I started at the INDY in 1996 for the same reason anyone starts working anywhere: I needed a job. I had student loans, rent, and health insurance that covered almost nothing. I’d graduated from Duke two years earlier, and my contract job at the university was ending. The INDY—then The Independent Weekly—was the first company to offer me a position. I was a sales coordinator making $17,000 a year, working in a converted duplex on Hillsborough Street that, I later learned, we shared with quite a few mice.  

Today, the office is nicer, and three promotions later, I run the place. I’ve stayed here not for the paycheck, but because of how valuable this newspaper is to the community it serves. Over the years, my appreciation for our role has only grown. 

We’ve always had challenges, but the business was easier two decades ago. I can still remember when personal ads brought in $30,000 a month, when we had a huge classifieds section, when our papers were filled with page after page of ads. That was before businesses had the internet as a cheaper alternative, before Craigslist swiped our personals, before the Great Recession smacked us across the head, before Facebook and Google began sucking up digital advertising dollars.

According to a UNC study, the U.S. has lost almost eighteen hundred newspapers in the last fifteen years. Earlier this month,  the entire staff of New Orleans’s The Times-Picayune got laid off. In addition, over the last five years, several once-dominant alt-weeklies have closed, including the Village Voice and the Boston Phoenix

As a publisher, this isn’t reassuring. 

At the same time, I continue to be blown away by the quality of the journalism we produce. And as other media outlets scale back, the service our writers and editors provide to the Triangle is more important than ever. 

For me, this job has become an emotional proposition as well as a source of income. And keeping this paper strong has become my mission. Despite the headwinds we face, we’re still here because the INDY produces some of the most powerful coverage of local news, politics, and arts and culture anywhere in North Carolina, and that matters to the more than half-million Triangle residents who rely on us. 

That’s why I’m asking you to join me in sustaining our journalism through the INDY Press Club. Just as we were different—the buzzword then was “alternative”—when I started, we’re working hard to find new and different ways to keep our journalism vital and viable today. We’ve built a new website. We blast out paid emails from our terrific clients. (You’ve subscribed to our email lists, right?) We produce the two best guides to the Triangle you’ll find, The INDY’s Food & Drink Almanac and FINDER

The Press Club is our latest innovation—another way to reinvent an old business model that isn’t keeping pace with today’s realities. But it only works with your help. 

If you love and value this publication as much as I do, please visit KeepItINDY.com today to make a one-time or recurring contribution. (You can also mail your contribution to PO Box 1772, Durham NC, 27702.) In just the first week of this campaign, more than a hundred people have pitched in, committing over $14,000 over the next twelve months toward our $100,000 goal. That’s incredible! Now let’s keep the momentum going.    

Soon, we’ll match our members with all sorts of benefits: tickets to events, discounts at restaurants, even some cool merch. And we’ll always repay your support with the finest independent journalism in the state. 

Keep it free. Keep it INDY.

Contact publisher Susan Harper at sharper@indyweek.com. 

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.