I don’t do a direct personal column very often. Mostly because I don’t often have the time and energy. However, that’s also why I need to do this column.
We’re broke. Completely. There is no money at all in our PayPal account. Some of our annual costs, including domain renewal, were paid from my personal account.
The Illinois Eagle, being a niche publication with very little marketing, gets about $22 a month through Patreon and averages around $1 a month in advertising. That’s it. Which doesn’t quite cover hosting and an RSS reader to help us track LGBTQ news. And that doesn’t include the cost of a mailbox that lets us have a physical mailing address for the newsletter or the cost of having an email address with the illinoiseagle.com domain, both of which are coming due in the next couple of months.
So, I need your help. And honestly, not just with money. I also need people who live in the communities the Eagle covers to be on-the-ground, local reporters getting out the news of what their communities are doing. This is meant to be a community newspaper and I need the community to take ownership.
Luckily, this is one of those things that even doing a little bit can be a huge help. If every one of our Facebook fans, just the fans, donated a single dollar a month through our Patreon page, all the bills would be paid plus we could pay for marketing and for some local writers to contribute. At a single dollar a month from everyone. If every non-profit and LGBTQ business we follow donated $10 a month to have a small ad in rotation, that would push the total to over $1,200 a month. More than enough for all the basic costs and money to pay local writers.
Which brings me to the next part. I need people who can write and blog about their local LGBTQ communities. About all the news. Both what local officials are doing with LGBTQ and social justice issues, but also the drag show at the local gay bar. State legislation and the PFLAG fundraiser in Charleston, both before and after the event.
It is all important. It is all community news. Everyone is welcome to send news tips or articles they’ve written to firstname.lastname@example.org, to our Facebook page or through our submissions page. If it’s a news tip, I will try to get it written as soon as I can depending on bandwidth and time I have around my day job. I also happily accept press releases. I do edit those a little, but only for punctuation and over-the-top wording.
I started the Eagle to inform and support the LGBTQ community. That has been the reason I’ve worked in journalism, both professionally and as a volunteer, since 1997. Community journalism is journalism at its most basic form. It is the kind of journalism all others are built on. It is a key part of community building and maintenance. And while it may not be as flashy or high profile as investigative, political or entertainment journalism, it is every bit as vital and important.
The media landscape doesn’t have as much community media as it used to. According to USA Today, more than 2,000 community newspapers have closed in the past 15 years. And it’s even worse with outlets that covers community segments like POC or LGBTQ people. Just this year, the legendary Chicago Defender has gone from being the only daily print African-American newspaper to a completely online product. The Village Voice, the granddaddy of alternative weeklies, is gone. The Prairie Flame closed years ago.
And even outlets that stay open are seeing themselves grow smaller. The Southern Illinoisan has their reporters in Carbondale and surrounding towns. But the newspaper is designed in Munster, Ind., more than 300 miles to the north. It’s printed two counties over. It’s also been lucky to only lose that much.
That’s why it’s important to support, or participate in, community media. It is your community and your news. Help me get it out to everyone.