I’ve been the INDY’s editor for four years now, but I’ve been working in local journalism for almost two decades, long enough to see the industry turned on its head—and long enough to realize that our business model needs a rethink.
Today, I’m going to ask you to help us begin that journey.
The old model was easy: Businesses bought advertising, and newspapers used their money to fund journalism (and, for the longest time, to generate healthy profits).
It doesn’t work that way anymore. A sizable chunk of that advertising has moved online. Almost 90 percent of those digital dollars have been scooped up by faceless conglomerates like Facebook and Google that couldn’t care less about local communities. The biggest players, the ones with billionaire backing and a national subscriber list in the millions—The New York Times, The Washington Post—survived this transition just fine. Most everyone else is struggling. Some newspapers have closed; others have cut their staffs to the bone.
As a result, local institutions aren’t getting the kind of scrutiny they did a decade ago. Local newspapers still have great reporters, but there are fewer and fewer of them, because yesterday’s model simply can’t support enough great journalism today. Without a new model, things will get worse, and we’ll all suffer for it.
The INDY isn’t dying. In print and online, we reach more readers than ever. But we haven’t been immune to market forces. And there’s so much more we want to cover—and in more depth—than we have the capability to do. We feel an obligation to grow, especially as other area media outlets contract. (Over the past decade, The News & Observer has lost well over half of its newsroom.)
We also want everyone to have access to our work, no matter their income. So we can’t rely on paywalls or subscriptions. For thirty-six years, the INDY has been free, and we intend to keep it that way.
Ultimately, however, great journalism requires resources. That’s where the INDY Press Club comes in—and where we need your help. If you believe the Triangle needs high-quality, fiercely independent journalism now more than ever, I invite you to visit KeepItINDY.com today. With a secure contribution—like supporting an NPR station, without the drawing for a trip to Paris—you’ll be helping to keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.
Our goal is to raise $100,000 over the next twelve months. That’s a big ask, and I don’t make it lightly. Lots of other causes deserve your help, too. But I firmly believe that strong local journalism is essential to a thriving community. So maybe don’t think of this as a gift so much as an investment—in your city, in the Triangle, in the state.
Rest assured that this money won’t go to fat-cat shareholders or a faraway corporation. Instead, it will pay for more of what we do best: more reporters and voices, more special projects and investigations.
In return, you’ll receive tangible benefits—access to special events, custom t-shirts, a membership card, that sort of thing. More important, you’ll be supporting a free and independent press—and you’ll have the gratitude of a scrappy handful of overworked, underpaid journalists who want to speak truth to power, tell stories that matter, and make this community better for all of us.
Thanks to you, we should be able to keep at it for another thirty-six years.
Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at email@example.com.
Support independent journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.