BINJ Needs $15,000 to Pay a Quarter-Time Staff Reporter for a Year
It has been almost four years since the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism held a well-attended community forum in the big room at (the sadly shuttered) ONCE club on Highland Ave. that led to the launch of our Somerville News Garden project. The event was a signal that led my BINJ colleagues and I to believe that Somerville was a good place to attempt to create a replicable model that communities around the US could use to help rebuild their local news infrastructures—diminished as they have become over the last 25+ years from a combination of corporate media consolidation, government disinvestment in public media, and the rise of corporate social media.
And for the several months between June 2019 and February 2020 it was a very good place to run such an experiment indeed. But then the pandemic hit. Then the lockdown. Then the economy got worse for most people (though not for the very wealthy). And many of our couple of dozen active Somerville News Garden volunteers drifted away. Which was completely understandable given the gravity of the COVID crisis.
However, the few Somervillians who kept working with us supported the idea of BINJ starting a professionally-run local news service to supplement remnant news media hereabouts. So in February 2021, we launched the Somerville Wire on a weekly production cycle with Shira Laucharoen as its first staff reporter.
The Wire started producing one to two feature news articles plus two to three short pieces every week, syndicated for free to any independent news outlet that was still managing to serve Somerville. Shira continued meeting that mandate with aplomb until she was offered a job at Boston.com in spring 2022. At which point, BINJ’s Fundraising Consultant Linda Pinkow stepped into the staff reporter role—since she is an extremely experienced journalist and editor as well.
However, this month Linda is returning to her fundraising duties for BINJ and we don’t have the extra $15,000 committed from our donor base to pay a new quarter-time staff reporter for this fiscal year.
Which is why we’ve decided to put the Somerville Wire on hiatus until this spring. We’ll work on raising the necessary extra funds in the interim and can hopefully return to our weekly publication schedule by June. Meaning the Wire would be able to resume publication until at least June 2024.
If individual readers would like to make donations to BINJ to help us relaunch the Wire, please click here. And if any wealthy folks, businesses, or institutional donors would be interested in making major donations toward that goal, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, we will continue to syndicate the growing amount of Somerville coverage produced by our friends at the Cambridge Day via the Wire’s MailChimp newsletter and social media presence. And we are also happy to continue running opinion submissions we receive from Somerville community members at large (500-700 word pieces are ideal, contact us at the email above with any questions).
I also plan to continue to write occasional Somerville-focused editorials and BINJ will also keep producing longform investigative journalism about Somerville from time to time.
With your help, we will bounce back from the current funding gap for Somerville Wire production stronger than ever.
But, given the ongoing collapse of local news here as everywhere else in the US, we’re not going to try to sugarcoat our plight and say this situation is a good thing. It is not.
That said, we will try to raise the needed funds in a timely fashion and return to producing the kind of fair, accurate, and level-headed community journalism about Somerville that we’ve become known for over the last two years.
Note: BINJ is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Somerville and we are aware of the $10 million in City of Somerville ARPA grants being made available to local nonprofits, but we don’t think we qualify to apply. If someone in the know believes that we do qualify, certainly ping us a.s.a.p.
Image credit: “An orange circle icon with a(n) pause symbol from the Emoji One BW icon font” by Emoji One. CC BY-SA 4.0 2020 Emoji One. Collage with orange pause symbol and Somerville wire logo by Jason Pramas for the Somerville Wire.
Jason Pramas is executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and editor of the Somerville Wire.