A little bit of this, a little bit of that
As you probably saw on page 1, the Heights Observer was recently named Ohio’s best non-daily community newspaper; and our “Heights of Democracy” column, by Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg, won the top award for public service journalism.
The Press Club of Cleveland usually announces these awards at a big banquet in June, preceded by the best cocktail party of the year (if you enjoy shop talk with journalists). This year, for the obvious reason, it was delayed and then held online. I watched it from my patio and drank alone. But that didn’t diminish the moment.
Our volunteer-based business model makes the Heights Observer an outlier in the awards program. The judges are other journalists from across the country, and they haven’t always been hospitable to publications that operate without paid reporters.
The goal has always been that the Heights Observer would tell the community’s story as it unfolds over time. To me, this award is recognition from within the industry that we’re doing it pretty well—even with our unusual approach.
Being No. 1 in the state does not make us immune to the pandemic. With so many bars and restaurants operating on life support, and big gatherings canceled, our advertising revenue is down by about 50 percent since April. Even at that, we’re doing better than many other community publications.
I’m thankful to the advertisers who have stuck with us throughout; we’ll recognize them by name before the year ends. Meanwhile, we aren’t seeing any meaningful financial rebound yet, and once it begins I expect it to be a long, slow climb back.
The Heights Observer is hovering right around break-even, so we can keep on going if things don’t get markedly worse. But the number of pages in each issue is determined in large part by ad revenue. As a result, we’ve been printing thinner papers and have less room for the many contributions we receive each month. Please keep the articles, columns and letters coming. But also know that we continue to publish under difficult circumstances. Your patience and kindness is always appreciated.
In good times, for-profit publications typically fill 50-60 percent of their pages with advertising. As a nonprofit, we try to dedicate 60 percent of the space to editorial content, with ads filling the other 40 percent.
Based on that ratio, this issue should have had 16 pages. We decided to publish 20 pages to allow room for the many letters to the editor and opinions we’ve received on various topics. It’s one of the benefits of being mission-based rather than profit-focused.
If you’re not out and about as much these days to pick up the latest issue, did you know that you can have it mailed to you as a benefit of joining FutureHeights? In May and June we mailed it to all our members, but are now back to the regular practice of sending it to those who join at the Good Neighbor level ($60/year) or higher. If you’re interested, visit www.futureheights.org. You can also view every issue we’ve ever published in PDF format. You’ll find the link in the left-side menu at www.heightsobserver.org.
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.