Editorial: What I’ve learned about the Bugle this year

I have been on the board of directors of Park Press — the publisher of the Bugle — for three years now and just finished my term as chair. When I joined the board I thought I knew quite a bit about the Bugle and its operations. I mean, everybody loves the Bugle, right? It’s been part of our community for 44 years, one of our treasured institutions, along with the Fourth in the Park celebration and the St. Anthony Park Library. Turns out, I had a lot to learn.

First, it’s true, people and businesses love the Bugle. We have enjoyed loyal support from the business community and successful annual fundraising campaigns. The results of our recent readership survey told us that we have dedicated readers who appreciate the variety of articles, especially the coverage of local issues. The Bugle has such a big presence in the community that you might be surprised to learn that it is a very small organization with three parttime employees, two contract advertising sales reps, and a volunteer board of directors helping manage the operation.

Park Press is the nonprofit organization that publishes the Bugle. The business end of the Park Press is managed by a group of 14 community volunteers who believe in the importance of a free press and are doing their best to make sure the paper survives. The Bugle is not owned by a larger media company, a venture capitalist or a billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The Bugle relies on advertising revenue for 70 percent of its budget, and your donations make up the rest.

No corporate sponsors. No government grants. No angel investors.

The Bugle exists only because of the support of the people and businesses who live here. It’s a shoestring budget and the three part-time staff members and a host of freelance writers do a fantastic job of producing this valuable community resource every month. And delivering it to your door. For free.

The Bugle faces the same problems that all newspapers are facing, whether they are monthly community papers, rural weeklies or big city dailies: decreasing advertising revenue, a growing preference among many for online news sources, maintaining a reliable delivery service and the increasing costs of newsprint and printing.

What’s the future for a nonprofit, monthly community newspaper with a tiny staff and limited budget facing all the challenges of every newspaper with significantly fewer resources? The board has been discussing this all year, and we are optimistic about the future.

Our community newspaper is different from other media sources. We focus on local issues and events with comprehensive, balanced and objective coverage of important topics and people in our area. The paper keeps us informed and connected with real news (not fake news) about what’s happening down the block and in our local schools. That makes the Bugle different from an e-newsletter, or a neighborhood listserv, or a bulletin board, or a specific web page. It’s our newspaper telling the stories of our community. I can’t imagine this community without the Bugle.

The board is not naïve about the future. With the support of our readers, advertisers and funders we will approach the work ahead with care and creativity. We believe that the Bugle can meet the challenges of our day and continue to give us comprehensive and balanced stories that expand our understanding of our local world, which cannot be found anywhere else.

Thanks to everyone for your loyalty and support of this fine paper. — Gabrielle Lawrence, outgoing chair of the Park Press board of directors

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