The Austin Chronicle

Page Three: Still Free After All These Years, But …

Ways to support your favorite alternative weekly

By Kimberley Jones, January 26, 2018, Columns

Online readers may have already noticed the little blue prompt we've started running at the end of stories. Or not – it's pretty discreet. It's harder to miss the full-page clarion call on p.35 of this issue. The ask? "Support Free Press."

There are myriad ways you can show your support for The Austin Chronicle – and we'll get to them in a bit – but the No. 1 way you can show your love is with a cash donation via our newly launched Chronicle Club. For a recurring or one-time donation, the Chronicle Club offers perks: swag, advance access to Chron giveaways and parties, also "breakfast with Chronicle staff," which frankly sounds more punishment than reward to me. (I've eaten with staff, and we're all monsters, open-mouth chewers who'd step on your neck for that last bagel.)

This soliciting of funds may sound counter to the mission statement of a free, alternative weekly. But in this Our Changing Media Landscape, both nonprofit and for-profit journalism shops have turned to the donations-based model to sustain their work. And now more than ever – maybe you've seen the news? – the press is under siege. Not just by a famously press-hungry president who would probably spontaneously combust if the "fake news" stopped paying attention to him. The internet, that reliable "disrupter," has fundamentally changed the way news is delivered. News organizations have seen direct traffic go down as third-party platforms – Facebook especially – have become the go-between, eroding that one-to-one, elemental relationship between reader and newspaper. Now Facebook is feeling a little squirrelly about the responsibility that comes with disseminating news, and has launched a new algorithm that will dramatically reduce the number of news stories that pop up in your feed. And so media takes another hit. It's all right, Ma, I'm only bleeding!

Okay, that's a lot of doominess, and that's not what this is about. No one should interpret the launch of Chronicle Club as a death rattle. Quite the opposite: We want to expand our coverage, in print and online, and we want to do that without charging for the paper or putting up a paywall. For almost four decades, we've been serving Austin as a progressive news source and a community partner. With your help, we think we've got another four decades in us, and that might be lowballing it.

Right about now, you might reasonably be asking yourself, what has the Chronicle done for me lately? Well, do you take a copy of our endorsements with you to the polls? (Candidate endorsement meetings, by the way, take up an ungodly amount of time and mental energy, but we think they're an essential resource for readers. The Statesman stopped running candidate endorsements in 2016. We'll publish our March primary endorsements in early February.) Maybe you rely on the Chronicle for our incisive City Hall coverage and award-winning music and arts coverage, to hear "Playback" columnist Kevin Curtin's latest scoop, or to discover new and under-the-radar restaurants. Maybe our film reviews and showtimes have gotten you to a great movie. There's a good chance the Chronicle has supported your nonprofit with a free ad, or promoted your event. We think we keep our hate-readers pretty happy, too; our comment boards are bopping with them, at least. Or maybe we've just been keeping your birdcage nicely lined for the past 37 years. Happy to do our part.

If that list ticked any boxes for you, then consider sending us a couple bucks. But that isn't the only way to show your support for the Chronicle. You can sign up for our newsletters. You can follow us on social media, and share our stories on those platforms, which helps new readers find us. And you can support our advertisers. Quite a lot of them are independent businesses and mom-and-pop shops, and Austin wouldn't be Austin without them.

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