A Stamp and A Dime

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

In a prosperous age such as ours, there are increasingly few “bargains.” But if someone asked, what are the biggest bargains in your life, how would you respond? Perhaps you’d note that food is still a fabulous bargain in this country, as is electricity. Also, you might mention public schools and public transportation. 

You might also mention how books, borrowed or bought, can provide enjoyment and mind expansion for long stretches. Also, that music CDs and movie DVDs can provide hours of entertainment.

Then, too, you might remember the humble postage stamp, which, even with an increase on January 8 to 39 cents, can perform miraculous feats of elegant economy, taking a love letter, or thank-you note, or bill due and payable from one end of this magnificent country to the other. And it performs this feat for less than the price of a cup of coffee (especially the kind of fancy lattés I enjoy at a certain national coffee house that begins and ends with the letter following “R”).

We hope that you view the magazine you’re holding in your hands right now as a bargain, too. For the cost of a stamp plus a dime, 49 cents, your cooperative is able to design, develop, and deliver, to your doorstep, the Cooperative Living magazine you’re now reading. To publish Cooperative Living and deliver it to you 10 times a year costs a total of $4.90. Therefore, the total cost for a year’s worth of Cooperative Living magazines is less than the cost of a single copy of many, if not most, other magazines. Which, of course, begs the question: How the heck is that even possible?

The answer: The Cooperative Way. Translated specifically to the business model of electric cooperatives, it means that co-ops work together to obtain goods or services more efficiently and less expensively than any of them could do alone. It’s one of the 7 Cooperative Principles that guide our business decisions every day. Principle #6, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, calls for co-ops to work together for the good of all, whenever and wherever possible.

Applied to everyday life, it means working with your neighbor to buy in bulk, and save everyone money. This magazine began almost 60 years ago as a way for three small cooperatives to communicate with a few thousand member-consumers. Today, Cooperative Living is the primary communications channel for 12 fast-growing electric cooperatives across Virginia, from the Cumberland Gap in the far southwest corner, to Chincoteague Island on the Commonwealth’s Eastern Shore.

And the circulation that started at about 20,000 in 1946 today totals over 360,000, giving Cooperative Living —your cooperative connection — the largest circulation of any publication in Virginia, newspaper or magazine, daily, weekly, or monthly.

Of course, the whole reason for our existence at all is because of Cooperative Principle #5: Education, Training, and Information. This principle outlines the obligation of each cooperative to keep its member-consumers closely informed about their cooperative, which after all is their business.

For those who like the whole story, the other five Cooperative Principles are as follows: #1, Voluntary and Open Membership; #2, Democratic Member Control; #3, Members’ Economic Participation (members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the cooperative); #4, Autonomy and Independence (cooperatives are autonomous, controlled by their members and not by outside entities); and #7, Concern for Community. This last one is also a prime reason for publishing a regular magazine like Cooperative Living, a magazine that works hard to stitch together in words and pictures the people and places that make Virginia’s rural areas and small towns such great places to live, work, raise a family, and retire.

But at the most basic level, and as the reason why local Virginia cooperatives got together in 1946 to begin issuing a member publication, Cooperative Living’s mission is to keep you up-to-date on news affecting your electric utility. If we’re able to do this main job reasonably well, then we’re pleased.

If, however, the magazine assumes a broader role; if we also provide you with a momentary respite from the travails of the world; if we give you a nugget of information that saves you a few dollars; if we avoid cheap sentimentality and still bring a smile to your face or a tear to your eye; if we give you a new way of looking at an old topic; or if we inspire you or lift your spirits, well, then, YOU will have made OUR day.

So, is Cooperative Living worth a stamp and a dime, and a bit of your time? We hope so. Last year, almost 6,000 readers took the time to contact us, through a phone call, a letter, a postcard, a fax, or an e-mail. As we celebrate our 60th year of publication, we would love nothing better than to hear from even more of our readers, including you, telling us what we can do to make your magazine even more of a bargain.


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