Dear Times readers in Lawrence and beyond:
We have so much reason to celebrate today. It gives me such great, heartwarming joy to look at all of the faces in this image — all of these people we’ve had the privilege of featuring in one way or another over the past year since we began publishing. (You can see a bigger version at the bottom of this post.)
Thank you for trusting us to tell your stories, even when they’re not always happy or easy to share. Thank you for letting us capture and share some of your most important moments in photos. We know it is a great responsibility to tell the story of this community, and we do not take it lightly. It is a privilege to serve this city that we love, and where our news team has lived for roughly 90 combined years.
I still have so many blossoming visions for what I want this publication to be. As we enter Year 2, we need to shift our focus from surviving to thriving. We need to move beyond being a tiny news startup and become a sustainable news publication that meets all of our community’s news needs for years to come.
To highlight a few things we’ve done since we started publishing on this day one year ago, we have kept a dashboard of local COVID-19 statistics to display critical information on one page; given community members a place to publish obituaries for their loved ones free of charge; created a robust and meticulously organized calendar of events; offered affordable job listings that prioritize the workers; helped Lawrence voters choose their next city and school board leaders, and so much more.
We’re doing everything we can to keep our costs low, but we’re working simultaneously to become the publication that this town deserves. We’re constantly evaluating how we’re spending our time and energy and thinking about how we can shift our focus to give you what no other publication can or will. But the more we grow, the more our costs grow, and we really need your help to keep this up.
You may think that your one subscription doesn’t really matter, and that we don’t need you. Please understand that we do.
When we started this publication, more than 600 people told us that they liked the idea that they could pay the cost of more than one subscription to ensure that their neighbors could keep accessing the Times. We decided to stick with the same basic model but cut out the restrictions and the fuss it would’ve caused — plus the additional overhead it would have cost — to try to keep track of who is subscribing for themselves, who has a donated subscription supported by another community member, and so on. Open access is far simpler, more equitable and more true to our grassroots, do-it-ourselves mode of operation.
We are thrilled that we have been able to provide news coverage that is open to everyone everywhere. An example: If we highlight the success of one of Lawrence’s many brilliant students, we don’t want their grandmother across the country to have to pay for a subscription in order to read that one story as many times as she wants to. And we love that nobody (our team included!) has to log in multiple times each day or week just to read our site.
Most importantly, we are so happy that everyone is able to read the Times and access important local news whether they can afford a subscription or not. Those who chip in with subscriptions are actively keeping this access open for everyone.
We know we have a lot more regular readers than we have paying subscribers. Of course we expect that as a free and open site, but we need more of our regular readers to help us out with a subscription.
Our subscription plans start at less than 26 cents a day. Even if you only read our work every couple of days, we sincerely hope we are providing a product that is worth $1.81 per week to those who need a source of Lawrence news.
We are getting by, but we truly need more support from this community. Our team of four part-time reporters and a part-time advertising maven are wonderful people, and they are extremely talented at what they do. We have a dynamic group of seasoned veterans and reporters who are recently out of, or still in, college. I need to be able to bring people on in full-time positions, though, and in order to do that, I need to be able to provide health insurance for them (and, ideally, for myself).
We want our reporters to be able to build their lives at the Times, and we’re counting on this community to help us get to that next level through subscriptions and advertising. Plus, Lawrence news consumers have seen for far too many years what excessive turnover in reporter positions does to the quality and continuity of coverage. Again, we want to become the publication this town deserves.
To be clear, we never expect to be extremely profitable. That is not the goal, and if we reach that level, we intend to keep giving back as much as we can to this community.
No bigshot in a faraway corporate office lines his pockets with Lawrence Times profits. And there’s no owner across the country who could decide to pull the plug on a whim if we have a bad quarter or two.
We are your neighbors, and we need your help. I pledge to continue to fight for my life to keep this wild dream alive.
If you already support the Times with a paid subscription, we thank you sincerely. To those who have subscribed but were unable to keep their subscriptions because of financial hardships, we see you, we feel your struggle, and we so appreciate that you gave what you could while you could.
To those of you still on the fence and considering whether to subscribe, I ask you to please sign up as soon as possible. And to everyone who reads this, please encourage friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers to subscribe and support the Times.
The subscription and advertising growth that we see over the next few days and weeks will set the tone for this second year, and we hope that it will be as optimistic as we are.
Thank you, Lawrence. We are so happy to be here, and we hope to stay for a long, long time.
One year down. Many more to come.Thank-you
Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.