The North Woods Call in 2012 and set about trying to resurrect it. The Internet and associated information revolution—not to mention the rapidly changing habits and preferences of information consumers—have already kicked many once-proud publications in the teeth and forced some of them out-of-business.
While we still believe there is a niche for a specialty publication like The North Woods Call, we have nevertheless witnessed declining readership trends, and the disturbing tendency of citizens and public servants to turn away from voices that cry in the wilderness, but don’t necessarily reflect the prevailing “wisdom” of the chattering crowd.
Still, it’s important that these voices be heard and we hope this newspaper can—in the near future—continue to be one that helps inject truth and sanity back into the civic debate.
Until further notice, however, we’ll be out to pasture with other retired race horses—still writing and working on special projects, I expect, but looking over the proverbial fence just the same.
When I first approached the late Mary Lou Sheppard about buying The Call after Shep’s untimely death, she looked at me incredulously.
“Why would you want to take on all that work?” she asked.
I guess because it’s good work, I told her, and something that can keep me occupied and make a difference.
Today, I find myself pulled toward more ominous activities that also promise to keep me occupied and make a difference. I don’t know where this journey will lead, but it’s a road I must follow.
Such is the fate of dreamers, I suppose, particularly those whose fantasies aren’t fulfilled until later in life.
I trust that those of you who love The North Woods Call as much as I do will understand the painful urgency of this decision.
September 11, 2012
From the Traverse City Record-Eagle
By LORAINE ANDERSON
TRAVERSE CITY — The North Woods Call, an unabashed defender of Michigan's natural resources for almost 60 years, is back in new form.
New owner Mike VanBuren of Kalamazoo delivered his first nine-page PDF issue last week by email.
The Call had been out of publication for about 18 months since the January 2011 death of its outspoken conservation advocate and publisher Glen Sheppard.
VanBuren bought the name and subscription list from Sheppard's wife Mary Lou.
The purchase fulfills a dream VanBuren has had since his early reporting days when he met Glen Sheppard.
Early in his career, VanBuren spent almost a decade as a writer, editor and photographer at several Michigan newspapers, including the Antrim County News, Kalkaska Leader and the Kalkaskian, Flint Journal and Kalamazoo Gazette. He worked for nearly 23 years as writer, communication manager and documentary video producer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek.
He also has been a commentator for Michigan Public Radio's Great Lakes Radio Consortium and Living on Earth, a National Public Radio program.
VanBuren is a former president of the Kalamazoo River Protection Association and a recipient of the Ben East Prize for excellence in conservation journalism.
The inaugural September issue includes a variety of stories, ranging from cleanups along the Au Sable and Manistee rivers to a profile on Keith Creagh, the former state agricultural director who recently was named to replace Rodney Stokes as Department of Natural Resources director.
Other stories and columns feature his predecessors: Marguerite Gahagan, who founded the North Woods Call in 1953 and published it until 1969 when she sold it to Sheppard, who owned it 42 years.
Both Gahagan and Sheppard were hard-hitting reporters dedicated to stewardship of Michigan's natural resources.
Gahagan was a novelist who began her career reporting for The Detroit Times. "Shep" described The Call as "an admittedly biased newspaper dedicated to the proposition that there is only one side in any issue involving resources — "NATURE'S."
In his first editorial, VanBuren said he has "big shoes to fill."
"We can't claim to fit neatly into those shoes or to view the outdoor world and the myriad issues affecting it quite like these legendary former publishers. We have our own unique viewpoints and approaches." he wrote. "But we have a profound respect for all they accomplished, and wish to honor their drive and determination with a bit of our own tenacity."
He plans on writing, editing and electronically publishing the biweekly in Kalamazoo, at least for now. He said he hopes to develop a strong group of environmental writers to contribute articles, features and opinion pieces.
His long-term goal is to make The Call "the go-to source for news and information about outdoor and conservation issues in Michigan — and beyond."
Electronic subscriptions cost $35, per year. Printed copies sent through the U.S. Postal Service are $55 per year.
More information is available at: www.mynorthwoodscall.com.
October 28, 2011
Michigan’s premier conservation newspaper will return soon.
The North Woods Call, which has been out-of-publication since longtime editor and publisher Glen Sheppard died earlier this year, is being re-launched under new ownership.
Sheppard’s widow, Mary Lou Sheppard, recently sold the newspaper to former journalist and award-winning writer Mike VanBuren of Kalamazoo. VanBuren is re-tooling the operation and looks forward to continuing The Call’s well-respected legacy, which dates back to 1953.
“We hope that The Call's former subscribers will stick with us and that we can expand the community of conservation-minded citizens who appreciate the insightful news and information for which the newspaper is noted,” VanBuren said.
For more than 58 years, The North Woods Call has been a must-read for people who love Michigan’s north country. It has been at the vanguard of conservation-related battles throughout its history, and has earned a much-deserved reputation as a staunch defender of nature.
“We greatly respect The Call's longstanding tradition of unvarnished news coverage and are committed to making sure Michigan doesn’t lose this important voice,” VanBuren said.
Glen and Mary Lou Sheppard published The Call for more than four decades after purchasing it from founder Marguerite Gahagan in 1969. Gahagan had operated the newspaper for 16 years prior to that.
Glen Sheppard died January 5, 2011, and The Call ceased publication shortly thereafter. For several months, the future of the newspaper was uncertain.
“The North Woods Call has been a dynamic force in the history and day-to-day realities of the nibbling and outlandish massive assaults on the integrity and beauty of Michigan’s precious natural bounty,” said noted Michigan environmental lawyer Jim Olson of Traverse City. “It is a tribute to Glen Sheppard and his wife Mary Lou that Mike VanBuren has the passion, talent and ability to continue The North Woods Call newspaper.”
For more information, visit The Call's website at mynorthwoodscall.com.