(The following statement can also be found at our website, columbiapaper.com, by clicking on the “Donate” tab at the top right of our homepage. And don’t worry, you won’t accidentally donate anything. You can only do it voluntarily.)
WE’RE TRYING SOMETHING NEW for The Columbia Paper and columbiapaper.com.
You probably know that giant digital companies have grabbed much of the advertising that once allowed local newspapers to support themselves. For the last 12 years we’ve scrambled week-to-week to publish a newspaper and news website for Columbia County. It’s a privilege we cherish. But we need help to keep going.
To augment support for our local journalism, we are partnering with Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) to mobilize philanthropic resources to support community-oriented reporting through a new charitable fund, The Columbia Paper Journalism Fund. Through it, donors can now make tax-deductible gifts to support The Columbia Paper’s reporting on topics important to each organization and all of us: education, economic development, the arts, the environment and health care.
The Columbia Paper, Inc. is a for-profit corporation and we plan to remain that way for the foreseeable future. BTCF is a non-profit organization and must comply with federal regulations. But this is a way that this newspaper and BTCF can work together in full compliance with the law.
The goal is to create a new revenue stream that helps support our reporting in and around Columbia County, with the newspaper maintaining editorial control of the paper and website, including all stories we publish, when we publish them and who will report and edit them. BTCF will administer the fund and ensure donations are used for their intended charitable purposes. The strict separation of roles is spelled out in an agreement.
We hope to bring more comprehensive and in-depth coverage to our readers and inform the community’s understanding of important issues. We will follow the local news whatever it is. Political endorsements? Yes. But they will not be supported by The Columbia Paper Journalism Fund.
The Columbia Paper and columbiapaper.com are deeply grateful to Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and for the lead donor behind this fund, the Henry L. Kimelman Family Foundation, for their faith in this newspaper.
(At this point our online readers who have not switched to reading the obits, police blotter or other sections of the paper will see a link that connects to the Columbia Paper Journalism Fund page on the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation website, which is easy to navigate.)
SO THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT, one that might reveal what it takes to sustain a local newsgathering organization focused on local people and the forces that shape their lives. Maybe we’ll learn whether a newspaper and its companion website together can become—if not an indispensable local resource—at least a useful tool in efforts to find common ground.
We’ll be learning as we go. There’s no guarantee of success. As many as 1,700 weekly newspapers have closed in the United States since 2004. And as many of our readers know, we suspended our print publication for 10 weeks during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. But due to the generosity of our readers and the loyalty of the people who help create each issue, we came back.
Now, once again, we have a chance and the challenge to grow.
Parry Teasdale, Publisher