Subscribers make a difference in local news coverage (free content)

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Subscribers make a difference in local news coverage (free content)

April 12, 2021 - 20:28
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The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

Dear subscribers,

You are making a difference.

Here's a great example. The proposed Calumet Country Club redevelopment is an important matter to our community. Replacing a golf course with a trucking hub could affect residents of Homewood, Hazel Crest, East Hazel Crest, Flossmoor and other nearby communities.

At the end of January, the Homewood village board reluctantly agreed to settle a lawsuit that would have separated the property from the village, preventing local officials from having any oversight over the development. That enabled the project to move to the Planning and Zoning Commission. It also sparked an organized protest movement among area residents.

We were there, getting the story as it unfolded.

The Chronicle published 29 original stories on the issue between Jan. 21 and April 12. In addition to Board of Trustees meetings and protest events, the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on the developer's rezoning request lasted 20 hours stretched over five sessions.

We had reporters and photographers at every one of those meetings, one of which lasted seven hours.

Last year, I don't think we could have afforded to do that. This year we have subscribers providing support and readers paying for individual stories, and we covered that issue like a blanket.

Residents question representatives of Diversified Partners, the Arizona-based real estate firm that intends to redevelopment Calumet Country Club, at the Feb. 25 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. Two Chronicle reporters attended the meeting, one of five sessions during which the commission considered four zoning issues regarding the redevelopment project. (Chronicle file photo)

We are generally producing more content this year than last. In the first quarter of 2020, we published 275 stories for an average of 91.6 per month. This year, through March 31, we have published 368 stories, an average of 122.

If you recall, in February 2020 we launched our Reporter Supporter campaign, inviting readers to pitch in with the costs of running the Chronicle, and when the pandemic hit and advertising revenues dropped, reader generosity made up the difference.

We kept going.

In the first week of January 2021, we implemented a subscription system, asking more readers to contribute to the upkeep of the paper and to improve our news coverage.

After the first quarter, we can already see the results. Ad revenue remains down a bit, but news coverage is up.

You made that possible.

Ad revenue so far remains about 13% less than in the same period last year. Some of that drop is made up by production savings. When we have fewer ads, we publish fewer print pages, saving a bit on printing and postage costs.

But our spending on reporting is up 67%, thanks to subscribers, who more than made up the difference in ad revenue.

That was our goal when we installed the paywall. Our mantra has always been, "A great community deserves a great newspaper." That's our pledge, and to fulfill it, we need to be able to pay reporters and photographers to be where the news is happening.

We want to thank you for your support and invite you to spread the word to friends and family who have not yet subscribed. (Suggest they visit hfchronicle.com/paywall-faq to find out more.) 

You can see what a difference reader support makes. With more help, we will do even better in the future. 

Eric Crump, founding editor
Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle