Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A year ago this week schools closed, the Monterey Bay Aquarium closed (anticipating it would be closed for just two weeks) and restaurants started shutting down. Large events were canceled, and we heard about the potential for shelter-in-place.
It was a concept and a phrase so foreign and unheard of that it created its own vernacular. I spent the week of March 9, 2020 trying to decipher what an “essential worker” was and to pencil out what closing the economy would do to our business. Every scenario was gloomier than the last estimate. The reality was bleaker still.
A year ago this week, Monterey County Weekly slashed its expenses, laid off employees, cut salaries, shut its office to the public, retooled its delivery systems, spent reserves to invest in safety gear and technology to enable people to work from home. We also launched the newsletter, Monterey County NOW, that you are currently reading.
Those were necessary adaptations. The company’s revenue a year later is still down 32-percent compared to the year before.
The other major change that was made is that for the first time in its history, the company appealed directly to you, our readers, for financial support. We created what we call the Weekly Insider program. We borrowed from the well established public radio tradition: If you value the work we do, please contribute.
There is no subscription required to get the print edition, nor this digital newsletter. There is no paywall in place; our website and archives remain free.
And yet, thousands of you have voluntarily sent us money to help us persevere in our mission.
In the last two print editions we have published the names of the 2,487 people who have shown their support for our journalism with a financial contribution. You can see the names of many of your friends and neighbors in the alphabetical list of Weekly Insiders here. I’m writing today to invite those of you who have not yet become a Weekly Insider to join the party.
One thing that didn’t get altered in 2020 was our commitment to local journalism. A defining aspect of this last year has been that the demand for trustworthy and well-reported news is greater now than perhaps at any time in the company’s 32-year history. The need was great and again the Weekly devised a path forward. With help from a PPP loan, we were able to fully restaff the newsroom and and even add a new position of newsletter editor. In my opinion, we’ve done the best we could to meet the moment.
An abbreviated tally of Monterey County Weekly’s reporting over the past 12 months gives me great pride in the work the company is doing in this community:
We’ve published over 720 stories and blog posts on Covid-19 in the last 12 months.
We dispatched the entire company to report on three wildfires in our area that resulted in 82 stories.
The editorial board interviewed 47 local candidates over Zoom last fall, and sent and received email questionnaires to another three dozen candidates for the 2020 elections and published our observations and endorsements in 72 contested races and ballot measures.
The paper simultaneously tracked all the adaptations the local arts and culture, hospitality, ag and education leaders are making to preserve their parts of the place we call home.
While we are proud of our work, we are also very cognizant of those among us who have suffered far greater losses because of Covid-19. And that infuses our commitment.
At present, this newsletter goes out to over 40,000 people a day, and the print edition is seen by even more readers every week. I'm grateful that nearly 2,500 of you have joined our Weekly Insider program, helping us respond to the new economics facing a local and independent media company such as ours. Our goal is to reach 3,000 Insiders by the end of the year—it's a very modest percentage of our audience and an attainable objective. To do that, we need two people a day to sign up and pledge a monthly contribution or an annual gift. Please consider joining your neighbors—and us—today.