Beacon Benchmark: A more resilient funding model for local journalism—what do you say?

Over the last two months, revenue for the B Square Beacon is up about 20 percent. The number of “paid subscribers” is up by the same amount.

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At last count, 108 patrons have pledged a total of $856 a month to support The Square Beacon.

It’s a solid number. But it won’t sustain one reporter, let alone the full newsroom of journalists that I think this community deserves.

Still, any upward trend is counter to the sharp revenue drop that traditional news outlets have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That makes me believe a full local newsroom could be supported with the voluntary subscription model used by The Square Beacon.

Compared to traditional news outlets, it’s a model that relies on more rank-and-file  community members to provide smaller contributions.

I think that approach will be more resilient in times of economic crisis than one that relies on fewer, but much larger contributions. Continue reading “Beacon Benchmark: A more resilient funding model for local journalism—what do you say?”

Square Beacon Benchmark: A routine push for public access during a pandemic

I mark the start of every month with a fundraising pitch, to support The Square Beacon’s approach to coverage of Bloomington and Monroe County local civic news.

In that way, April is no different from the start of any other month. What is different, of course, is that we now find ourselves in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This is the logo of the B Square Beacon.

So the only sensible way to start is to thank those of you who already support The Square Beacon with a monthly financial contribution.

Thank you!

Most people’s resources are stretched thin right now, due to pandemic-related issues. And it’s fair for many people to think about conserving their resources, instead of investing in local news reporting.

It should be an easy choice between a contribution to an independent local news operation like The Square Beacon and a donation to the myriad nonprofits and bricks-and-mortar businesses that have been devastated by COVID-19.

They are in greater need than The Square Beacon.

From traditional institutional networks to grass-roots efforts, it’s not hard to find ways to give financial support to people who have an urgent need. Continue reading “Square Beacon Benchmark: A routine push for public access during a pandemic”

Column: On the normalcy of local COVID-19 response

Early Friday afternoon, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill,
sent out a press release announcing the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the pandemic virus that’s spreading across the world.

It was a student seen a week earlier by Indiana University Health Center, whose positive test was reported to the center just that morning.

The student, who lives off-campus, self-isolated for the week while the test was being processed. The student health center sent the test to LabCorp, a private lab in Burlington, North Carolina, according to the student health center’s medical director, Beth Rupp.

The COVID-19 infection that was reported on Friday appears to be a case contracted in Monroe County. Rupp told a group of reporters on a Zoom video conference call on Friday that the student had not travelled recently and had no known exposure.

Rupp confirmed that LabCorp reported the positive result to the health center on Friday morning. Rupp said her first step was to contact the patient. After that, the student health center notified Caudill, as Monroe County’s health administrator.

Caudill was a part of Friday afternoon’s press conference call, which was organized by Indiana University’s director of media relations, Chuck Carney. Continue reading “Column: On the normalcy of local COVID-19 response”

Square Beacon Benchmark: It pays to prepare for city council meetings

Now two months after the hard launch of The Square Beacon, the tally of readers who have made monthly pledges supporting this website has reached more than 50. They have pledged a total of around $500 per month.

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File photo of Bloomington’s city hall. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

If you’re one of those, thank you!

If you’re not, please consider joining them now, instead of waiting.

Pledges of $500 a month translate to $6,000 a year. That’s not enough for a person to live on. The website software tells me that  around 2,500 people visit The Square Beacon most weeks. So I’m hopeful that the number of people who help support The Square Beacon can improve to better than the current 2 percent of regular readers.

As a one-person operation, I don’t have a lot of extra time to plow into work that doesn’t somehow help The Square Beacon provide coverage of local government to Bloomington area readers.

But I will invest some extra time if I can help improve local news coverage by others.

Next week I’ll have a chance to do that. I’m supposed to talk to a class of student journalists at Indiana University’s media school about covering Bloomington’s city council. The basic idea is to walk through a quick preview of the city council’s Wednesday night agenda for March 4. Continue reading “Square Beacon Benchmark: It pays to prepare for city council meetings”

Square Beacon Benchmark | January 2020 a small step towards proof: Readers will support handcrafted local news

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A pint of Theorem beer from Function Brewing on 6th Street, just east of the square in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.

Fair warning: This is a pitch to support The Square Beacon with a monthly pledge. If you’ve been meaning to pledge, but just haven’t gotten around to it, please choose this moment to do it: Subscribe now! Thank you to everyone who has already pledged. 

I live in downtown Bloomington, upstairs from a place called Function Brewing—where the names of the handcrafted beer all have mathematical themes. My favorite is called Theorem, and it’s the one I always order. Every time.

Why? As I tell any new server at Function, it’s because I want to have something to prove. (Hilarity always ensues, because it’s a great joke, and I will fight anybody who says different.) Continue reading “Square Beacon Benchmark | January 2020 a small step towards proof: Readers will support handcrafted local news”

Beacon Benchmark: Crows make for terrible poetry

[Note: Beacon Benchmark columns are an occasional way for the B Square Beacon’s writer to give readers some regular behind-the-scenes insight into this website, which aims to serve some of the news and information needs of Bloomington, Indiana.]

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Crows fly over the Monroe County courthouse dome on Nov. 24, 2019, but do not stop to roost. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

What if news reporters had to write their copy in rhymed couplets? Here’s what that might look like: Continue reading “Beacon Benchmark: Crows make for terrible poetry”

Beacon Benchmark: Busing it around Bloomington

Note: Beacon Benchmark columns are a way for the B Square Beacon’s writer to give readers some regular behind-the-scenes insight into this website, which aims to serve some of the news and information needs of Bloomington, Indiana.  

Yesterday marked what I hope will be the start of a month of daily rides on a Bloomington Transit bus. What’s the occasion?

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A 31-day smart phone boarding pass purchased through Token Transit. Showing the BT driver this display, which includes some dynamic elements, gets a passenger onto the bus. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

For one thing, July 1 is the beginning of the month. It’s also the beginning of the state of Indiana’s fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30.

So it’s a good time to start something.

Why start riding the bus every day? It is a fair question, especially because I can’t ride the bus every day in July. On the Fourth of July, BT bus service is not available.

I will need to find a different way to make my way out to the Monroe County fairgrounds on July 4, to watch the rodeo that’s being put on by the International Professional Rodeo Association.

Readers who are familiar with the BT system know there’s no bus stop at the fairgrounds. But a Route 4 bus will get you to the intersection of SR 45 and Curry Pike.

From there, it would be about a mile and a half to the fairgrounds. That distance I can cover in just a few minutes by bicycle—if I load my two-wheeler into one of the racks on the front of the bus. That’s something I’ll have to try on a different day from the Fourth. Continue reading “Beacon Benchmark: Busing it around Bloomington”

Beacon Benchmark: What is this place?

Note: Beacon Benchmark columns are a way for the B Square Beacon’s writer to give readers some regular behind-the-scenes insight into this website, which aims to serve some of the news and information needs of Bloomington, Indiana.  

On Sunday morning, my wife and I ate breakfast at the Village Deli on Kirkwood Avenue. It is a weekly habit.

The server concluded the order-taking ritual with a friendly, “Thanks, ya’ll.”

Hearing that version of the second-person plural pronoun reminded me of a Blaze Foley lyric from a tune called Clay Pigeons: “Tryin’ to hide my sorrow from the people I meet/ And get along with it all/ Go down where the people say ‘Y’all'” Continue reading “Beacon Benchmark: What is this place?”