This being November already, Wednesday Journal is rolling out our Joyful Giving Catalog. We’ve done this for years in support of the remarkable nonprofits in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park. And Lord, they have done yeoman’s work in this infernal year.
The section starts on page 29 today and will continue through the holidays. Our deep thanks to the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation which underwrites a chunk of this project each year.
But here’s a wrinkle: Wednesday Journal, and its three sister pubs, are now part of a nonprofit we created called Growing Community Media. And so we’re included in the Joyful Giving Catalog, too. We’re looking for your active financial support to keep our independent community newsroom vital.
Nonprofit community journalism is the future of neighborhood news — though we’re proud to offer an unusual and powerful hybrid where we keep selling ads and subscriptions and then add a healthy dollop of donations from readers, larger donors and foundations.
That’s our plan.
Monday of this week, we teed up the happy news that we’ve been added to the remarkable annual NewsMatch project. This is a national project underwritten by major foundations and at work since 2016. In those few short years NewsMatch has revved up newsrooms to the tune of $100 million across America.
Growing Community Media is one of just 260 nonprofit newsrooms to take part.
Here’s how it works, and since we know our villages are at the top of the donor list for WBEZ, this will sound hauntingly familiar — though there is not a tote bag to be had.
NewsMatch has put $11,500 on the table. It’s right there in imaginary piles of crisp cash. But to earn that pot of critical cash, we need local donors to raise their own $11,500. The drive has started and continues until Dec. 31 when the lights go out on this gruesome year.
We sent the word out Monday morning in an email to the thousands of readers who regularly consume our news digitally from Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark. (Don’t tell them, but another email is already in the queue for Election Day morning. And then we’ll ease up a bit.)
By 2 p.m. on Monday we had some early success. More than we hoped for in four hours, a lot less than we need.
We’re gratified. We’re greedy. And we’re journalists so we know how to keep asking.
One of the first people I talked to about 18 months back on the possibility of turning the good ol’ WJ into a nonprofit was Steve Edwards. He’s an Oak Parker and the head of editorial content at WBEZ. He saw the public radio comparisons and told me that if any towns could replicate that model we were covering them.
So don’t be surprised if we pull off a few fall fund drive perks. Remember, no tote bags. But would you like a lawn sign?
We are working hard to raise additional matches, which we will roll out in the weeks ahead. One of them is coming from our outstanding new board of directors who have pooled up a nice round sum we’ll unveil soon. Another match is just starting to shape up.
Because here is the news: Our hybrid model, blending advertising and donations, would be working a whole lot better without COVID. The pandemic has taken a shears to our advertising. And while it is slowly recovering, who knows what the months ahead will look like. So we need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If you see our local news as the glue that brings these towns together, I’m asking for you to join us as a donor. Call yourself a member. That feels good. Connect to us at OakPark.com/Donate.