Communities need a voice and a mirror. They need to be able to reach out and communicate and also look inward and grow. This is one of the roles of community media.
I started the Illinois Eagle for two reasons. One is I have a seeming addiction to the stress of working, in one way or another, in journalism. I should probably talk to my therapist about that.
But the second, and most important to me, is giving the community that voice. While the LGBTQ community has made amazing strides in recent years, we’re still fighting on many fronts. Especially in areas outside the big cities.
Chicago does have a large and vibrant LGBTQ community with a wealth of resources and a huge diversity. From the huge Center on Halstead to the groundbreaking Brave Space Alliance to the increasing number of suburban leaders and organizations, you can say we have won there and not have it be an exaggeration. There are still work to be done there and the city isn’t a queer utopia, but we are a recognized and integral part of the city.
As for the rest of the state… not quite as much. Here we haven’t quite won. We do have protections thanks to state law and policy, but that doesn’t always translate at the most local level. Cities like Champaign, Springfield and Carbondale offer oases and people can always surprise you. But we still can’t assume that all of our neighbors will support us. The recent spike in anti-LGBTQ incidents across the state, especially in Southern Illinois, are proof of that.
Which is what makes having our own voice that much more important. If nothing else, we need to counteract the lies and misconceptions that still persist. We need to speak out and push back when we come under fire.
We also need to be able to reach out to each other. Both in celebration but also in need. If those of us in particularly challenging areas come under attack, then those of us in a safer place can offer help. If we’ve had a local victory, we should have everyone in the party.
Most of all, we need to communicate, both the good and bad. And as much as social media can do that with lists and groups, it can’t be the only way. Social media is not always reliable both in its reach or its access. A post on Facebook can be seen by 10 people or 1,000 and you can’t always be sure which one you’ll get.
And that is why I need all of you reading this to support the Illinois Eagle in whatever way you can.
You can donate money to help keep us going and grow. Right now, the Illinois Eagle is not self sustaining. We do get donations, but it doesn’t pay for all the bills or the time that goes into reporting on the state LGBTQ community. That comes out of my own pocket from what I earn at my day job. I’m happy to do it, but there is so much more I would like the Eagle to do that is simply too expensive for me to pay for.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much to help monetarily. If we got a single dollar every month from each fan of our Facebook page, we’d bet getting $1,200 a month through Patreon. More than enough to pay for freelancers in every part of the state, to get us a phone number, pay for wire services and even monetarily support other LGBTQ and social justice groups across the state.
But we don’t need everyone to pay for the site. Just enough of those who can afford to for those who can’t. And even without donations, I promise that we will never have a paywall for the Eagle. Information for the community is too important to be limited. It needs to be free.
And even without contributing money, there are so many other ways to help. Share our stories on social media and with your friends. Sign up for our weekly newsletter. Send us news items that should be reported, organization changes or even funny memes. Send us letters to the editor, births, deaths and wedding announcements. The Eagle belongs to the community. It should reflect you.
I don’t often write opinion pieces or direct appeals. But this is something that is important to me and I think important to the community overall. I don’t expect the Eagle to be ground breaking like The Ladder or Advocate, or cover huge issues like the Washington Blade. But I do want it to follow in the steps of Vice Versa and the Prairie Flame, to give voice to a community that is too often passed over by the big cities and under attack in rural areas.
Community journalism is the most basic form of journalism. Every other form is built on it. It all starts with a community having a voice and a mirror. And I am asking you to help support your community’s voice.