A Postage Stamp (Plus a Nickel)

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor


Richard Johnstone

There’s an old American proverb that “the best things in life are free.” This sentiment has been celebrated in the world of both cinema and song over the last half-century, and its accuracy seems almost an article of faith, especially for Americans, who still to this day regularly work it into daily conversation.

Usually mentioned in any “best things are free” list are such human basics as love and laughter, compliments and commiseration, passion and purpose.

Also among the things that make us human is a curiosity to hear about, read about, and talk about other people. Everyone’s got an interesting story. Finding it, and telling it, is the job of the journalist.

Sharing such stories 10 times a year through the pages of your customer-owned utility’s magazine is the job savored by those of us privileged to work on Cooperative Living. And because your cooperative works together with 11 others across Virginia—pooling circulation and sharing some content—this magazine is delivered to your mailbox at a cost equivalent to a postage stamp, plus a nickel.

That’s right; for 49 cents, your electric cooperative is able to produce, print and mail to you the magazine you’re now reading. It’s a bargain made possible by your cooperative’s unyielding commitment to the “Seven Cooperative Principles” that guide the decision-making process for cooperative businesses worldwide. Three of these seven principles are directly responsible for Cooperative Living’s existence, and have driven our editorial decisions since the very first issue was published in 1946, in the warm afterglow of Allied victory in World War II.

Providing the rich soil in which this magazine has always been rooted are these three principles: to keep the customer-owners informed about their business; to cooperate with other cooperatives where possible to save time, money and effort; and to work for the sustainable development of the communities that we serve. The other four bedrock principles on which cooperatives are based are: voluntary, open membership; democratic control; keeping the cooperative autonomous and independent; and economic participation by the co-op’s customer-owners.

In a near-perfect harmony of individual interest and common good, the cooperative business model provides service at cost to its customers, and democratic control to its owners, who are of course one and the same. Being a customer owner of an autonomous local business also provides an additional advantage: You’re receiving service from cooperative staff members who also live and work in the same community that you and your family do.

Cooperative Living magazine has been a regular visitor to homes and businesses across Virginia for 65 years now. The sweep of cooperative service territories in the state is vast: our nearly 500,000 customer-owners range up and down the Shenandoah Valley, across much of Northern Virginia and the Northern Neck, over the entire Eastern Shore, through long stretches of Central and Southside Virginia, even reaching to the far Southwestern tip of the state, where the Cumberland Gap knits Kentucky and Tennessee to the Old Dominion.

Through three generations, we’ve endeavored to keep you informed about what truly is your business. At times that includes publishing legally required notices to our customer-owners. It regularly includes providing you with information about the finances and operations of your cooperative utility. And throughout our long publishing history, we’ve also tried to capture the essence of the communities served by Virginia’s cooperatives, communities whose citizens joined together in the 1930s and ’40s to create their own cooperative utility to provide themselves with a service they would not otherwise have had, electricity.

Thus, we also regularly feature an array of reader favorites: profiles of small towns and large difference-makers, of bedrock businesses and promising start-ups, and of civic groups and civic-minded people, all of them embodying and celebrating community spirit. Of course, community spirit always involves working with others for the good of the group. And it’s that very spirit that led and continues to lead Virginia’s electric cooperatives to bundle 12 print orders into one, thereby producing a dozen similar-but-unique editions of a magazine, at considerable savings to each.

We hope you find the magazine’s cost of “a postage stamp, plus a nickel” to represent a value added service to you and your family, a good value to your cooperative, and a tangible testament to the power of cooperation.  


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