What will these newspapers be next?
The Lakeville Journal Co. Editorial
When The Lakeville Journal Company undertook its initiative in October of 2019 to ask for community support, in dire straits then and looking for a way to survive, the response of our readers in the Tri-state region was beyond generous and supportive. It was completely overwhelming and so very encouraging to all who work at this 124-year-old local journalism project. We were not the only small news group with a long history in this country to find itself in jeopardy due to loss of revenues, and increase of attention, to online entities. But we were willing to take desperate measures to ensure the area news would still be covered by our editors and reporters in the small towns in northwest Connecticut and northeastern Dutchess County, N.Y. It worked.
That first plea, then called a Community Membership model, produced such generous and widespread support at all levels from our readers that they did indeed save the company. Then, in March of 2020, we all know what happened: COVID hit. Life changed in a quick turn. Without that support, we are surely among the businesses that would not have survived. But we did, because of our donors (and the two PPP loans/grants we received) and we never missed a week of publication throughout the pandemic. The journalists at The Lakeville Journal and Millerton News felt their responsibility to their communities more keenly than ever, determined to be sure our readers were kept informed of local news while activities were so limited and life so at risk.
In October of 2020, The Lakeville Journal and Millerton News announced a new Community Contributor name for the model, but with the same concept. The company asked for community support, but could not offer any tax incentives to contributors in that we are a for-profit company. The only reward for such support was having the newspapers published every week. But after the 2019 initiative, we let our readers know that we were committed to investigating the possibilities for taking the company to some sort of nonprofit status, so there could be other benefits for donors, and so the company could be eligible for grants available to nonprofit media companies.
Since that time, we at The Lakeville Journal and Millerton News have been researching the options, speaking to community members as well as other journalists and experts in nonprofits. The three possibilities we settled on were: 1) remaining a for-profit company, 2) creating a nonprofit arm of a foundation that would support the company, or 3) attempting to take the company to a full nonprofit status.
At the end of March, the executive committee and board members of The Lakeville Journal Company met via Zoom for their regular quarterly meeting, importantly to discuss and decide on the next step for the company, being one of the three options outlined above. That led to a special meeting two weeks later, where the vote was finalized by the executive committee to pursue nonprofit status. Now, the board and staff at The Lakeville Journal Company are working with interested and supportive community members to find the right attorneys to help with the application for nonprofit status to the IRS. There is no guarantee of success, but we firmly believe it’s worth trying.
None of those options (individual nonprofit, a nonprofit arm, or a for-profit entity) are simple in their repercussions or their implications of probable success or failure for the company. We are in new territory: trying to find a business model for small, independent news media that will work in this society. We hope to contribute to the choices for local journalists across the country, covering the news for small towns, in creating transitions to new business models and keeping local journalism here while doing that.
We will keep you informed of our progress and we express once again our deep gratitude to all those who have supported us in so many ways over the past two, and more, years, including giving funding to help us maintain operation as an independent, local journalism company. All at The Lakeville Journal and Millerton News are profoundly committed to having the news covered for our communities in the Tri-state region. Thank you for helping us continue to do that.