The headline made my heart skip a beat: “One week left to save the Norwegian American Weekly.” The last surviving Norwegian American newspaper, out of the hundreds that once existed, the Norwegian American Weekly has a publishing history that reaches back to 1889. In other words, it’s almost as old as Lögberg-Heimskringla. It’s an institution in the Norwegian American community.
On the surface, the Norwegian American Weekly seemed so vibrant and successful. It has eight times as many subscribers as Lögberg-Heimskingla. It enjoys a strong network of contributors, who, with the paper’s staff, produce 47 high-quality issues each year. It attracts more advertising that we do. Yet it was nevertheless in trouble.
At the end of January, the Norwegian American Foundation, which owns the paper, informed the staff that they would be producing its last issue in February. Noting that “tough times for newspapers has led to a decline in subscriptions and advertising,” the paper’s management concluded that they must “announce its immediate closure,” even as they searched for potential buyers to take over its operation.
So the paper turned to Indiegogo in an effort to crowdfund its very survival. By the end of April, NAW had raised $30,051 USD through this innovative new means. And an anonymous benefactor agreed to match contributions up to $5,000. Among the perks offered to contributors were “copies of the ‘final’ issue of the newspaper, which was printed but never distributed during NAW’s brush with death.”
While this crowdfunding campaign appears to have saved the Norwegian American Weekly from immediate closure, and even though subscriptions and advertising sales have increased, the paper is still vulnerable. It is safe for the moment, but it’s not out of the woods.
Needless to say, I wish them well. I hope not only for their survival, but for a new prosperity amidst difficult conditions. There are so many parallels between the Norwegian American Weekly and Lögberg-Heimskringla that it is impossible to avoid viewing NAW’s success or failure as a portent of our own paper’s prospects.
Now, I’m not prepared to push the panic button – but I am watching the dashboard very closely. I’m scanning the road ahead in an effort to discern where Lögberg-Heimskringla must go if it is to serve new generations of readers and help to keep Icelandic culture alive and vital here in North America. These are perilous times for newspapers of all types, but the terrain is especially difficult for small newspapers serving geographically-dispersed eth-nic communities. Our survival is not guaranteed and yet I remain convinced of this paper’s importance and quietly optimistic about its future. Lögberg-Heimskringla (like its august predecessors) has always been a shoestring operation, but we’ve made it work for 129 years. Our past vitality required hard work and devotion; the same is true today.
I think it was wise and prudent for the Norwegian American Weekly to turn to crowdfunding in an effort to secure the additional capital it needed to continue operating. I commend its leaders for refusing to let pride get in the way of doing what needed to be done. By the same token, I don’t want to wait for our paper to have to try the same technique.
L-H relies upon the devoted support of the Icelandic North American community. In return, we strive to offer a high-quality product, which is both entertaining and informative. We need a growing number of people to subscribe to L-H and remember to renew, to buy gift subscriptions for family and friends, or to donate subscriptions to their local library. We need those who can afford it to contribute over and above their subscription price – it’s tax deductible! – either as monthly donors or on a one-time basis. It would be nice if those who have been richly blessed would even remember L-H in their wills.
We need professionals and business people of Icelandic heritage to take out advertisements, which obviously support our publication while letting Icelandic North Americans know about our rich network of commerce. We need golfers to come out to the Icelandic Open each year (and businesses to sponsor holes) and we need beer drinkers to join us on Bjórdagur. We need people with new fundraising ideas to join our cadre of volunteers and contribute their talents.
And we need our readers to dare to write – to send us news stories and features, reminiscences and reflections, which will enrich others precisely because we all love to tell our personal sagas and immerse ourselves in the sagas of others. Yes, we need you. You and your generous support. And we like to think that you may well need what L-H brings to your life. It’s that simple.
Our board chair, Peter Johnson, likes to say that Icelanders are known for “punching above their weight.” That’s how our paper and our other community organizations have prospered in the past, against all odds; that’s how they’ll continue to prosper into the future. We’re not looking for a knock-out punch; like the Norwegian American Weekly, we’re simply looking to stay in the ring.
Author: Stefan Jonasson
Whatever else you do on June 19th this year, set aside a little time to celebrate one of the great milestones in the fight for women’s equality. It was on June 19, 1915 that Icelandic women won the right to vote in elections for Alþingi, the country’s parliament. Although it was a limited franchise – only women 40 years of age or older received the vote – it was nevertheless a real accomplishment after a struggle that had lasted for some three decades. Shortly after Iceland became a sovereign state in 1918, the age limitation was removed and women were enfranchised on the same basis as men.
The campaign had begun in earnest in 1885, when Valdimar Ásmundsson, the editor of a new magazine called Fjallkonan, wrote an article on the enfranchisement of women. Three years later, he married Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir, the pioneer leader of the women’s movement in Iceland, and together they championed the cause of equality between women and men.
As early as 1882, widows and single women of independent means had received the right to vote in municipal elections and, in 1907, this right was extended to all women. In 1894, the Icelandic Women’s Association was founded with the expressed purpose of achieving political equality and winning the vote for women. The following year, Bríet established her own newspaper, Kvennablaðið (The Women’s Magazine), as a vehicle for domestic and educational reform.
In 1907, Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir launched the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, saying, “The experience of the last fifty years or so has proven to women elsewhere in the world that in order to establish equality between men and women and gain full political citizenship for women, only one thing is essential, that thing being the cornerstone for all other women’s rights; that thing is political rights: women’s suffrage and women’s eligibility in politics. All other rights are derived from this.”
The following year, Bríet was elected to the Reykjavík town council, along with three other women, on a women’s slate. She served until 1911 and then again from 1913 to 1919. In 1916, she became the first woman to stand for a seat in Alþingi as a candidate for the Home Rule Party, but she was defeated.
The first woman to successfully compete for a seat in Alþingi was Ingibjörg H. Bjarnason, who was a leading educator and principal of Kvennaskólinn (The Women’s School) in Reykjavík. She was elected to Alþingi in 1922 as the leader of Kvennalistinn (The Women’s List). In subsequent elections, she was returned as a member of the Conservative party (Íhaldsflokkurinn), retiring from the Alþingi in 1930. She was vice president of the upper chamber of Alþingi from 1925 to 1927.
WSO Presents Nordic Festival in October
Have a listen to the artists mentioned below:
Carl Nielsen - Symphony No. 4 "The Inextinguishable", Op. 29
Grieg Piano Concerto 1st mov - Ólafsson & Ashkenazy
Kjartan Sveinsson - “Credo"
World premiere commissioned for the Festival’s 125th anniversary
The Icelandic Festival in collaboration with Ambassador Hjálmar Hannesson, Consul General for Iceland, and the Government of Iceland, agreed to commission a new work from Valgeir Sigurðsson titled Átjánhundruðsjötíuogfimm or Eighteen Hundred and Seventy Five to commemorate the immigration of Icelanders to New Iceland.
Have a listen to music by Valgeir Sigurðsson:
Draumalandið (Dreamland) Music by Valgeir Sigurðsson
Valgeir Sigurðsson | A Take Away Show
Grýlukvæði - Valgeir Sigurðsson feat. Sam Amidon
Valgeir Sigurðsson - Past Tundra
Valgeir Sigurðsson - Architecture of Loss