Is supporting the Sentinel smart or that other thing?
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Here’s something stupid that I do along with thousands of others in Santa Cruz.
I am a regular subscriber to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. I’m paying something like 30 bucks a month. This money goes partly to operate the Sentinel and partly to pay the owners of some big hedge fund far away from Santa Cruz. These owners have pretty much zero interest in the health of the Santa Cruz community.
But I’m trapped. There really is only one source of daily local news for our community, especially news about local government and local community meetings and local issues of concern to thousands of residents. As weak as the Sentinel is, it still provides us with something of value that no one else seems to be able to provide. However, lately, it’s gotten worse. The financial geniuses that own the Sentinel realized they could save a bunch of money on printing if they made the news deadline 3 pm on the afternoon before the morning paper is delivered. This means our Sentinel is transitioning to an “oldspaper.” Nothing that happened later in the day on Monday will show up in our Tuesday paper. We seem to let the Sentinel get away with this because we are all aware of how tenuous the daily newspaper business is around the country. Right? But here’s another stupid part: the Sentinel is very profitable and every time it has cut reporting staff or changed deadlines, it has been to increase profits—not to save a dying paper.
There could be a solution: local ownership for the Sentinel. What if we had owners that balance the need to run a profitable newspaper business with the need to have a quality daily newspaper that puts the needs of its readers on par with its business needs. Some local journalists and philanthropists have made offers to buy the Sentinel but they have failed in their efforts because the status quo is too lucrative to the hedge fund owners. However, subscribers could change that in an instant. What if we all got together and wrote individual letters to the current owners saying we are no longer interested in paying our subscription fees to a faraway hedge fund... and that we will each cancel our subscriptions on, for instance, July 1 if there is not an ownership change. I suspect that the owners would act quickly if they knew that something like 3000 subscriptions and their cash were about to disappear. The owners of the Sentinel would definitely be concerned at the loss of $90,000 of monthly revenue (more than $1 million per year) – and it would actually be worse than that for them because advertisers would demand to pay less to advertise in a paper with significantly fewer readers.
But my idea is stupid, right?