CityBeat is and always has been Greater Cincinnati’s completely free source of independent news, culture, music, arts and eats since we began 25 years ago. Our core mission is to provide an alternative voice in the media landscape and to share informative, thought-provoking, investigative and entertaining stories — all accessible to every single person, both in print and online, without any kind of paywall.
And while our readership is at an all-time high, our revenues have taken a hit. Until the coronavirus pandemic, we were thriving; believe it or not, we actually had one of our best years ever last year. But, by now, it has become increasingly evident that this is not just a health crisis, but also an economic one, too. More than 33 million out-of-work Americans can attest to that. As can anyone who has been living in this painfully bizarre Upside Down we call Earth for the past several months.
I have been working at CityBeat since 2004 — that’s 15 years of my life devoted to this paper, this mission. I started as an intern and basically never left. Working for CityBeat was a dream of mine as a journalism student. I never thought I’d be hired as an intern, but I was. I completed my first internship… then stayed on for a second — I didn’t even care that the position was unpaid. When that was over, I hung around doing odd jobs until a low-level calendar editor position opened up. I applied. I got it. And since then, I’ve worked my way up the totem pole, job by job, to editor in chief. And my awe that I am lucky enough to work for CityBeat has never wavered.
I am 100-percent committed to this publication. And I’m not going to let it disappear on my watch. So we have now entered what I like to refer to as a real Goonies situation — as in “Goonies never say die.”
Against all odds (and the invention of the internet) CityBeat is one of the few altweeklies still standing in 2020. Like Data and his backpack full of inventions, we’ve been constantly innovating to make sure we still exist. We adjusted our 1990s business model of using ad-based print revenue to fund the paper and began to warm up to the digital revolution. We even started posting stories online(!) in spite of our old-school luddite sensibilities. We also created our own events division to bring readers together in person and help generate income to support our “journalism habit.”
But COVID-19 has thrown all of that carefully crafted support system out the window. As our advertisers have had to make their own tough financial decisions, revenue from restaurants, bars, theaters, concerts, festivals and retail has dried up. And our in-person events can’t happen while we’re all practicing healthy social distancing.
This double gut punch has manifested itself in myriad ways, not the least of which was the necessity to furlough the majority of our staff. But many of our editors and contributors have still been reporting and writing for free because the continued existence of CityBeat is that important to them, to us and to the community. And I am thankful every single day for every writer and reporter — or human in general — who supports us with their donation of time or kind words or likes and shares on social media. It’s all a gift. And those of us who are left on staff are doing everything we can to make sure this paper makes it out on the other side.
Which is why we are launching the CityBeat Press Club — the One-Eyed Willy of this extended Goonies metaphor. This new member model asks readers who value what we do to support the publication (kind of like an NPR pledge drive), except instead of donating gold doubloons or a 17th-century boobytrapped pirate ship full of treasure, we’re asking you to help us create a community of supporters at a time when local media across the country has been struggling.
Basically, you donate what you can to become a member of the Press Club. Different membership levels get you different swag and various perks, the details of which you can read about on our Support page. It tells you what each dollar amount helps us cover, not the least of which is funding the return of our full editorial staff — Music and Managing Editor Mike Breen, News Editor Nick Swartsell, Arts & Culture Editor Mackenzie Manley, Calendar and Copy Editor Morgan Zumbiel and Art Director Taylor Speed — and reinstating our regular cohort of specialized contributors. Their various expertise is what makes this paper indispensable.
And if you can’t contribute anything financially at this time, we have plenty of other ways you can help us and our mission, which you can find on our Support page as well.
CityBeat is committed to keeping our print and digital products free and to continue to produce what you, as readers, have come to expect and value from us. Now we’re asking you — I’m asking you — to support the local journalism you deserve.
Once this is over, we want to make sure we’ll still be here with you. Goonies never say die. CityBeat doesn’t either.
— Maija Zummo
Editor in Chief, CityBeat