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Earth Day 49 • Bay Weekly Birthday 26

Variations on the same old story

      I don’t burn my socks (yuck!). But I’d washed them (with much of the rest of winter’s heavy wear) and was walking out stocking-less to meet warm spring in thin-soled shoes. When I opened the door, April’s wind twirled paper through the entry hall and drove me back upstairs for a warm raincoat.
      April’s fickle ways always remind me of that April day 26 years ago when wind-driven rain tossed husband Bill Lambrecht and me in our rented van like a boat on the Bay as we drove to Curtis Bay to pick up the order of wire racks we’d use to position New Bay Times Vol. 1 No. 1 throughout Anne Arundel and Calvert counties. It was Earth Day, by design, and I had envisioned it as a descendant of the sun-bombed, blue-skied, green-hued day I remembered from my first Earth Day, the First Earth Day, back in 1970.
     Now is now farther from then than then was from Earth Day’s first day. Both landmarks are distant memories, but I know this about them. 
      In 1970, who (except the very wise) knew the mission we tree-huggers accepted at the bidding of Sen. Gaylord Nelson would be such long going? 
      In 1993, the future of New Bay Times become New Bay Times — Weekly become Bay Weekly was beyond imagining for its three founders, Bill, me, and son Alex Knoll. Back then — and even now — we were citizens of the eternal present. I think that’s the time zone of people in the news business. Every story, every edition stretches from horizon to horizon. Past stories exist as hazy memories; future stories as burdens you’ll pick up as soon as this issue goes to print.
     So this morning I scratched my head and asked Bill, who I always blame for getting us in this business, what we were thinking.
     I knew we wanted to tell some good stories, and that there were plenty out there to tell. It had taken barely dipping a toe into journalism to learn that stories were lurking behind every bush, and by then I’d been in the business going on 15 years.
     I knew we had the resources. We were the resources. Bill was a Washington correspondent and environmental investigative reporter winning some of journalism’s biggest prizes. Alex had topped his Bachelor’s in Rhetoric at the University of Illinois with a Master’s in Journalism. He and I were both learning how to use those newfangled Macintosh computers to makes pages as well as words. The miracle of electronic transmission had come unto us. 
     And Bill, our own Gaylord Nelson, had converted us to his own version of Earth Day optimism, styled after the recently so popular movie Field of Dreams: It we build it, they will come. 
     We had the means and the desire. But what did we think we were up to?
     “Did we think we’d make any difference?” I asked him.
     Ten minutes later, I prodded him again. 
     Finally, he spoke. “Those were different times,” he said. “Even after 23 Earth Days, people were just waking up to the shape we’d gotten our world in. Environmental awareness was at an earlier stage then than admission of climate change is now.
    “We thought we could show people what was happening, how the problems were taking shape on our own Chesapeake Bay. And how people were trying to turn the tide. How they were paying attention to what they had in a lot of ways, historic and cultural and recreational as well as environmental. How they were trying to save the best of it and make the best of it.” 
      That was a lot of words from Bill, who treats words as currency and expects to be paid, ideally handsomely, for them.
      They cut like a lighthouse beacon, magnified by a Fresnel lens, through the fog of memory.
     “That’s what we meant by New Bay Times,” I remembered. Not only a new newspaper but also a new way of looking at our Bay and our world. A way that balanced taking out with putting back. I always liked that name.
     The going is slow. All these years later, that’s still what we’re doing. Read this week’s paper, a celebration of our 26th Birthday-Earth Day, and see for yourself.