In the summer of 2007, while bouncing around as a freelance writer, I made a call to my journalism friend Martin Wilbur that changed our lives forever. I had an idea, to launch a local paper, by soliciting the editorial help of our newspaper pals and acquaintances in and around Westchester, while also securing advertising support from the bagel shops and pizza joints I frequented. In the second week of Sept., after a frenzied, sleepless, six weeks, The Examiner was born, as I helped distribute about 2,000 of our debut copies around Pleasantville and Mount Kisco.
Since then, we’ve launched three additional print newspapers, along with a news website, and have grown to an audience of more than 100,000 readers across Westchester and Putnam counties. But a few weeks ago, as the coronavirus gripped the economy with a stranglehold, it all almost came crashing down.
In recent weeks, after painful layoffs, we’ve reinvented ourselves on the fly, becoming essentially a daily newspaper online, thinking digital first, breaking stories on our website, our social media and our email newsletter, and selling more website ad space than before while continuing to produce a first-rate print product. Yet financial dangers still lurk as the mandated shutdown of businesses statewide annihilates our local advertising revenue source.
I’ve never asked for donations before but it’s easy to set stubborn pride aside for one simple reason: I’m passionate about local news and our commitment to fact-checked, professionally-reported newspaper journalism. We might have started a dozen-plus years ago as a Little-Engine-That-Could publishing company, and still maintain that culture, but, setting modesty aside, we’ve grown into a vital local institution bigger and more important than any reservations I might have about seeking support from our loyal readers.
The bottomline: the coronavirus reporting fund I’m revealing here today is an endeavor I’d enthusiastically support even if I wasn’t so intimately involved with the founding, maintenance and growth of Examiner Media. It’s my responsibility to our staff, to our advertisers and to our readers to advocate aggressively for this organization, for this mission. And I’m proud to do so.
That’s why I’m excited to announce the introduction of our Examiner – COVID-19 Local News Fund. You can make TAX-DEDUCTIBLE, charitable donations to our cause. We’ve partnered with a wonderful nonprofit, the Local Media Foundation, a Section 501(c)(3) organization, to allow you the opportunity to support our mission while also receiving the TAX BENEFIT of contributing to a charity.
Ever since the crisis erupted, we’ve provided almost moment-to-moment coverage of every facet of the story here locally. Who in your government is lobbying for tax payment delays? What area restaurants are open for business? Where can the hungry turn to for food? When will my school be closing? Why did the state suspend the Open Meetings Law? How are student-athletes dealing with the fallout? And a thousand more questions asked and answered.
Community newspapers across the country are crumbling at this vulnerable moment, at a time when community newspapers are more important than ever. No type of media outlet does more to provide vital information (intimately relevant information) to the audience: local sports, town government, Main Street parades, the school fundraiser. Stories that are happy and sad, uplifting and humorous. We’re here to chronicle the lives of you and your community. And, at this fragile time, we need your help.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another thought I’ve been unable to escape while contemplating the prudence of this solicitation. I’ve come to believe that ongoing fundraising should be an integral part of the business model of every community newspaper across the country. The old model no longer works well enough. Community newspapers play too critical a role in fostering a sense of cohesion in towns and villages across the United States to let them just fester at best. We need the resources to thrive, not just limp along, alive but badly hobbled.
Industry leaders need to educate citizens on the importance of supporting local journalism, and rally the general public to embrace the notion that fundraising can and should be a normal part of how community newspapers operate and ultimately finance their work. The way PBS so successfully did.
For those of you who know me, please do not give to this cause as a personal favor. I’ll be fine. I can return to freelance writing tomorrow and make a better living. Please give to this cause because you believe in the mission. Because you believe, as our motto says, that SMALL NEWS IS BIG NEWS. Because you believe in The Examiner, and everything it represents to you and your community, not to mention the broader role newspapers like ours play nationally in fostering a healthy democracy.
Just click on the following link and, if you’re generous enough to give, we’ll make every last penny count: https://givebutter.com/theexaminernews
Thank you for your support of Examiner journalism during this critical time.