What a strange year. We began 2021 coming off the lowest point of the pandemic. Now, 11 months later, things are a lot closer to normal. And we’re glad of it.

We know it’s a cliché to spend today’s editorial talking about what we’re grateful for in the Chippewa Valley. There’s a risk that we come off like so many other companies, yammering on about how fortunate we are to have customers like you, without a drop of sincerity behind the words. But we’re not big on trying to condense a complex idea into a 30-second soundbite. We hope you understand how much we mean it.

The past couple decades have been rough for newspapers. But they’ve also offered opportunities. We’re able to serve our readers faster and with new techniques online than were available even a handful of years ago. It is challenging? Yep. But it’s also exhilarating.

We’re fortunate that so many people in the Chippewa Valley have chosen to continue inviting us into their homes each day. We’re occasionally asked why we print national or international stories. People, the complaint goes, can get that stuff at any of a few hundred outlets.

That’s true. But it’s also true that a certain number of people choose to make us one of the windows through which they see the world. They’ve entrusted us to present events as fairly and accurately as we can. That’s a trust we never take for granted, nor one that we will ever think about without being humbled.

We’re grateful that people contact us with story ideas, submissions and letters. It takes an extra effort to do so. The fact people take the time to include us and tell us what they’re thinking means a great deal. The fact they entrust us to present their view as they submitted it is an honor.

The people who work at the Leader-Telegram come from a wide range of backgrounds. The reasons they got into newspaper vary, too. For some, particularly in the newsroom, it’s something they’ve always wanted to do. Telling the community’s stories is what we’re good at, and we look forward to doing so every day.

Our ad department has the opportunity to meet people who have struck out and founded their own businesses, creating new chapters for themselves and the area. And we’re there to help them reach customers and potential customers. Looking back at the ads from past years tells another side of the Chippewa Valley’s history.

The first people most of our readers deal with when they drop by or call are our customer service staff. Anyone who has worked in customer service knows how challenging that can be. But they come in every day, helping steer people toward the folks they need to speak with to ensure they get what they expect.

It would be hard to overstate how challenging this year has been for our staff at the L-T printing facility. Like a lot of businesses, we’ve had difficulties filling vacancies. Throw in the occasional equipment malfunction and other unexpected issues, and 2021 has tested the people there in unexpected ways. The new employees are improving, though, and the repairs that needed to be made are done. And the press workers have come through for our readers.

Our delivery drivers ensure thousands of copies are brought to homes and businesses for each edition. It means early mornings and a largely invisible presence. But when they aren’t there, we hear about it. We appreciate the work they do, and there’s no way we’d have a paper without it.

In short, we have a lot to be grateful for.

But none of these factors looms larger in our gratitude than you, the reader. We know you make a conscious decision to subscribe or pick up a copy of the paper. We know you carve time out of a busy schedule to make us part of your day. And we are deeply appreciative of that fact. It is our honor to serve the Chippewa Valley, to be a part of your lives. Thank you for subscribing and for reading.

This has been a strange year. But the end is in sight, and we have hopes 2022 will improve. Regardless of whether that happens, we’ll strive to bring you the full picture of the region we’re all grateful to call home.