Readers to the rescue, helping the Chronicle thrive

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Readers to the rescue, helping the Chronicle thrive

June 30, 2020 - 21:41
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The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

 When small businesses were slammed by the social and economic shutdown mandated to fight the spread of COVID-19, our community rallied around them. The Chronicle was no exception, and we want to thank readers who have so generously contributed to keeping their local news source going.

In April and May, our advertising revenue dropped by about 50 percent. Part of that drop was because some businesses had to stop advertising. And, some of that drop was because we decided to offer discounts for three months to help our advertisers keep delivering their messages to readers. 

At the same time, we have increased the number of stories we are publishing (pandemics and protests generate a lot of news), including more stories featuring local businesses and how they are doing during these difficult times. More stories means higher costs. 

It would have been very tough to weather the simultaneous drop in revenue and hike in costs without the generosity of the H-F community. 

Thank you!

As you may remember, we started a new effort in February to generate more reader support for the Chronicle. The Mayor’s Arctic Dip was the launch of that project. 

We hope to continue growing the proportion of revenue from readers in order to build on our ability to provide the news coverage Homewood and Flossmoor residents want and deserve. 

Even though the Chronicle is not a nonprofit company, we adhere to an approach similar to that of National Public Radio (NPR) or Public Television (WTTW), which is that our reader support improves the stability and responsiveness of the organization. All our revenue pays the costs of the services we provide.

We’ve made great progress already this year. Surviving the shutdown is a big achievement. But we have more to do.

Here’s a factoid that illustrates the need. 

On May 31, we posted the 1,000th story written by editor and co-owner Marilyn Thomas. I created, on the spot, The Prolifickest Writer Award in recognition of her dedication and productivity. 

Marilyn has written nearly 20 percent of the stories published by the Chronicle in the past six years. That’s pretty amazing.

What’s more amazing, she doesn’t get paid.

That’s something that keeps me up nights, though. At some point, Marilyn may want to retire or scale back her reporting duties. She hasn’t said so, but it’s an eventuality we have to prepare for. 

Some of you also might have noticed reporter Carole Sharwarko’s livestream coverage on Facebook of two recent protest events. On June 2, hundreds of people marched through Homewood and Flossmoor to protest racial discrimination and violence. Carole marched along for nearly four hours. By using her phone’s video camera, she gave Facebook users a minute-by-minute explanation of what was happening.

Because of Carole’s efforts, the Chronicle gave people access to the event. It put them right in the moment.

If we are to continue the level of coverage we have now — and grow it — we have to be able to pay reporters to be out in the community, covering meetings, talking to business owners and generally providing witness to the unfolding story of H-F. 

That’s why we named our reader support program the Reporter Supporter Club. 

This summer we hope to implement a more well developed method of accepting reader support. It’s what’s commonly called a paywall, although we are planning something more flexible and friendly than a wall. What we’re aiming for is a convenient way for readers to help keep the news flowing.

Of course, all our generous supporters will continue to enjoy unfettered access to the stories on our website and in the print edition. 

And until we get the system set up, we hope readers will continue to make contributions when they can. There are signs the economy is going to start picking up, but we’re not out of the pandemic woods yet. Visit hfchronicle.com/donate if you can pitch in. 

Pandemic therapy: Get a(nother) pet
Everyone has been exploring ways to thrive during the shutdown and slow reopening. For Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld, the thing to do was adopt a dog. 

Hofeld is known for his devotion to his black Labradors and usually has three at any given time. They accompany him on daily walks at the Izaak Walton Nature Preserve. Until recently, the family included Sadie, Jenna and Annie. A few weeks ago, the family grew by one with the addition of Katie. 

Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld and crew take a walk in Izaak Walton Nature Preserve in early April. The Hofeld family recently increased with the addition of another black Labrador, Katie. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld and crew take a walk in Izaak Walton Nature Preserve in early April. The Hofeld family recently increased with the addition of another black Labrador, Katie. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Of course, the mayor had been looking for another dog before the pandemic began. 

He got Katie from Heather’s Foster Dogs, a companion animal fostering and adoption service that operates in the South Suburbs. See heathersfosterdogs.org for more information.

Four is the limit — by ordinance — so the Hofeld family is set for a while, and the mayor has a new friend to help pass the time until the economy really gets going again.

Census home stretch
Here’s one useful quarantine activity to pass the time: complete the census form at 2020census.gov

As of June 30, 79.2 percent of Flossmoor residents and 77.4 percent of Homewood residents had responded. That’s not bad. Both villages are ahead of the state’s response rate of 66.5 percent. 

The original deadline for responding was July 31, but because of COVID-19, it has been pushed back to Oct. 31. 

Still, wouldn’t it be cool if both villages could reach 100 percent by the original deadline? Then we could cross that off our collective “to do” list.