Editorial: Allow us a ‘pledge break’ seeking your support

The Herald is seeking donations in a special campaign to support our investigative journalism.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Readers of the print edition of The Sunday Herald will have seen — they couldn’t have missed it as it was “wrapped” around the regular A Section of the paper — a four-page section that officially launches our campaign to partner with The Community Foundation of Snohomish County in an effort to raise $500,000 to fund local investigative journalism in The Daily Herald newsroom.

That fund will be used to support The Herald’s costs related to our investigative reporting in Snohomish County, coverage that The Herald has always sought to provide its readers, for which we have won awards and which has been of service to our community.

During just the last couple of weeks during a “soft opening” for the campaign online, readers and other members of the community already have donated $90,000. We’re grateful for that initial support, especially during a time of overwhelming need throughout our community for financial donations to address the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

We will continue to encourage that generosity to the numerous public service agencies, charities, churches and others who are helping to ease the impacts of the outbreak. But we also trust that our readers and others in the community also recognize the value of local journalism in their lives in general and of The Herald in particular and will want to support it.

So, please allow us — to borrow from our public broadcasting fellows — this pledge break.

Even before the outbreak of coronavirus in the United States, the declines in newspaper advertising and paid subscriptions have been painfully clear. At many U.S. papers those losses have resulted in fewer reporters and editors on staffs, a reduction in daily pages or days of publication, or — in too many cases — complete closures of newspapers, creating “news deserts” for large areas of the country.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” orders in response to the viral outbreak — while necessary and thankfully effective — made The Herald and its sister community newspapers in the state one of the dominoes in terms of economic impacts; the closure of local businesses meant a significant loss of advertising revenue for The Herald, which has resulted in unavoidable — and regrettable — measures to cut costs, including the temporary closures of community weeklies and layoffs, furloughs and reduced pay for valued and longtime members of our staff.

These impacts are not unique to The Daily Herald. Nationwide, The New York Times estimates that some 33,000 workers at news media companies have been laid off, furloughed or have seen their pay reduced because of lost ad revenue. And more papers and online publications have shut down.

In response, there have been proposals to build financial support for local news media nationwide. Among them:

America’s Newspapers, an association of newspaper publishers, is lobbying Congress to expand and clarify the Payroll Protection Program, which is providing loans to small U.S. businesses, to ensure that it is accessible to all local newspapers and broadcasters. The Herald plans to join other newspapers nationwide in publishing a commentary by Dean Ridings, chief executive of America’s Newspapers, regarding that effort in Wednesday’s Herald.

Another piece of legislation, of which The Herald has written previously, is the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would allow newspaper publishers to negotiate with Google, Facebook and other social media giants to share in some of the advertising revenue that they generate for themselves by linking ads to the reporting that newspapers provide. David Chavern, chief executive of the News Media Alliance, recently wrote about the legislation in The New York Times.

But even if those efforts are successful, The Herald and other Sound Publishing newspapers, ultimately depend on our readers for their support through subscriptions and their patronage of the businesses who advertise with us.

We ask for that support with confidence because we know our readers value the reporting, photography, opinion, features and — yes — comics, puzzles and TV listings that The Herald brings to them each day, whether it’s delivered in print or online.

We know, for example, how much Herald readers have counted on the local- and state-focused coverage of the coronavirus outbreak and its impacts; in addition to our print readers, we track how many are reading that coverage online; and we’ve seen considerable growth in HeraldNet readership during the outbreak.

The Herald also provides a forum that connects our readers directly with local officials, businesses leaders and with other community members. Today’s Sunday Herald offers two such commentaries we want to draw particular attention to on Page B7:

Monroe High School Senior Savannah Thoma writes about her disappointment following the cancellation of classes at the school as she and her fellow 2020 classmates prepare to graduate, likely without a traditional commencement ceremony. This is not how she pictured her senior year, she writes, yet Thoma demonstrates impressive resilience and hope for her future and that of her class.

Yoo Jung Kim is finishing up her fourth year of medical school at Stanford University and will begin an internship at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in June. The young woman writes about what the closure of her family’s Everett Mall restaurant has meant for them, a business that helped put her through medical school. Kim, while she agrees with the need for social-distancing guidelines, also is anxious that her family’s restaurant, and those of others, can be allowed to reopen as soon as possible and that economic assistance be expanded to help small businesses survive.

Without The Daily Herald, how would you have been able to read either of those perspectives? Or of the decisions — good and bad — of local and state government, the wins, losses and achievements of high school athletes; the news of local businesses and the personal stories you have yet to hear of your neighbors.

We thank our readers — many of whom have been subscribers for decades — for their continued support and for any additional support they can afford, and ask that they encourage the same of their family, friends and neighbors.

That concludes the pledge break; enjoy the rest of the paper.

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