Guest Editorial: The new fiscal year for the Bugle

By Helen Warren

Greetings from the Park Bugle board of directors. I’m Helen Warren, the presiding officer of the board for our 2023-24 fiscal year.

My journey to my current volunteer post is one that begins some 20 years ago. I’ve been a Park Bugle reader since before I became a permanent resident of St. Anthony Park in 2005.

I moved to St. Paul from Iowa in 2002 to take a job as a grant writer at Macalester College. My rental house in South St. Paul wasn’t available when I started my job. But I was fortunate to have a friend who was also well acquainted with Ann Fendorf and Ellen Watters, who lived in south St. Anthony Park.

Ann and Ellen were kind enough to invite me to live in their guest room for six weeks until I could move into the rental house. That’s how I got to know the neighborhood.

I read the Park Bugle for the first time one Saturday morning over a cup of coffee at the Finnish Bistro.

I picked it up because I love newspapers. My father was a news editor for the Associated Press for over 35 years. What newspapers do, and what they aspire to be, were topics at our dinner table nearly every evening.

I was impressed that I lived in a place with a local newspaper. I was particularly impressed that it was a non-profit enterprise.

The Park Bugle lived up to my father’s pronouncements about what newspapers should be. It helped me get to know the community I happened to inhabit. I learned about the community council and neighborhood schools. I got familiar with local businesses and organizations. I attended my first St. Anthony Park 4th of July parade.

After my partner moved to St. Paul and we were ready to buy a house, we knew exactly where we wanted to live. We moved into our house on Commonwealth Avenue in 2005.

In 2019, Gabrielle Lawrence asked me to serve on the Park Bugle board. I said yes because I agree with Ken Auletta, the New Yorker columnist, that journalism is “a public service, a public calling.”

I also said yes because I knew that local journalism was in jeopardy. The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University reported in 2022 that 2,500 local newspapers in the U.S., one quarter of the total, have ceased publication since 2005. They predict that by 2025, one third of current U.S. newspapers will close. I didn’t want the Park Bugle to be among them.

Local newspapers are dying as more of us get our news from national and international sources and rely on Google to answer our questions or satisfy our curiosities.

Each day Google conducts 8.5 billion searches, some 99,000 per second. The Google search I conducted to retrieve this figure returned 1,250,000,000 results in .57 seconds. This means that much of the news we consume is what media scholar Edward Jay Epstein called “news from nowhere,” without a strong sense of place to anchor it.

So what is the Park Bugle doing to ensure its future? Well, we’re strengthening our online presence so that readers attuned to their screens can engage us regularly. The Park Bugle website launched in 2009 and in 2022 received more than 6,000 views per month.

Laura Adrian manages the Park Bugle’s social media accounts. Nearly 1,500 people follow its Facebook page, which first appeared in 2010. Our presence on Twitter, er… I mean X, began in 2011 and we have 420 followers. Likewise, our Instagram feed started in 2022 and has 358 followers.

The Park Bugle online offerings shorten the interval between print issues. Online followers get the Park Bugle’s “Midpoint” feature in the middle of the month. Online followers can also share, comment on and “like” Bugle articles. If you haven’t checked out the Park Bugle online, I invite you to “befriend” or follow us.

The Park Bugle is also growing its two primary sources of income: charitable donations from individuals and foundations and advertising revenue.

As far as individual donations are concerned, each reader of the Park Bugle gets to decide how much it is worth to them. Each can pay what they can afford to keep it strong.

If another 10% of current readers would contribute $30 each, the Park Bugle would gain an additional $24,000 in operating income. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much. But we can make that money go a long way.

Remember that nobody on the Bugle staff is full-time. There is no luxurious office in a high rise. We are also engaging local foundations who understand the value of local journalism.

The Park Bugle is also growing its advertising revenue, both in print and online.

One key to raising more advertising income is to convince advertisers that Park Bugle ads work. Readers can help make this case. When you patronize a local business, mention that you saw their ad in the Bugle. If you didn’t see their ad in the Bugle, register your surprise that you didn’t. And when you search for a new way to tell your favorite grocer or home remodeler or insurance agent how much you value them, thank them for advertising in the Bugle.

Notice I didn’t include “subscription revenue” as one of the Park Bugle’s funding streams. That’s because the Park Bugle is free to those living in our service area. It arrives in mailboxes in St. Anthony Park automatically. Residents in Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, and Como Park can receive it free by signing up at parkbugle.org/optin.

You can also pick up print issues of the Park Bugle at more than 65 local businesses, restaurants and public buildings. That means people who don’t live in our neighborhoods can get a sense of who we are and what is important to us by reading the Bugle. It also means that recent arrivals, from across the city or around the world, can get acquainted with our neighborhoods without asking risky questions or filling out a form.

If you live outside the delivery area, or you want to send it to someone, such as a former neighbor or relative who likes to keep up with local news, you can subscribe for $30 annually. Like my friends Ann and Ellen, who welcomed me to St. Anthony Park. I just subscribed so the Park Bugle will be delivered to their new home in Roseville.

The Park Bugle’s mission is “to turn readers into neighbors.” That’s what Joanna Dunaway, head of Syracuse University’s Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship, had in mind when she said: “Local news reminds people of what they have in common, both their challenges and their shared identities, their shared culture, their shared community.”

What we share forms a foundation for navigating our disagreements and differences, and for recognizing what we have in common with those strangers who might one day become neighbors. 

Helen Warren lives in St. Anthony Park and is the chairperson of the Park Bugle board of directors.

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