Many readers will remember that I became publisher of Fifty Plus about six years ago, when its founder and long-time publisher, Mark Fetter, passed away.
Mark was a colleague, a fellow member of the North American Mature Publishers Association (which represents publications for readers 50 and over).
It came as a surprise to me when I learned from Mark that he had but weeks to live and was looking for a way to continue this paper, his legacy.
I publish another newspaper for readers over 50, named the Beacon, with three editions in the Baltimore/Washington region. I told Mark we would do our best to maintain and even expand the paper he had run for nearly 20 years.
So, we took over, and quickly grew the monthly circulation to 35,000 copies, available free of charge at more than 350 distribution sites throughout RVA.
Many long-time advertisers remained with us, and we worked hard to add new ones. But it was the monthly four-page pull-out section for Senior Connections, the Capital Area Agency on Aging, that anchored us in the community and supplied important funding.
Under the leadership of the late Dr. Thelma Watson, Senior Connections converted its former publication, which had been mailed three times a year to 16,000 people, into a more topical, informative monthly newsletter reaching 35,000 people every month
inside Fifty Plus.
This public-private partnership continued through COVID, helping keep Fifty Plus afloat economically, even as the region’s other regular publication for older readers, Boomer Magazine, discontinued its print edition.
But then Dr. Watson passed away last year after a brief illness. And the new leadership of Senior Connections, evaluating its options, informed us last month that they had decided to end our partnership.
At the same time, the costs of printing and distributing 35,000 copies have quickly risen in recent months, and these two factors have put Fifty Plus out of business.
We are sorry to leave Richmond without a monthly print publication for both its older readers and advertisers who seek to reach them. I also feel bad for having let Mark Fetter down. But I know we certainly gave it a good try.
Those of you who would like to continue reading the kind of health and financial articles we gather from the best sources nationwide, and the travel and arts features our freelancers produce, can continue to find such stories each month in our other publication, The Beacon.
I want to thank our entire Beacon staff whose extra efforts have made Fifty Plus possible these past six years. In particular, I want to thank Gordon Hasenei, our executive vice president, for taking charge of its printing and distribution throughout RVA; Margaret Foster, our managing editor, who has kept our Richmond cover stories and arts features lively and local, together with Catherine Brown, our Richmond-based assistant editor; Lisa Benton-Hawkins, our Richmond advertising representative, and our office staff, including Kyle Gregory, art director, Roger King, our director of operations, and Ashley Griffin, our online content manager.
I also want to thank the freelance writers who supplied so many of our local stories over the years: Glenda Booth, Diane York and Martha Steger. Plus, our monthly garden columnist, Lela Martin (who tells us she hopes to be combining her columns into a book), and the VCU school of pharmacy, whose students have long supplied our Dr. Rx column.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank all of you — our readers and advertisers — for your support and encouragement. We have been honored to serve you these past six years and are sad to say farewell.