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Next steps for COURIER’s nonprofit newsroom

Peter Weinberger | editor@claremont-courier.com

Now that the COURIER has successfully received nonprofit status from the state of California and the IRS, we have been working on setting up a business model to increase our ability to qualify for local news grants, while being able to accept tax deductible donations. This column is also part of our effort for transparency, as we adjust to a new normal as a nonprofit.
We consider ourselves fortunate, not only because of the continued support from our readers, but also from other groups and organizations at the national level. The federal government understands how local news impacts our democracy—all the way down to the city level—and wants to help by giving tax credits to advertisers and subscribers.
It’s great to see Google and Facebook support local news, especially Google with new initiatives that help train newspaper and digital startup staffs about the nuances of increasing their online readership. It’s a science. Of course, these huge IT companies contribute to the problems facing local newspapers in the first place, as they freely publish news stories from companies like the COURIER without providing any compensation. I receive a list from Google several times a week of stories they have reposted on the web. It’s almost all of them.
But other challenges lie ahead, especially operating in an economy where prices are up, and the future is unpredictable. COURIER advertising is still down, reaching all the way to classifieds and legal notices. The price of producing a weekly newspaper continues to rise with the price of newsprint increasing over 60 percent this year alone. Last week I received a call from our printer who was concerned about a newsprint shortage caused by the pandemic impacting distribution channels. Fortunately, it will not impact us, but shortages do remain an issue. All this continues while our readership is at an all-time high.
Currently the COURIER charges only $68 for a yearly subscription ($6 per month), giving readers access not only to our print edition, but our website, newsletters, video and podcasts. Our mission to provide more local content will continue, especially online where we currently serve about 9,600 unique users every week.
It’s also clear, given the facts above, even with advertising and paid subscriptions, $6 a month is simply not enough to support the COURIER in the future. This is our new normal—one in which readers and residents will be asked to further support us via donations. And we are making plans for a donation drive similar to other nonprofits in Claremont.
So will our rates skyrocket? Absolutely not. It’s critical that our information reaches as many people as possible, and that starts with reasonable rates for subscriptions and advertising. But we will also need your continued help to keep local citizens informed.

The COURIER’s impact
We have not conducted a specific report on the exact impact of the COURIER on the Claremont community. But there are numerous reports documenting costs to the public when a community newspaper leaves town. By the third year after an exit, public finances take a hit, as the cost of government goes up. Wages, deficits, taxes and payrolls increase. Objective reporting about municipal bonds for roads, schools and yes, police stations, not only helps the public make informed decisions, but reporting on city finances actually decreases risk of default. At the very least, it can lower borrowing costs to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A local newspaper and website have the same impact regarding crime information. Reductions in crime reporting influence public opinion, affecting how police departments focus their resources. This is especially true for older cities, where residents are avid news readers with many interested in politics. Sound familiar?
We are dedicated to providing your local news. My wife Betsy and I elected to take a more challenging road by creating the COURIER nonprofit because it was best for its health and longevity long after we have left the business. We want to create a path that others can follow. And we are fortunate the COURIER has a staff that can make it happen.

Help for nonprofits
The COURIER has been putting the word out to Claremont nonprofits that we will double the size of your print ad for free. Pay for a quarter page ad, get a half page at no additional cost. We have several nonprofits taking advantage of this special pricing, in fact that includes the Claremont Heritage ad in today’s paper.
One of our goals is to help nonprofits market themselves so our community can decide how to get involved. As I’ve mentioned in this space before, nonprofits are having a difficult time now because of the challenges with staging events to help raise money. One could say Claremont is the City of Nonprofits, but we are just happy to help.
After all, as a nonprofit, the Claremont community now owns this one-of-a-kind special newspaper and website. And there’s no doubt of the important contributions the COURIER has made to help shape the city we live in today.
On the upper left corner of our website’s homepage is a link to make a donation. Your tax deductible contribution is greatly appreciated!
Finally, even with all these changes, I want to assure readers the Weinbergers remain committed to keeping the COURIER a robust local news source…both in print and online.

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