We’ve reached a crossroads here at The Advocate, and we need your help in deciding what happens next. Due to the rising cost of print and a whole slew of other factors, 100 percent advertiser-funded alt-weekly journalism is no longer financially viable. Your one-time donations have floated us for months, but we need to come up with about $4,000 in regular monthly income to sustain our current operations. We are looking to you, our readers, to become Sustaining Members by giving monthly donations, keeping us free and weekly. Depending on the amount of funding we can attain, our other options range from dramatic format change to all-out failure.
Next week’s issue marks our seventh year of publishing, but copies of the paper won’t be available in the places that you’re used to seeing them. During the first four days of circulation, they’ll only be available at small events throughout town that we’re calling “grab-n-go fundraisers.” Various staffers will be tabling these events morning, noon, and night, about a half hour at a time, to receive pledge forms and contributions, and to distribute copies of our Feb. 21 issue. We’ll also have volunteer forms on hand, for anyone interested in assisting with event coordination, hire screening, circulation monitoring, research or online curation.
Sustaining Members, Incentives
We are asking some of our readers to become Sustaining Members, and contribute $20 or more monthly. Not all of us can afford $20 per month; Our Patreon page has member options starting at $5, and every little bit truly helps. Those who do commit to becoming Sustaining Members this month will have some options for free admission at either The Darkside or Majestic Theatre.
At the Darkside, it’s free admission for two for any general audience showing — up to four times in the next year. Alternatively, you can choose free admission for two to a Majestic Community Theatre Production, or Readers’ Theatre, twice over the next year.
We believe we can best serve our community by remaining free and weekly, but we are up against a financial reality. One option is to move more content online, and to print only biweekly or monthly. We are also looking at charging for either print or online, or both. Alt weeklies across the country have embraced some of these options, which have resulted in some downsides for lower income individuals that may not have internet access.
One counterargument is that the apparent cost savings of reduced print have been enough for alt weeklies to recommit dollars to increased news coverage and investigative reporting. Most of our readers have noticed similar, cascading upgrades at our newspaper, even in our struggle to maintain a free weekly print edition.
My Pledge if You Can’t Stay Weekly?
You could cancel your pledge — but we hope you won’t — because if you look at our site, we’ve started publishing much more daily content, and certainly you’ve seen the resurgence of investigative pieces at The Advocate. None of that is going to change, and if we have it our way, it may even increase. No matter how often we print, we’re committed to the idea of spending resources primarily on good reporting and thoughtful, well-written work. We think the decision to “look” like a daily or weekly of yore has been a mistake for newspapers, and we see exceptional content as the right investment for our community.
What We Have to Give
Our current pay levels make working at The Advocate difficult, to say the least; writers must have some other means of survival to be able to contribute here. There can be weeks that a staffer logs 20 to 40 hours in addition to working a full-time job elsewhere. Our reporters and essayists distill dozens or hundreds of hours of research and analysis into a good fifteen minute read. We hope the community sees us for how hard we work at this capacity, and how driven we are to continue to grow. We believe that ultimately a progressive community requires intelligence gatherers offering good information which serves in productive discourse.
Please show us your support, or if you can, consider becoming a Sustaining Member. If any community can band together in support of independent media, it’s ours.
Frankly, we’re sick of talking about ourselves. We’d much rather see this space go to our badass writers putting in the penwork. But what can we do when it’s do or die? Besides, we owe it to Corvallis, for all it’s given us, to say some words on the potential losses we face while the money runs dry.
If we do vanish or change significantly, we understand that our community is not to be blamed. You can only fight the current of change for so long until you learn to swim with it, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do — despite the puzzle of it all. What’s kept us alive is people like you. We do it all for every pair of eyes we have the potential to reach, to inform, and to inspire. So, before whatever happens happens, we editors would like to share some words:
Stevie Beisswanger, Editor-in-Chief
“Because of The Advocate, I’ve had the privilege of coming face to face with so many unique, courageous, and passionate people—who breathe, sweat, and create the heartbeat of Corvallis. I’ve met beekeepers, poets, educators, environmentalists, lawyers, activists, musicians, outdoor adventurers, athletes… all while working alongside talented authors who have each brought a unique background and perspective to the paper.
Without The Advocate, I think we all lose a little piece of each other. We lose the opportunity to share openly, vibrantly, and explicitly—the ability to see beyond our circles. Imagining all of the stories that would go untold: that’s the greatest loss of all.”
Johnny Beaver, Associate Editor
“I joined The Advocate as a staff writer in 2012, and aside from a brief hiatus, I’ve never even taken so much as a day off. Not because I couldn’t (I’m a good beggar), but because I love the work –even when I go sleepless working on a story and it, or my co-workers, make me want to rip my hair out and / or my entire face off. Being able to look back over the last seven years and know I had a small part in something that actually mattered is part of why I’m able to look forward in my own life.
This paper is family, and the idea of losing it is something I won’t be able to fully calculate until it’s gone. I believe the community will feel the same way.
I could use this space to talk about the number of people we’ve held up, especially those that would otherwise have had no voice. I could talk about those we’ve held accountable. I could talk about what it’s like living in a community where I know exactly how lucky I am to have a crew of people literally killing themselves to put these stories out, or try to imagine what things would’ve been like without any of that. But I’m not going to.”
Jay Sharpe, Associate Editor
“To me, a future with no independent alt-news in Corvallis seems pretty bleak. To be fair, it’s amazing that we’ve been able to keep the alt-journalism fire burning in a city of this size for so long, considering the deaths of so many similar media outlets over the past decade. On the other hand, Corvallis isn’t just any city. We are one of the most educated cities of this size in the country, and by some estimates THE most educated city. The citizens of this town have shown me a fierce desire to better understand the world around them and the issues that we face as a community. Witnessing this level of civic engagement in Corvallis gives me hope that if any small city can keep a community-focused neighborhood news outlet alive, it’s us.
With the corporate daily news presence in this city shrinking, we need alt-journalism to step up and pick up the slack now more than ever. A community without definitive journalism is a community in the dark, and I don’t want that for us. If The Advocate does fail, I want you all to know that it’s been an amazing experience to serve you all in this respect. I’ve learned so much, and working here has been one of the most fulfilling periods in my life. I truly hope that I can continue to serve this community in a meaningful way in the future, because this place is worth it.”