Ever heard of a news desert? It’s what you call a community that has lost its local newspapers. Over the past two decades, it’s happened far more often than you might think. More than 2,100 local newspapers, including 70 dailies and 2,000 weekly publications, have permanently turned off the lights, leaving hundreds of communities across the nation with no local print journalism.
The rise of the Internet, Facebook and other social media platforms has certainly contributed to the trend, fundamentally changing the habits of news consumers and bulldozing newspaper economics, especially for small publications like this paper. Gone are the days when subscriptions and print advertising revenues were more than sufficient to cover operating expenses. It’s fair to say that the traditional business model supporting independent journalism has all but collapsed, forcing publishers to cut costs by laying off staff, scaling back coverage, downsizing their physical product, and exploring the potential for alternative sources of revenue.
City Pulse is not immune to these challenges. Worsened by the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which crushed our advertising revenues over the past year, this newspaper is admittedly struggling to stay afloat. That’s why we — Lansing’s “newspaper for the rest of us” — are asking for your help.
You may be familiar with our nonprofit City Pulse Fund for Community Journalism. If you’ve made a donation to the Fund in the past, we thank you. But now we ask you to give directly to City Pulse, not the Fund, which is limited in its purpose: We can only use its resources to pay journalists to write stories; we can’t use it to pay the rent or keep the lights on. As we consider ways to make ends meet, we have resisted the temptation to move to a subscription-only model or putting up a paywall on our website. Those options leave too many people of limited means with zero access to the news that matters in their lives. So it’s up to those of us with a few extra dollars in our pockets to keep City Pulse available for free on newsstands across the region. Thus, the drive we kick off today is for City Pulse, not the Fund, which will focus its efforts on those seeking tax deductions for large gifts.
Why give to City Pulse? Let us count the ways: Tired of the dearth of quality local journalism in the corporate daily? Look no further than this paper to get your fix each week. Looking for in-depth coverage and insightful analysis of state and local politics? We’ve got it in droves. How about mid-Michigan’s most comprehensive event listings and our special sections featuring Lansing’s top festivals and seasonal attractions? Perhaps you enjoy our restaurant reviews and our annual DIning Guide as a way to introduce new flavors to your palate. Are you a cannabis connoisseur? Our weed reviews can help you find the right strain to achieve your desired results.
Our Top of the Town Awards (now moved to the Fall) celebrate the “best of the best” in hundreds of categories, from your favorite watering hole to the Lansing area’s best cheeseburger. We sponsor and host the annual Inclusion Awards, to highlight champions of equality and social justice in the LGBTQ+ community, and the Pulsar Awards to honor local theater. And, we’re particularly proud of our election offerings, with in-depth coverage, profiles and candidate questionnaires that provide valuable information for voters as they head to the polls. After Election Day, we continue to hold public officials accountable and demand transparency on behalf of our readers so they can gain insight and perspective on issues that matter.
City Pulse goes where other newspapers fear to tread. We were founded on the principle that “objectivity is bullshit” and we continue to embrace this provocative idea. We’re not afraid to tackle controversy, or to “create” it when necessary, in the sense of recognizing an issue that ought to be controversial. Our editorial page, created in the vacuum left by the daily paper, which has largely abandoned print’s traditional role as a community opinion leaders, fearlessly tackles all manner of issues, from racial equity and social justice to government ethics. Not everyone is happy with everything we write, but that’s OK. Even when we are criticized, the exchange of viewpoints is usually constructive — and instructive. We learn from our readers as much as we hope you learn from us.
But all of this goodness doesn’t come cheap. It takes real money to publish a real newspaper. Please consider making a donation to City Pulse to keep independent local journalism alive and well in Lansing.