Open Media Boston Winter Funding Appeal
In less than a month, Open Media Boston will celebrate our fourth anniversary. Hard to believe that so much time has passed already. But I'll dwell on that more in my upcoming anniversary editorial. Today it's time for one of our periodic appeals for funds. And I think I'll be a little more blunt than usual this time around and say that the entire staff and I greatly appreciate all the support we get week to week from folks we meet while reporting in the field - and in online communications we regularly get across our social media presence. But we have as yet to see that support translate to much in the way of donations to keep our non-profit news operation going strong. We are extremely grateful for the donations and foundation funding that we do get, don't get me wrong. But it's just not enough.
After a number of serious funding initiatives on our part, and some new ones in the pipeline, I'm still the only staff person that draws a regular stipend - forget a real salary and benefits - the other staff get a hundred here and a hundred there when I'm out of town or have a bad cold or the stars align just right so that we have a bit of extra cash. Yet our budget remains stubbornly under $30,000 a year. And, I understand. Boo hoo, right? Lots of folks are out of work, and lots more are struggling just to make ends meet.
But I want our viewers to understand how hard we work to make sure that Boston has a professionally-produced news weekly with a progressive editorial stance. And how as strong supporters of movements for democracy, social justice and human rights, we will go to the wall when necessary to make sure critical happenings are covered in a timely fashion and in great detail - as we did last fall when we went daily for six weeks to cover the rise of Occupy Boston. Doing our part to help break the story of the new movement and get it covered by the mainstream media.
I'm not going to say we're the only progressive publication in the city. We're not. But our coverage of the labor and community organizing beats is second to none in Boston. And because of that focus - plus our steadfast attention to detail, and high journalistic and ethical standards - we've gotten the attention of the rest of the regional press corps and political establishment in ways that other progressive outlets generally don't. We may still be the size of a community newspaper, and we may be poor, but we're an accepted member of press corps. And what we publish does have an effect on the body politic hereabouts. Small though that effect might often be.
We don't get dismissed so easily as a "left-wing rag". Even by the right-wing. And that's by design. We do our best to produce fair and accurate news articles. Because we believe that it's easy to write opinions about any given event that takes place. But it's hard work to produce solid news coverage about that same event. Even in the short form "nuts-and-bolts" reportage we've become known for. And the same goes for our editorial writing. It's easy to simply cheerlead people and organizations that we generally agree with. It's much harder to do background research and fact checking and call out those same people and organizations when we think their analyses are off-base - or that they're making some tactical or strategic errors.
So we're independent, too. Very independent. In fact, we're independent to the point where it's difficult to get institutional funding.
Our editorial stance is to the left of the Democrats. So the Democracy Alliance and their ilk are not clamoring to dump money on us.
We're not willing to be anyone's public relations agency. So labor unions and large non-profits are not lining up to fund us either.
Some of the handful of progressive foundations that fund media production have shown us some love. But more mainstream media foundations are not especially interested thus far to give general purpose grants to publications that promote left-wing views.
The jury's out on rich progressives. But seriously, if there are any rich progressives reading this ... an angel donor or twenty would really help us ratchet our operation up to the next level.
And let me be specific. A quarter million dollars a year for a couple of years would probably be enough for us to become a self-sustaining operation in the third year. A self-sustaining operation that can get regular word of progressive ideas and actions to tens of thousands of fellow Bostonians that wouldn't otherwise hear about them, I hasten to add.
We're not averse to selling ads - just not to corporate criminals, thanks. But we need at least one dedicated business staff person to do that. And one development staffer to focus on grant writing and targetted donor programs. We get those staff, plus a couple more full-time reporters, and guess what? We'll be a much stronger news outlet with a much larger viewership. And we'll have a model that can be spread to other cities around the US at relatively low cost that can help build the kind of majoritarian progressive press this country has lacked for decades.
Now, having asked for the (relatively) big bucks, let me stress the importance of us getting large numbers of small donations from our viewing audience on a regular basis. Because that's where any good non-profit should be raising 70-80 percent of its funding. All of you that can spare $25 or $50 or $100 or $500 a year, every year, are worth your weight in gold to us. Because you're not just keeping us going financially. You're telling us that we're providing you with news and views you aren't getting anywhere else. And that in an era when everyone seems to expect the news to be provided for free, you recognize that there's no such thing as a free lunch. That if Open Media Boston is going to keep going out there week after week and covering the struggles of working families as we have done for almost four years now, we need strong grassroots support.
If you want swag. If you need shiny star stickers on your foreheads to feel validated, we can do that kind of stuff on request.
But know that we value the regular support we get from viewers above all other support. Such supporters are our core audience.
And we want to build a much larger core audience, and grow into a major metro publication.
With your help we can do that. Without it, we can't.
So dig deep for this winter appeal. Help us do our thing to the best of our ability. And we'll give you the news and views you need to do your things to the best of yours.
Oh one more thing. We're thinking of having a fundraising dinner in the spring in honor of our fourth anniversary. If you can let us know if you think that would be a good idea, we'd appreciate the feedback before we start breaking tail on putting it together. Just drop us an email at info [at] openmediaboston.org if you have an opinion one way or the other, and include any other fundraising ideas you have for us. We're always open to advice.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston.