We sought your support and you gave it generously: Now what?
First and foremost, this is all about gratitude. We can only humbly thank our readers for giving us such incredible support when we direly needed it. Here is a synopsis of the past year in the life of The Lakeville Journal Company.
When The Lakeville Journal Company decided to address the ongoing financial difficulties it, along with just about all other local community journalism entities across the country, was facing as of June of 2019, we made a plan to come up with the best strategy we could formulate. We started with independent and wide-ranging face-to-face discussions with community leaders from all political sides across our readership area.
That led us to the path of first publishing a survey for our readers in October 2019. We had a helpful and large, connected response to that survey, with readers telling us what they most valued about having community weekly news available to all in the region. After analyzing those surveys, we moved forward with a membership model, based on one that was used by a weekly newspaper in California that had been successful for several years. We rolled out that campaign for support in November 2019, publishing a structured approach to supporting local journalism for four consecutive weeks in our newspapers, The Lakeville Journal and The Millerton News.
Our readers came through in a way we could not have expected, and for which we are profoundly grateful. Thank you to all our readers who responded in such an encouraging way. To date, we have received more than $150,000 in direct support from our readership. Without that financial help, our little media company would not have made it through the first half of 2020.
With the onslaught of COVID-19, the company applied for and received a PPP loan, in the amount of $146,643, which we anticipate becoming a forgivable loan as we have followed all the requirements. That program gives small businesses like ours a fighting chance to survive. So, without a pause, during the pandemic, we continued to pay our employees, and to publish both The Lakeville Journal and Millerton News weekly, TriCorner Real Estate tabloid monthly, and two special sections, Towns & Villages and Compass Community Food, for which we were able to find enough advertising from our local businesses. We firmly believe that local news is more important now than ever, especially with the size of the communities we serve. Many thanks to all who made this possible.
We also ran support banners for first responders and health-care workers that received good advertising support, from which we gave 10% of the proceeds to three area nonprofits over three weeks: Sharon Hospital, Salisbury Visiting Nurse Association and Sunday in the Country Food Drive. Our goal during this time of pandemic has been to get the most accurate news out to our readers and to build community with those special banners and sections.
We reduced the number of newspapers we put out on the newsstands during the first wave of COVID-19, in April and May, as a safety measure, when many shops were closed and people were going out less. We then increased to normal numbers at the beginning of June.
Now the company is in the process of analyzing its next steps. In addition to its current board members, who have been the company’s ownership since 1995 and brought us forward with generosity and dedication, an advisory board has been formed that will help in that task. The options include continuing with the membership model, perhaps with a different definition more geared to our region; applying for nonprofit status; or some combination of those two.
We are grateful to all those who have sent, and continue to send, us contributions, as well as to all those who subscribe to or purchase the newspapers on the newsstand and to all those who were and are able to advertise with us. We are deeply thankful for the generous response from our community. As we continue to look for the best way to fulfill our mission of serving you, we will be publishing a survey of our readers once again this summer. This will help confirm our decision making in our financial model that we will roll out this fall. We look to you, our readers, once again to weigh in with your thoughts as we pursue continued life for this form of local journalism.