Hello Readers & Friends,
The past few weeks have been a startling break with normal day-to-day life, and a moment when the value of useful, timely news is all the more stark. Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis we’ve published about 100 articles about the pandemic. But we want to do better and expand that coverage by hiring recently furloughed local reporters, and for that we need more people to sign up as members.
Though the crisis has revealed importance of reliable, accurate, and locally relevant news, it has also shaken the very foundations of the news industry, with closure after closure occurring nationwide, and half the editorial staff of thelocal hedge-fund owned newspapers furloughed or laid-off in the past month — if we don’t act now, the North Coast may be left without any reliable daily press.
Through pandemic, emergencies, and in our daily reporting we have never raised a paywall, because we want information to be accessible to everyone in the community, for their benefit and the public good. We’ve been doing live interviews with government officials and medical professionals to get your questions answered, providing timely updates on changing regulations, and bringing on additional freelancers to tell stories from around the county about how the pandemic is impacting our communities, but we want to be able to do even more. We are here for you, and our members are here for us — if you haven’t contributed or become a member yet, thank our members for our continued operation, they keep our servers running and our gas tanks full.
This pandemic and the economic recession that it’s triggered have hit the press especially hard, and each day brings new stories of small newspapers folding, or laying off reporters. So far we have been able to weather this storm thanks to our members, but we need more people to sign up — not just to continue our current level of coverage, but to be able to expand and bring you even better local coverage. The company behind the hedge-fund owned newspapers in our county and region, which we used to work for and include The Willits News, The Ukiah Daily Journal, the Fort Bragg Advocate, and the Mendocino Beacon (and these papers we’ve mapped) have furloughed or laid-off several reporters in the last few weeks, people who have been fixtures of our community and contribute valuable reporting. We want to be able to hire these people, give them good jobs, to keep this talent pool in-county, working to bring you the most reliable news when you need it most.
With 600 new subscribers, we’ll be able to pay the salary and benefits of a reporter at a living wage. That would mean better, more frequent coverage, in more parts of the county. It would also mean keeping more jobs, and more profits in Mendocino, making sure that money is spent here, rather than being siphoned off to Wall Street, bringing you the info you need to live, work, and build community with your neighbors.
Since we started in late 2016, The Mendocino Voice has worked hard to be your best source for information during these times of crisis, whether during wildfires, elections, power shut-offs, and now a pandemic. Now this economic crisis is threatening to leave us as your only source for daily local news.
For those of you who have made it this far into the email, we want to be frank: the old model of printed newspapers supported primarily by advertising was ailing for decades — this pandemic has killed it. We started this online news service because we knew print was dying as a business model; we have pushed the membership model because we knew ad revenues were declining; and we are transitioning to co-op because we have seen first hand the way that distant corporate chains and hedge-funds have drained and dismantled the local press, proving definitively the need for local control and ownership, by the people not the corporations.
So we have to acknowledge that the model for local news is changing: print will continue to have some role, and advertising for local businesses will continue to be an important component of local news. But many of our advertising partners, like small businesses and workers across the country, have taken a big hit this month as well. We are very happy to be working with many important local businesses as advertising providers, places like The Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op, Adventist Health, Community First Credit Union, and Motosports of Ukiah provide essential services to our community, and we are proud to lend our advertising space to promote them — as local business owners ourselves, we’re here to support this entire community.
Our transition to a co-op structure is one way in which we’re endeavoring to support the community In the co-op our members and reporters will be the actual owners of The Mendocino Voice. This structure will maintain local ownership, while ensuring democratic control and management of the news service, so that ours is always a newspaper of the community and for the community. All of our current members and contributors — and future ones — will have the opportunity to become owners of the new co-op, participating in decisions to ensure we continue to provide local news that our readers need long into the future. We urge you to help us in this mission, of maintaining the existence of local news in Mendocino County, today, by signing up to be a member. Thanks for reading, and for your ongoing support.
Kate Maxwell, Publisher
Adrian Fernandez Baumann, Managing Editor