1,000 Issues and Counting

Looking back by the hundreds that lead to Bay Weekly’s big K

In the culture of Polar Bear Plungers — about whom we write this week — our 1,000th issue puts us in the league of Super Plungers like Michelina Scotto, who return to the Bay’s chilling waters (about 41 degrees this time of year) every hour on the hour 24 times.
    One thousand issues means we’ve done the same thing often enough to have gotten good at it. If the 10,000-hour rule Malcolm Gladwell offers in his book Outliers is a true measure of mastery, we’ve got it by the numbers. One thousand hours divides into 250 40-hour weeks, about five years’ worth. At such a pace, we hit that goal back in 1998.
    We knew five years was something special. Though Gladwell hadn’t yet written the book, we celebrated with Bay Weekly’s Birthday Bash, raising $6,500 for the Oyster Recovery Partnership in a community-supported afternoon of music, food, fun, education and auctioneering.
    In the 15 years since, we’ve doubled, tripled and now quadrupled 250. We’ve been there and done that 1,000 times. That many repetitions may put us in a zone where we can do the job thoughtlessly, but mastery doesn’t equate to effortlessness. Each new issue consumes all we have. Each new issue is the only one that matters. Each one of those 1,000 — preserved in our 21 volume books as well as online — is Bay Weekly.
    Once upon a time, we counted by ones, fives and 10s.
    Seven issues was such a big deal back in the summer of 1993 that we threw ourselves a party to celebrate. Writer Angela Worland, who gave us this week’s story of the lead up to her first Polar Bear Plunge, will feel that sweet first flush of achievement we knew back then.
    Now I’ve got to count by hundreds.
    We hit 100 with Volume III, Number 31, on August 3, 1995. Who knew? Back then we were all paying attention to Cal Ripkin Jr., who was playing his way, day after day, to breaking Lou Gehrig’s “untouchable” record of 2,130 consecutive games. Husband Bill Lambrecht and I pride ourselves on practicing Cal Ripkin journalism: “They can fire your father and your brother and change your position,” Lambrecht says, “but you still show up every day and play with everything you’ve got.”
    We hit 200 cluelessly on September 11, 1997, long before 9/11 become a date that sent shivers down the American spine. Home-grown Maryland rocker Bill Kirchen, of Huntingtown, dominates the cover, playing his guitar like a wild man and sharing his motto: “Whole lot of things I ain’t done, but I ain’t never had too much fun.”
    Part of the fun of Bay Weekly is interviewing people like Kirchen, who I’d first heard back in the 1970s, when he was playing with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.
    By the time Bay Weekly reached 300, on August 26, 1999, we’d passed the 10,000-hour mark. Vol. VII, No. 34 was just another issue, filling our whole field of vision while we made it, then just one more number. Two writers whose pictures hang in my office rogues’ gallery wrote that week’s features: Carol Glover previewed the upcoming community theater season, and Mary Catherine Ball interviewed stonemason Lothar Klinger, who was hard at work making a landmark we all now take for granted: the stone façade on Annapolis’ then-new and unnamed Westgate Circle.
    2001 was still an innocent year on June 28, when we reached 400. The roundness of the number passed unnoticed, but the issue was a big deal. In its 32 pages, readers found not only Fun, Fireworks and Fanfare but also our “Indispensable” summer special, 101 Ways to Have Fun on the Bay.
    Even at 500 we weren’t counting by hundreds. In our 11th volume in the year 2003, June 26 was just another week, albeit the one we took you out to the ballpark for Baysox mascot Louie’s sixth birthday, when his guests were mascots from seven other minor league baseball teams.
    We hit 600 on Memorial Day weekend 2005 with another double header: Scorching-Hot Summer Fun Inside Vol. XIII, No. 21 gave you 2005’s Indispensable Guide to Summer on the Bay — plus, in the issue, a primer on Maryland butterflies.
    The significance of our 700th issue, on April 26, 2007, was obscured by our 14th birthday the previous week — and by the opening of rockfish season. I remember the fun I had writing that week’s feature story, Bay Fever, developing the story’s fishing and boating sections around the stanzas of John Mansfield’s poem, from which I borrowed the story’s name.
    On March 26, 2009, spring distracted us from noticing that we were creating our 800th issue. Vol. XVII, No. 13 was all about the season: bluebirds, neighborhood cleanups and the Roedown Races, that rite of spring (now in abeyance) for steeplechase racers and picnickers.
    By 900, which snuck up on us on February 24, 2011, Bay Weekly was looking much like the paper you read nowadays. There I was, looking out at you from my weekly Letter from the Editor. Black history dominated that issue, where we introduced “Chronicler of Presidents” Ken Walsh, of Shady Side, and his new book Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House. With Barack Obama inaugurated for a second term this week, Ken will have to write a new chapter for his book.
    And next week, we’ll have to add another Bay Weekly, our 1,001st, to the stack. See you then.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com