By LOUIS C. HOCHMAN
I’ll be frank: Montclair Local Nonprofit News is a money-losing operation. And it can’t remain one for very much longer.
Longtime readers know our story (I’ve written it a few times myself): After a large chain bought and radically cut back staff at another Montclair newspaper, and as similar scenarios were playing out in communities nationwide, residents Heeten and Thalla-Marie Choxi began meeting with journalists including Kevin Meacham (my predecessor, the first editor of the Local), Gwen Orel, Linda Moss and Andrew Garda in the hopes of preserving local journalism in the community they all loved. The Choxis agreed to fund a print and online news operation at a time when most local newspapers were struggling or folding altogether.
It’s easy to underappreciate what a tremendous gamble that was, and remains. The common wisdom is that print journalism is dead; the Choxis and those journalists rejected that. The common wisdom is that real, thorough, enterprising, engaging local journalism is too expensive to do well. But the Choxis and those journalists hoped they could find a way.
But it is expensive. The Choxis have poured more than $1 million into the organization that eventually became Montclair Local Nonprofit News, and we’ve been honored to receive the support of several other benefactors and members. It also simply hasn’t been enough. Not yet.
Visit MontclairLocal.news/donations to make your tax-deductible contribution today, to keep Montclair Local strong and help us do even more to serve the amazing community of Montclair.
I want to tread carefully here — this month in particular, there is no shortage of local institutions and individuals that could use your help. Ida did extraordinary damage to homes, to businesses, to nonprofits that are part of the fabric of Montclair. If you’re in a position to support any of them — and you can read about avenues for doing so both in the pages of Montclair Local and on MontclairLocal.news — I urge you to make those in crisis your first priority.
But beyond that immediate and urgent need, if you have the means, we’re asking for your support.
The journalism you see reflected in the pages of Montclair Local is intense, time-consuming work, and by far our biggest expense is the salaries of those dedicated journalists doing it. That includes our longtime associate editor, Jaimie Julia Winters, and education reporter, Talia Wiener, attending government and school board meetings late into the night. That includes our human connections reporter, Diego Jesus Bartesaghi Mena, seeking out tales of lived experience and joining you for the events that make you proud to live in Montclair. There’s Garda, helping celebrate Montclair sports teams’ victories. There’s our copy editor, Joe Dziublenski, and our paginator, Andrea Bondy, making production of our print edition possible.
And that includes reporters asking pointed questions of those trusted with power, sifting through documents obtained through public records requests, wondering how each development affects the diverse and varied population that makes Montclair special, and then pursuing answers.
During Ida, they were the ones working nonstop to let you know about flooding hazards, about damage to schools, businesses and valued institutions, about ways of helping your neighbors, about the fight for federal disaster relief. Between Sept. 1 (the night Ida hit Montclair) and Sept. 2, more than 40,000 people turned to MontclairLocal.news for quickly developing and ever-evolving information about a storm that overwhelmed so many of us. We hope and believe we performed some level of service for them.
We ask to be the community’s newsroom. It’s our honor to try. We’re proud of the work we do, and receptive to those who think we can or should do more. But none of what we do, and none of what we might become as Montclair Local grows and evolves, is possible without your help.
This week’s print issue of Montclair Local is being delivered to all Montclair residents; it’s something we do just a few times per year. If you value what you see and want to continue receiving the print edition of Montclair Local each week, sign up at MontclairLocal.news/membership. A $36-per-year membership covers our most essential printing costs; it’s just enough to get the paper into your hands. A greater contribution, at your discretion, helps make our journalism possible.
You can also support us in any amount at montclairlocal.news/donations. Contributions are tax-deductible, and any amount is appreciated.
And for those with the means, we have got an opportunity to make your donation go further. Josh Weston — co-chairman emeritus and honorary chairman of ADP as well as a philanthropist supporting several educational and community initiatives — has generously offered Montclair Local Nonprofit News a matching grant. If at least 20 individuals donate $1,000 or more by the end of September, he’ll provide another $15,000.
I joined Montclair Local because I believe that if journalism is going to survive, it’s going to need to be in cooperation with communities. I’ve been at plenty of companies where the community is a “market” and the news operation is a “product.” I believe there’s a better way, for a news publication to not just serve a community, but for it to truly be of the community. Some people think those days are gone. I’m asking for your help proving they’re not.
Louis C. Hochman is the editor in chief of Montclair Local and CEO of Montclair Local Nonprofit News.