EDITORIAL:Â FAQs ABOUT COURIER MEMBERSHIPS
As many readers probably know by now, The Courier is making a change regarding how it views its relationship with readers and — importantly — how readers view their relationship with the weekly newspaper that covers the communities of Freeman and Menno.
Specifically, as we near the end of 2021 and start thinking about a new year, The Courier is moving away from the idea of a subscription in which readers pay an established fee and move toward the idea of a membership, in which readers pay what they feel the newspaper is worth.
The ultimate goal is to solidify a partnership between The Courier as a news provider and the readers as news consumer that is less adversary and more complimentary.
Think of it like this:
The Courier is here for the readers.
The readers are here for The Courier.
So what does all this mean?
Well, here’s a closer look at the semantics behind the concept of “paying what you want.”
FAQ No. 1: So what’s the difference between a subscription and a membership?
There is none. Those who sign up for an annual membership get the same thing as a subscription gets you — the print edition that comes out every Thursday and online access to freemansd.com and the digital newspaper.
FAQ No. 2: But why are you calling it by a different name?
Because we want people to start thinking of our relationship in a different way. A subscription is something you buy. A membership is an investment in the community newspaper — and the community itself.
FAQ No. 3: So I can pay whatever I want?
Yes. A 2020 subscription cost $80 and our hope is that most will agree that is a fair price for another year. But our bigger hope is that people value community journalism at an even higher level and are willing to pay even more. And if it’s less, that’s OK, too. Whatever it is, we will thank you, hand you a token of our appreciation and set you up with a membership all the same.
FAQ No. 4: So what do I get?
You get The Courier in print and/or online. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping support and sustain community journalism that matters to your community. That means the town’s events, festivals, government, businesses, schools and people will continue to benefit from both coverage and the historical record that is so critical. The fact is, no other media out there cares about Freeman and Menno in the way The Courier does. If The Courier goes away, so goes that attention. That’s a fact, too.
FAQ No. 5: Why this and why now?
Because expenses are up and revenue is down; it’s that plain and simple. Postage and printing costs are both skyrocketing, subscriptions have seen a slow decline over the past 40 years and the advertising base is shrinking, the result of tighter budgets and an online opportunity that wasn’t there even 10 years ago.
Without the support of people who appreciate community journalism in general and The Courier specifically — that includes both financial and emotional — it will be impossible to continue to produce the newspaper at the level readers have come to expect.
FAQ No. 6: What happens next?
That’s a very good question. While we continue to put time, energy and resources into our online presence, there are no plans to stop printing The Courier. We are a legal publication for Hutchinson County, the city of Freeman, city of Menno, and the school districts in both of those communities. To remain a legal publication The Courier must print at least 50 issues every year and maintain a subscription base of at least 200. Both of those requirements are easily covered.
But the long-term viability of the print product remains a big question industry-wide, and legislation is expected soon that would expand the requirements for a legal publication to include an e-Edition — the digital replica of what readers see in print. If and when that happens, that could be a game-changer.
The bottom line is this: The Courier needs the support of the people.
In exchange, we are renewing our commitment to the communities of Freeman and Menno and all that includes — being a light, a voice, an ear and a time capsule all rolled into a community newspaper that is fair and honest, with a little bit of fun thrown in for good measure.
The Courier is energized.
Thanks in advance for your trust, your support and — most importantly — your partnership in being better together.
Jeremy Waltner | Editor & Publisher