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Frequently asked questions: Lakeville Journal Company membership model

From Nov. 14 and 21, Lakeville Journal and Millerton News

In response to questions we have had from readers since we first presented our membership model in our issue of Nov. 7, we have prepared the following list of questions and answers. If you would like additional information, please email cynthiah@lakevillejournal.com or publisher@lakevillejournal.com.

November 14, 2019

1. Is the Lakeville Journal Co. closing and going out of business? 

No, we are seeking a new financial model, as are most newspapers across America. We hope to receive enough support through our membership program to continue publishing for many years to come, as long as our communities want it to continue.

2.  Is my membership payment a one-time gift or would I need to pay it each year?

We hope that you will renew your membership with a new payment each year. 

3. How much money do you need to make to continue publishing?

We are now seeking about $100,000 a year, which is approximately 10% of our annual budget. The rest of our revenue comes from ad sales and the sale of subscriptions and single copies.

4. Is my membership tax deductible?

At present, no, but we are hoping to find a way shortly to become a 501(c)3, which would allow us to offer a tax deduction. 

5. Does my membership include a free subscription to one of the two newspapers?

No, for three reasons. One is that many people prefer to read their paper online or to buy their single copy at their local retailer; for these people, the subscription would have less value. Another is that our estimation of the amount of money we need to keep publishing ($100,000) is based on the assumption that we continue to make about the same amount of money from newspaper sales as we had been. Third, our sales are audited, which enables us to get national advertisers such as CVS and Rite Aid, a big part of our annual revenue; we cannot count memberships as part of our audited circulation. 

6. I answered the survey but you have not made any of the changes I requested. 

We are doing our best to implement changes when possible and appropriate. We cannot make every change that every reader requests; as we move to a membership structure, we will continue to edit and publish our newspapers in the way that we feel is best.

7.  Why don’t you stop printing and go online; or why don’t you upgrade your website?

One important reason is that, although many of our readers do read the paper online, a large percentage do not have high-speed internet and can not do so. We are planning a website upgrade in the near future.

8. How can I make my payment?

Please send a check made out to The Lakeville Journal and mail it to Janet Manko, Publisher and Editor in Chief, The Lakeville Journal, PO Box 1688, Lakeville, CT 06039.

9. Can I make a charge card payment? How can I do so? Is there a payment option on your website?

Yes, there is a way to donate at www.tricornernews.com/membership, or call at 860-435-9873, ext. 302, and leave your contact information there. Someone from our finance department will get back to you.

10. Can I make a donation in the name of another person? Will you be listing donors’ names and if so how would I specify that this is a gift in honor of another person?

You can include a letter with your check. We are planning to run a list of donors in the newspaper in the coming weeks.

11. I don’t want my name listed in the paper.

You can send a note with your check requesting that you be listed as “anonymous.”

12. Do memberships in different categories have different advantages, such as influence on editorial content?

We are not able legally to offer any kind of quid pro quo to our members.  At this point, we do not have a large enough operating budget to be able to promise small gifts in exchange for a membership, such as coffee cups or tote bags, but we will consider doing so. 

We will print the list of contributors in the newspapers, as noted under questions 10 and 11 above. We can not give our members editorial control; our goal with the membership model is to remain an independent voice covering local government and other topics of interest to the community.

 

November 21, 2019

As we proceed in this new direction for The Lakeville Journal Co. and as we work toward funding the paper through a membership model, we are learning every day and we are also hearing fairly in-depth questions about many things, including our finances; about our efforts to convert to federal 501(c)3 nonprofit status; and about any benefits that accompany our different membership levels.

To start at the end of that list, we are not at this point offering any specific benefits for different membership levels. 

A few people have suggested that we offer top donors a chance to meet with the editorial staff. That opportunity is already available to all our readers. Almost anytime you’d like to come visit with us, we’d be happy to meet with you; we are on deadline on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you take the time to come visit us, we will do our best to answer your questions. We held an Open House at The Lakeville Journal on Nov. 26, 2019, and will do that again.

Financial data

Some of the very specific questions about our finances are not best answered on the pages of a newspaper, but in a general way we will try to answer them here.  

We have been asked about our investor/owners and how they will benefit from the membership payments we receive. Our investors have never taken even a cent from this company and have only helped fund its deficit over the years. 

We have been asked whether the $100,000 we have set as a goal will pay only for the newspapers as they are printed and published now. Yes, we would need additional funds to expand our reporting staff or to include more pages in each issue (the page count at present is based on how many ads we have).

We have been asked if we will continue to cut costs. We will do so and we have some plans in motion now; but we have to keep a balance to ensure that the papers have enough original, interesting content to make them valuable to our readers. 

Benefits to our members

Many people have asked if we are offering any special benefits to our members in the different categories. 

We are not able to offer free subscriptions for several reasons, one of which is that our circulation is audited and it will deplete our numbers if we give away papers. 

Also, people get their Lakeville Journal and Millerton News in diverse ways; not everyone wants a subscription, some prefer to read it online or to buy it at the store when they are in town. Also, several organizations have become members and we feel it wouldn’t make sense to give a subscription to a group.

Nonprofit 501(c)3 status

Many people want to know if and when we will seek federal 501(c)3 status. The answer to that is that we are still trying to learn everything we can as fast as we can in a fast-changing media world. At the beginning of November, the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah became the first newspaper to earn 501(c)3 status — and to do so in under a year. We are studying their application and seeking an attorney who might help us to prepare our own application. 

We are also looking into partnerships we might form with other nonprofits in the area until we are able to earn nonprofit status ourselves. 

We appreciate your interest and the deep thought that so many of you are applying to the challenge that lies ahead of us. 

And we very deeply appreciate the many membership contributions we have received, in every category, many of which come to us with notes of encouragement. Thank you for helping light the way.

Janet Manko

Publisher and editor in chief

Cynthia Hochswender

Executive editor, The Lakeville Journal

Whitney Joseph

Editor, The Millerton News