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The News Depends on You, and Flagpole Does, Too!


I hear that an unnamed  local person I know has rented his or her home during the Notre Dame football weekend for $10,000. That seems flatly incredible, but it reminds me of how, when the Olympics came to Athens, everybody expected to get rich off the crowds.

Flagpole was not immune. 

When Alicia Nickles and I took over as owner-managers, the paper owed a giant amount of money to an Atlanta company that had printed a gigantic press run of special Flagpole guides to the Olympics in Athens. As it turned out, the Olympic fans came over from Atlanta and went back home the same day. They didn’t need to rent anybody’s house, and they didn’t need our Olympic guides to Athens.

Alicia immediately demonstrated her management smarts by convincing me that I should be the one to drive over to Atlanta and meet with the printing company’s chief financial officer to explain why we couldn’t pay the bill.

As it turned out, we negotiated some terms and finally got the debt paid off, but that period remains as a kind of benchmark for the worst financial period in Flagpole’s history.

In these tough times for newspapers, including Flagpole, we sometimes think back to that Olympic debt and console ourselves that, at least, things aren’t that bad.

In some ways, though, times are worse now for newspapers. The advertising base we had back then, that pulled us out of that printing debt, has been seriously siphoned off by social media, and the increasing influx of national chains means ad buyers who don’t understand the impact of a local newspaper and look at Athens not as a hometown but as a demographic.

Fortunately, many local advertisers understand that local people depend on Flagpole for the local news they need, which makes Flagpole an excellent medium for local advertising, too. It’s the win-win combination that brings  you Flagpole and brings advertisers to your attention.

Meanwhile, there’s a more direct way you can help us make ends meet. The shakiness of the advertising base means we need to look for other revenue streams. It seems odd that a for-profit (sort of) weekly newspaper would ask its readers to kick in some financial support, but it does make some sense. You pick up Flagpole for free, so maybe it’s not out of line for us to ask you to sustain quality journalism in Athens. You also realize that Flagpole provides a real community service, providing vital information that is hard to find elsewhere. It is not an exaggeration to say that Flagpole is one of those essential amenities that add to the character of our town.

We first made a pitch for reader support a year ago, and since then Flagpole readers have contributed around $5,000—several more substantial contributions, but most of them loyal readers who send us anywhere from $2 to $25 every month. That may not sound like a lot, but it is helping us to upgrade some of our woefully obsolete computers, to make the production of the newspaper more efficient.

If you want to be a Flagpole supporter as well as a reader, just go online to flagpole.com, and click on the green “Support Flagpole” panel. You can make a one-time contribution through PayPal, or you can make it recurring. Either way, you partner with Flagpole to underwrite our determination to assure that Athens will continue to enjoy experienced, professional, concerned local journalism by local folks who live here and are embedded and invested in our hometown.

Newspapers are in trouble all over the country, most of them because they have been bought out by venture capitalists whose mission is to cut costs by laying off journalists and suck out profits by selling off buildings and equipment. We have seen that pattern at work with the daily newspaper here. Because Flagpole is locally owned, we are not beholden to corporate demands from out-of-town overlords, but that makes us dependent on our own resources here. Producing quality journalism, with local writers writing about local issues and events, costs money, and we believe that is money well spent, even if we have to scramble and do without in order to come up with that money every week. 

It has always been a scramble. We were behind with the printer 25 years ago, and we are today. We’re accustomed to operating on a shoestring, but we’re determined not only to hold on, but to prevail. Partner with us if you can. Thanks.