Woq, what a year.
As 2013 draws to a close, I have been reflecting on the huge changes that have taken place with your Bay of Plenty Times media products and some of the good we have helped facilitate in our community.
The biggest change occurred in March when we converted your weekday Bay of Plenty Times from an afternoon broadsheet into a morning compact newspaper.
It was the paper's biggest transformation and a major exercise in terms of editorial and format changes, as well as marketing and distribution.
The delightful part for us is that the changes have been hugely successful. I have lost count of the positive feedback we've had from readers who tell me they find the paper has better journalism, is more interesting and more convenient to read in its compact format.
We packed more into the paper and carried out some two dozen changes to the product, emphasising local news and views and revamping our local sports section, and bringing in new columnists.
We also launched the mid-week food and wine liftout, flavours , and revamped your Thursday entertainment guide, vibe.
These liftouts, combined with your Saturday magazine indulge, provide readers with extra value for money and have cemented their place in the local media landscape.
The other change that occurred was the relaunch of the Bay News. We transformed the weekly Tauranga community paper into a bright, lively read that is pro-local, celebrating local people and community news in a positive way.
But it was not just your print products that we improved. We also overhauled your leading online source of local news and information, bayofplentytimes.co.nz, making it easier to read and navigate. These products bring you the latest in local news and information - but one of the great things about being in the media is we can also make a difference to people in our community. There have been stories and campaigns this year which have helped local people in need, and recognised the great people among us.
One story that stands out for me is that of parents Nikki Stokes and James Fowler-Oates, whose young twins, Madeline and Felix, were born with severe disabilities. Madeline is blind and does not produce enough hormones to sustain herself without medical intervention and Felix was born without arms. The couple have two older children.
At the end of the story, we wrote about how the family's old car was unsuitable and they could not fit every family member into it.
There were some generous people who read the story in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend and decided to help. We carried a follow-up last week announcing the Rotary Club of Tauranga had bought the family a Mazda big enough for all six members. A local couple also donated $1000.
These are terrific gestures.
This month we also celebrated our Bay of Plenty Times Person of the Year 2013 and awarded the honour to hero policeman Deane O'Connor, who saved the life of Maungatapu Bridge crash victim Ashley Donkersley. We also celebrated the work done by award runners-up John Bryant of surf lifesaving, community events organiser and fund-raiser Iris Thomas, and Stephen Pearson, a father helping feed hungry schoolchildren.
It's been another challenging year for many families, which is why we decided to help Tauranga Community Foodbank for the third year in a row through our Christmas appeal.
And, as reported in today's edition, this year's provisional total as of yesterday is $75,265.45 - a new appeal record.
It has been an inspiring and humbling six weeks for me as people, businesses, schools and other organisations have pitched in to help this great cause and make a difference by giving what they can.
The Bay of Plenty Times started this year's appeal with a $1000 donation. The Hillsdean Charitable Trust donated $7500 in grocery vouchers, the Port of Tauranga gave $6000, Tauranga ITM donated $3000, and Legacy Funerals and Barnard Property Management each gave $1000.
There have also been sizeable anonymous donations.
These large donations have made a huge difference to the final tally and are impressive.
I'd like to say a huge thanks to everyone who made donations. You have helped make a difference to people's lives, especially at this time of the year.
I'd also like to thank all our readers and advertisers for their tremendous support this year.
On behalf of the Bay of Plenty Times management and staff, I wish you all a merry Christmas and safe, happy New Year.