Earlier this month, The Times did something we never imagined doing. We asked the general public to donate money to allow us to continue providing the sort of journalism that is so incredibly important to everyone right now.
The response to that request has been overwhelming. In just a few days, nearly 150 people made contributions to the cause of journalism, many of them also sending heartwarming notes of appreciation to express how important they thought it was that we continue doing what we’ve done as a company for some 73 years.
The fact that so many people have been willing to contribute money in such uncertain times is humbling. It is also a testament to the importance they place on having a local source of news and information upon which they can depend.
The Times editorial board
- Norman Baggs, general manager
- Shannon Casas, editor in chief
- Cheryl Brown
- David George
- Brent Hoffman
- J.C. Smith
- Tom Vivelo
- Mandy Harris
Having to go hat-in-hand and ask the community for donations was never part of any business strategy for The Times, but the economic upheaval created by the coronavirus crisis, coupled with existing economic challenges faced by newspapers all across the country in recent years, have resulted in a perfect storm of financial woes.
For decades, a highly successful business model for newspapers in the United States was built upon the premise that revenue from advertising would be the primary source of income, with revenue from subscribers a much smaller secondary source that frequently failed to cover the cost of printing and delivering a newspaper much less the journalism contained in its pages.
In recent years, the advent of digital advertising that could be targeted to specific customers by companies like Facebook and Google has resulted in dwindling advertising revenues for the newspaper industry, leading to the closing of some publications, cutbacks at others, and repeated reductions in staffing. The Times has been no exception.
COVID-19 has so seriously exacerbated those previously existing problems that the challenges have been almost impossible for many publications to overcome. Across the United States, newspapers are scrambling to do whatever they can to stay open. In that regard, we find ourselves like many other businesses.
Unlike other businesses, however, the demand for the journalism side of our news operations is more important than ever, and that cannot continue without a sustainable business foundation from which to operate. When people in a community want credible information about what is going on around them, they depend on their local newspaper to provide that information, and we take great pride in doing just that here at The Times.
Prior to asking for the public’s donations, we had taken steps to reduce our expenses in many different ways so that we could afford to continue providing the level of news reporting the community so desperately needs. We reduced the number of days we publish the printed newspaper; we ended home delivery and began distribution through the mail; we eliminated jobs and reduced salaries.
At the same time, we have put more effort than ever into our digital products and electronic editions of the newspaper. We are covering more vital local stories in an attempt to make sure we convey all the important information you need to know about how an international health disaster is affecting us here at home. And we’re providing all of those stories that have an immediate impact on public health to the public for free online, regardless of whether those who read them have a subscription.
The journalism part of our jobs is too important to abandon, but it takes money to make it happen.
So we asked you to help out. And, as has so often proven to be the case in this community, you responded immediately.
For that we will be forever grateful.
Be assured that we are doing everything we can do to make sure The Times is a successful business moving forward. We have taken the painful steps necessary to allow us to continue reporting the news you need for the immediate future, and hopefully for a long time to come. But like virtually every other business, our economic future in these challenging times is unpredictable.
The plight of newspapers, their future as business entities and the importance of what they do has captured the attention of many in our federal government. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and others are actively supporting a push that would direct more federal advertising dollars to local media companies, as well as other initiatives aimed at helping newspapers to survive.
Newspapers in the United States traditionally have shied away from financial support from governments, fearful of potential conflicts of interest. But faced with what some are calling a potential “extinction event” for local media, the possibility of some sort of governmental action to help newspapers survive seems less problematic than in the past.
For now, we want our readers to know that we are on the job. We are providing the same sort of unbiased, impartial coverage of local news upon which our reputation has been built. We have every intention of continuing to do so for a long time to come, though our methods of distribution and the platforms we use to make our coverage available may be different than in the past.
That we can continue to do our jobs as journalists is due to the business partners who continue to understand that we offer a variety of advertising and marketing options that are proven to work; the subscribers who continue to be willing to pay for the quality content we deliver; and now, the good people of our community who believe so strongly in the importance of a free press that they are willing to make a voluntary contribution to help us do our jobs.
For all of you, we are truly thankful.