What is the deal with the nonprofit news model? I think about this a lot and have plenty of different answers, but in considering it recently, my first reaction was emotional: It's about being a part of a community.
Growing up, the publication I remember most clearly around our house was People magazine. The most talked about paper was probably the Chilton school newspaper (I kid, I kid). We read the local paper (I delivered it for four years) and watched the news, but life was not organized around the news cycle.
Life was organized around the election cycle.
Since before I can remember, my mom volunteered on political campaigns. We'd go with her doing door-to-door canvassing. I loved it. I thought my life would always be organized around campaign work.
But then in 2008, I stuck with nonprofit news. I was already a part of something great that I believed in and I could see doing good--a lot of the same things that interested me in electoral politics.
The best part of canvassing is the conversations, the immediacy of the connection with the person at the door. Being part of a nonprofit can build a similarly strong connection.
Earlier this month, the Notebook held its second happy hour to celebrate the release of the print edition of the paper. Dozens of people attended, chatted about the paper and their favorite comment threads on recent blog posts, and just had a fun, relaxed time. I really felt a sense of community. One of the most amazing things about our website has been the development of a community in the comments of our site. It's been great to take that connection a step further to in-person meetups, and increasingly to people joining a membership program.
I love when I am able to directly support and engage with organizations I care about, and it's been amazing to have more than 500 people join the Notebook to do that as members. When I think about institutions I've valued, from radio stations and magazines to community organizing groups and advocacy organizations, I feel most engaged when I can support the group and join its community. Some for-profit companies I've really liked (R.I.P. WOXY) have closed down, and I never had the chance to help. With nonprofits, I can support the community as early, often, and with as much money and time as I am able. I'm not limited to a subscription fee.
I'm grateful that nonprofit organizations offer a way to engage with a community and support great journalism.
Photo credit: Joe Kemp
Caption: Notebook Membership Associate (left) and me being a good sport about pictures at the February happy hour.