Pennies on the dollar: report on our finances

The Sierra County Public-Journalism Project – which runs the Sierra County Citizen – has right now about $2,000 in the bank.  This money was entirely donated by you readers since my appeal for donations in October.  That means that we have exhausted whatever funds we had when I made that appeal (a bit faster than I had hoped).  So, here is looking forward.


At a bare minimum, we pay about $1,000 a year to keep the website going, and that is without any further development or major changes to it.  In addition, we pay Kathleen Sloan $4,200 a year for her contributions.  As all readers know, her articles are the center-piece of the Citizen.  That makes about $5,200 a year that we absolutely need or $430 a month.  Actually, we need a bit more because other things always come up.


The Citizen, then, can run four or five more months, unless more readers contribute.


While you think about that for a moment, let me tell you how this project came about.  Back four or five years ago, Kathleen was writing a blog with her investigations of local politics, but interested readers, such as myself, failed to subscribe and pay for her work.  In 2020 she came to the end of her savings and announced that she was going to have to look for a job and would not have time to report on what was happening in the county.


I called her to say how sorry I was that we, myself included, did not support her work.  How much, I wondered, did she need to keep herself alive.  Twenty thousand, she thought, would allow her the time to keep writing.  I called a friend and told him the story.  We can get that, he said.  He offered to put up $5,000, if I did.  I talked to Diana Tittle, who had had a strong journalism background in Ohio before coming out here.  She offered to join the formation of a foundation and added a donation from her and her husband, Tom Hinson, of another $5,000.  An anonymous donor came up with the fourth $5,000.


We incorporated as a non-profit, and we set up the Sierra County Sun with Diana as the editor and Kathleen as the reporter.  We hoped to expand.  We applied for and got grants.  We fitted ourselves into the New Mexico local journalism scene.  We operated because Diana took on the more than full-time job of editing entirely without pay.  When she was no longer able to put in that time and energy, we looked nationally for a paid editor.  Surprisingly, we had applications from Pulitzer prize winners, who were interested in working and living in small-town New Mexico.  But, a paid editor would cost us $75,000 to $100,000 a year.  Basically, the population base of the county is insufficient to support the enterprise financially.


So, the SCP-IJP closed down the Sun and created the Citizen as, initially, an entirely voluntary publication with each writer accepting the responsibility of self-editing while also accepting the joint responsibility for what is published.  Recently, the Project’s board also recognized Kathleen’s financial difficulties and offered her a tiny salary so that she can spend time researching T or C’s political convolutions.


I think such a format is sustainable, or ought to be sustainable.  The aim is to enhance public discussion of civic interests in this county.  The Project wants to instill the principles of traditional journalism – fact and evidence, research, analysis, and context – into public opinion.

If you support that intention, please think about contributing some money to us.  You can click on the link for donations on the site, or you can send me a check at Max Yeh, PO Box 156, Hillsboro, NM 88042.  Make the check to SCP-IJP or Sierra County Public-Interest Journalism Project.  Thanks: pennies on the dollar, they say.


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Max Yeh
Max Yeh

Sierra County Public-Interest Journalism Project’s board president Max Yeh is a novelist and writes widely on language, interpretation, history, and culture. He has lived in Hillsboro, New Mexico, for more than 30 years after retiring from an academic career in literature, art history and critical theory.

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