Town Crier readers to the rescue!

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Town Crier readers are responding generously — and quickly! They clearly want a continued newspaper on our Hill, both online and ink-on-paper, and they are stepping up to sponsor it. The Town Crier flag now reflects that it is now a “Member Supported” newspaper. We could not be more proud of the people of our Hill community.

And by “people of our Hill community” we include the folks who are not full-time or even part-time residents, but who — believe it or not — are acquiring Town Crier Memberships now because they love Idyllwild and its surrounding communities. Many of them hope to live here full-time some day, and they want the Town Crier still serving our community when they do. We gratefully count these special people as part of our Hill community.

The Town Crier — with its new Membership model — is now on the road to being a viable newspaper that can be passed on to successive publishers dedicated to continuing a real newspaper on our Hill. That is the objective.

Many, many thanks to all you Charter Members. Your early responses are encouraging other community-minded readers to join with you.

Idyllwild Town Crier Memberships

Saving and Supporting the Town Crier
for our Community

(54 Charter Members as of Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017)

Angels (3) — Other amount, unlimited above $1,000 annually:  Nancy Borchers ($2,000); Julie Meadows ($1,200); Anonymous ($2,500) (1).

Heroes (1) — $1,000 annually:  Anonymous (1).

Patrons (2) — $500+ annually:  Darryl & Susan Heustis; Dave & Shanna Robb; Anonymous (0).

Sponsors (14) — $250+ annually:  Austin Tile (Chris & Julie Austin); Anne Bleaden; Diann Coate; The Family Business (Craig & Janice Coopersmith); Paula & Robert Hetzler; Ben & Nanci Killingsworth; John Larue ($350); Jason Laurence & Alexandra Napier; Linda McCaughin & Phil Strong; Charles & Margaret Mooney; Ben & Rue Pine; Martha & Scott Schroeder; Kay Wanner & Charlies Wix; Brian Weiss; Anonymous (0).

Sustaining Readers (34) — $100+ annually:  Albert Bates; Blondr (Deborah Howard); Kenneth Camoirano; Bruce Campbell; Steve Chadwick; Duane Chamlee; Michael & Margaret D’Ambra; Iris & Peter Davison; Greg & Nancy Dunlap; Marcia Edwards; Amy Fogerson & Kent Weishaus; Emily & Eric Heebner; Don “Jac” & Mimi Jacaruso; Marilyn Kemple; Donna Kennedy & William Linehan; Elaine Lockhart; Barbara & Michael Longbrook; Michèle Marsh & Peter Szabadi; Bret McCaughin-Strong; Middle Ridge, Inc. (Chris & Melody Johnston); Dawn & Jim O’Keeffe; Cecil  & Shirley Peters; George & Kathryn Reeves; Richard Schnetzer; Jean Stein; James & Joanne Tenney; Arthur Tobias; Bill Waring; Jim Wise; Catherine Wood; James Wymer; Anonymous (3).

Thank you all!!

Please remember that the Town Crier’s weekly news meeting is open to the entire public. Some readers have been regularly attending and contributing to it for years. The meetings currently are at the Town Crier office at 54405 North Circle Drive, each Wednesday at 8:30 a.m., unless Monday is a Town Crier holiday in which case it meets at the same time the following day, Thursday.

In case you missed it, the following is an updated version of the article originally published in the paper of Aug. 17:

Does the Town Crier have a future?

Our Readers must decide

[UPDATED Aug. 22 & Aug. 29]

On June 28, 2013, our small, close corporation purchased the Town Crier, which had not made any money during the previous four and one-half years. We had one objective: to save the newspaper on our Hill. We could not imagine our community without one. Three weeks later our online coverage of the Mountain Fire for Hill evacuees underscored that point.

What is a “newspaper”? A newspaper is a community watchdog that publishes the bad with the good. It warns of danger, advises of opportunity, challenges authority, praises accomplishment, investigates irregularity, marvels at art, exposes abuse, celebrates life and publishes its readers’ letters. If a publication doesn’t do all of these things, it may be something else, but it’s not a newspaper.

Why does our Hill need a newspaper? Well, to do all of those things just mentioned — but particularly because we have nine local public boards that are funded by our tax dollars, and they make decisions and recommendations as to how to spend even more of our tax dollars — and what public services we get for them. These are the Fern Valley, Idyllwild, Lake Hemet and Pine Cove water districts, County Service areas 36 and 38, Idyllwild Fire Protection District Board of Commissioners, the IFPD Finance Committee and the Idyllwild Historic District Review Board.

These nine boards are monitored by nobody but the Town Crier.

The old, traditional model for a community newspaper was to publish the news, sign up readers for subscriptions and sell advertising to local businesses. But subscriptions themselves never provided much revenue beyond paying for the postage to mail them out. A traditional community newspaper survived on advertising by local businesses.

When we began operating the Town Crier four years ago, it did not have enough business advertising to survive. So we tried a series of incentives in an attempt to attract advertising: We slashed our advertising prices by 25 percent, we offered full-color ads at no additional price, we tried publishing a promotional magazine, we introduced contests and new columns and improved our games, and our office remained open seven days a week to serve the needs of visitors to our Hill, hoping that those visitors would increase business for our advertisers.

We tried “bundling” advertising in our various publications, providing deeper discounts for advertising in more than one publication. We changed printing companies and went to a broadsheet size because we knew it would produce a more reliable, better-quality newspaper with consistently sharper, more-colorful photos and ads, which it did.

Eight months ago, we made the Town Crier “free on the Hill” with free issues in each Hill mailbox, and the paper’s circulation went from about 2,350 to about 5,500 — more than 230 percent of what it had been previously — which meant more than twice as many eyes on our advertisers’ ads.

We distributed Town Crier publications at more than 60 locations around the Hill which resulted in thousands more Town Crier newspapers, Explore Idyllwild Directories and Explore Idyllwild Maps in the hands of Hill visitors than ever before. We published the Town Crier’s actual distribution and circulation numbers on page A4 every week, and we offered to share with potential advertisers the detailed records of our increased distribution and circulation.

We even appealed directly to local businesses’ civic spirit, asking them to support the Town Crier for the benefit of our community, growing their businesses through advertising at the same time.

Although these efforts helped somewhat, they did not nearly produce the needed level of advertising from our local businesses. Some businesses say they can’t afford to advertise (?), others say they don’t need to advertise (!), and some give no explanation at all. But, whatever the reason, the traditional advertiser-funded community newspaper model does not work on our Hill anymore. So we must try something different.

So, beginning with the issue of Sept. 7, we can no longer provide the Town Crier free to the Hill.

We both are volunteers at the Town Crier, serving these years with no compensation. That was fine for us, but it means that when we retire, the Town Crier will retire with us, since nobody likely would want to acquire a newspaper that is viable only if the editor, proofreader, pickup/distribution man, light-duty handyman and occasional lawyer all are willing to work for free. And since Jack is 72, our retirement will be soon — not likely much later than this time next year; perhaps sooner than that.  Our goal now is to quickly make the Town Crier financially viable so we can pass it on to other, younger publishers wishing to operate a real newspaper for our Hill.

And the truly major difference we must make is to our funding:

We now realize that Town Crier support is going to have to come from those who value us most — our readers. And our readers frequently tell us that they do not want an online-only newspaper; they still want a real ink-on-paper newspaper, too.

We have received many “thank yous” and favorable comments from our readers who really do appreciate what the Town Crier is doing for our community. During the past 16 to 18 months alone, the Town Crier’s investigative journalism produced several articles revealing important information that had been misrepresented and/or concealed by our local governmental agencies. Our readers let us know the Town Crier’s serious journalism in exposing these matters was appreciated.

So, we now are making a last effort to keep the Town Crier serving our community: We are appealing to our readers to save the newspaper with Memberships at five levels of support: Sustaining Readers, Sponsors, Patrons, Heroes and Angels, depending upon what you feel you can afford to keep the Town Crier benefiting our community.

So, please take stock of your feelings about the value of the Town Crier and your ability and willingness to contribute to save it for our community. The Membership Application that follows this article will explain how you can help. We will routinely publish the results of this ongoing Membership drive in the Town Crier, so you can see how it is progressing.

(We realize that not everyone can afford to be a member even if they want to be, so a number of free papers still will be available at the HELP Center and the Town Crier office for those whose budget does not include a newspaper — and the Idyllwild Library will always have the Town Crier on file, too.)

Thanks to you, our readers, for your attention, and for all your well wishes and support over the years.

We also thank those businesses who have supported the Town Crier with their advertising and continue to do so; we wish there were more of you.

We both feel enormously happy to have been able to give our Hill a real community newspaper during the past four-plus years.

With our great appreciation and thanks.

Jack and Becky Clark

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