By Jeff vonKaenel
Over the last 30 years, we have financed SN&R with advertising, mainly from local businesses promoting social gatherings at concerts, theaters, galleries and in bars and restaurants. The coronavirus-related shutdowns, postponements and cancellations are having a huge impact on these advertisers and our local economy.
Many of these businesses have been forced to cut their advertising back to the point that starting next week, we will have to suspend publishing and lay off nearly all of our amazing and talented staff, we hope only temporarily.
Over the years, we have experienced numerous crises. We were able to use our financial reserves to pull us through those times when advertising revenues were less than expenses. We were able to keep the paper going and to continue to provide local coverage.
But over the last ten years, as more and more businesses have moved their advertising dollars to Facebook and Google, the foundation of the media business model has crumbled. These large internet companies collected revenues without having to generate expensive local coverage. This has caused a crisis for most media companies, including the News & Review.
Information and good journalism is needed now more than ever. This week, our editor Foon Rhee and his staff rewrote much of the paper with stories on the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This type of vetted information is desperately needed right now.
And our dedicated team is experienced at sorting through and presenting complex information and then getting that vital information out to the community. Each month, more than 400,000 people read SN&R, according to the independent Media Audit.
But without advertising revenue, we can’t meet our payroll. It costs us roughly $45,000 a week to produce SN&R; that’s a little more than 10 cents for each of our 433,000 readers. The bulk of that cost is labor. This week we have less than $20,000 in expected revenue to cover $45,000 of expenses. That is our problem.
The community cost of not having good information during a crisis is staggering. People need to know what their local governments and public health organizations are doing. They need to know what is happening with schools and daycare. They need to know how local businesses are adapting services, such as restaurants that are pivoting to take-out and delivery. And they need help dealing with the emotional side of such a crisis. We know other local journalists—at The Sacramento Bee, Capital Public Radio and elsewhere—will step up.
But our community needs all hands on deck. And we want to help. While we will suspend publication of our print newspaper, we will continue to provide news and arts coverage online on our blog: sacblog.newsreview.com.
At our sister paper in Chico, we produced more than 300 stories after the 2018 Camp Fire devastated Paradise. Our award-winning journalism helped the community cope with the aftermath. The impact of this coronavirus crisis will also be long-lasting.
There is a misperception that content somehow just exists on the internet. That content needs to be created first. And that is our business. We are appealing to anyone who wants to help keep our journalism alive. To donate, go to newsreview.com/sacramento/donate.
Over the last 30 years we have worked to make Sacramento a better place. We would like to continue to do this work. If you can help, please email me.