News desert, averted. And a corner turned?
Last summer, a small group of local folks long-dedicated to filling the civic void left by hedge fund shrinkage of local news launched Cascadia Daily News with a simple mission: Fill the void.
Residents old and new of the three-county region surrounding Bellingham knew why it was necessary, in general terms. But growing attacks on democratic institutions made it seem more like a 911 journalistic emergency.
Fortunately, a local entrepreneur with a history of supporting independent journalism shared that vision. David Syre, a fourth-generation Whatcom resident long beloved and/or besmirched locally for a life on center stage, stepped up to try to solve a community problem via direct action. He fronted the money necessary to meet an immediate need by replacing the former Cascadia Weekly, an able, alt-weekly local voice for 15 years, with a more robust, enterprising and comprehensive daily digital, weekly print publication befitting the unique place it calls home.
It was a vision I had trouble resisting. Syre and our current publisher, Cynthia Pope, convinced me to leave a longstanding job at The Seattle Times for the opportunity to raise a true American unicorn — a local newspaper built from scratch, mixing approaches old and new. I have never looked back. Helping this paper get to its feet has been a highlight of my long career.
But that dream remains incomplete without long-term viability.
Our birth, and next steps
CDN sprung to life on Jan. 24 with a live news site. On March 2, we added a flagship complementary product, our print newspaper, now delivered regionally on Wednesdays and in a much broader circle by U.S. mail.
We are young, a work in progress and still growing. We make mistakes and correct them, seek opinions and publish them and take a consumer’s view of coverage of local institutions. We’ve been told we’ve already made a difference, and are hungry to keep that momentum going.
In recent months, as ever more community newspapers are literally sold for scrap by corporate media conglomerates, one of which operates locally, CDN has continually added staff, content and determination. We’re a small team determined to bring light to long-darkened corners, and if we ultimately fail, it won’t be for lack of trying.
You have a pugnacious dog in this fight. It just needs occasional water.
Our six-month-plus, try-before-buying period has been a seven-figures civic gift, of sorts. And we’ve already established that any profit from our work will be reinvested directly in the paper. Our ownership is charitable, but we’re not a charity, and never planned to be one.
Buoyed by an amazing number of paid subscriptions to a product that’s been available for free, we’re taking the next step toward permanence. On July 19, CDN will launch a pay system for its primary news outlet, cascadiadaily.com, asking all our readers to contribute.
We’ve said all along that our primary goal is to keep the local news desert at bay by making CDN a self-sustaining local enterprise. To do so, we need what amounts to a large number of you to step up and vote yes to local journalism, joining our cause with a subscription.
It's a simple pitch
We’re not into sales gimmicks or introductory rates that become intractable charges. We charge 12 bucks a month, or as we like to joke about in the office, the Special Rate of $144 per year. I’m biased, but think it’s a tremendous value. We hope you’ll agree, and will give us a vote of confidence by following the screen prompts next week and signing on.
What do you get for your investment? Here’s a pledge from the editor’s desk:
• We’ll keep delivering what we have already established: daily news, both breaking and enterprising, reported with clarity and respect. Steady bursts of vivid, life-filled imagery and thoughtful design. Editorial content both insightful and inciteful, laced with guest commentaries and letters. Reporters serving as stubborn stand-ins for the public in coverage of local government, politics, schools, business and work, health and welfare, social justice and Indigenous affairs, the environment, arts and entertainment, recreation and travel, food and drink. The most we can, the best we can.
• Our website will remain pop-up free, and devoid of web-troll bigotry via unmoderated comments. Clickbait is not part of our model: You won’t have to play News Jeopardy and click a half-dozen times through insultingly vague Guess What This Story is About!? headlines to reach your gold pot of news nugget — and it won’t turn out to be a celebrity home sale in Florida. You will be able to change or cancel your subscription via a real person in our office, not overseas — without enlisting the services of the fraud division of the state Attorney General’s office.
• Our news and editorial decisions will continue to be made in Bellingham, by CDN journalists. We remain a creature of State Street, not Wall Street. Editorially, we will continue to be rabidly pro-democracy, in keeping with the historical role of the U.S. free press.
We're fueled by your support
Bottom line: Maintaining those high standards, with a local staff paid living wages and benefits, has a cost. That’s why we’ll be asking our friends in this community to match the commitment we’ve already made to civic discourse by signing up with a subscription.
That’s the entire sales pitch.
Your support means everything to us. And please note that the “us” here is not some distant cadre of “service journalists” working from an undisclosed location. “Us” at CDN is a tight-knit group of folks who share jokes, concerns, story ideas and hope every day in our Bellingham newsroom: Jaya, Audra, Lizz, Ralph, Amy, Julia, the Two Haileys, Andy, Eric, Frank, Leah, Cynthia and Alyssa — plus a revolving cast of more than a dozen other local contributors, delivery staff and energetic interns. They work hard and make this grizzled vet proud every day.
We’re in it for the duration, but it’ll only be a long one with your help. Thanks in advance for stepping up alongside us as we head to a better place.
Letter from the Publisher and CDN paywall FAQ
Ron Judd's column appears on Wednesdays. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: roncjudd.