The death of local outlets for journalism is no longer a news story—we watched for years, as outlets for reporting city and neighborhood stories dwindled across the country. There is a more recent twist to the stories, however—online sources, which were often cited as the cause in the downturn of print media—find themselves struggling to find a business model that makes them a sustainable enterprise.
Many New Yorkers don’t need to imagine what it’s like when a trusted source for local news disappears. On November 2, the popular Gothamist site was shut down without warning. For regular readers, there was an immediate sense of shock and a continuing sense of loss.
Fans of BKLYNER will be spared the shock if the blog has to shut down at the end of December. Publisher Liena Zagare explained the threat in a recent post, citing the failure of an advertising-based model to provide sufficient funding to make ends meet. If BKLYNER closes at the end of the month, as it might, the loss of this valuable community resource will sting, even if it does not come as a surprise.
For me, as an occasional contributor to the blog, it would be a double loss. I discovered Corner Media through its Ditmas Park Corner outlet even before I moved to the neighborhood. Facing a huge rent increase in Sunset Park and seeing the handwriting on the wall, I realized I needed to find a rent-stabilized apartment if I wanted to continue to live in Brooklyn. I took to the internet to find a neighborhood where I had a chance of finding one.
It was Ditmas Park Corner that helped me find my new home, and it was the Corner that helped me feel at home in the neighborhood once I’d moved in, proving an invaluable guide to restaurants, entertainment, and civic affairs.
I became a contributor to the blog almost by accident. I’d come to enjoy the novels about detective Jack Leightner that were set in the area, and sent author Gabriel Cohen a fan letter via email. His reply was so gracious, and so interesting, I asked the editor of the Corner if they would like an interview with the novelist.
That launched my (very minor) career as a freelance writer, and it also integrated me into the community in a wonderful way. Searching for interesting stories to tell about Ditmas Park and the people who lived there, I soon felt a sense of community I hadn’t experienced in living 20 years in Brooklyn in all sorts of neighborhoods.
That incentive for exploring the community only grew wider when Ditmas Park Corner became a part of BKLYNER, a blog that showed the same detailed interest in local stores, restaurants, and politics throughout the borough that the Corner showed for a single neighborhood. Writing stories for BKLYNER, I discovered things I likely wouldn’t have encountered otherwise: the role of the Old American Can Factory in the art of the 20th Century; the irreplaceable repository of African American culture at the Weeksville Heritage Center; and a 16-piece big band playing at a humble Brooklyn block party.
My hope was that my stories could do the same thing for readers that they did for me—shine a light on one of the many corners of Brooklyn that might be overlooked if someone didn’t tap you on the shoulder and point them out. And if they’ve in any way succeeded, I hope they can now do something else—convince you to pay $5 each month for something you are already getting for free.
I know that’s a tough sell. But the alternative—that we all might lose BKLYNER, with very little chance of finding anything that might come close to replacing it—is a sobering thought.
According to Zagare, if 3,000 readers of the blog pledge $5 monthly, the regular income will provide the economic foundation to allow BKLYNER to continue publishing. If you search out a coffee shop with free wifi so you can check out the blog each day while relaxing over a steaming cup, consider that for the price of a single latte, you can do your part in supporting BKLYNER for a full month. If you read us on your mobile device during your daily commute, what we’re asking monthly is less than a single round-trip subway fare.
I’ve been a subscriber to BKLYNER for over a year, so I can testify that it’s really a painless proposition. I set up a regular auto-payment, and now I never think about it except when I get the monthly receipt, reminding me that I’ve done my part to keep local journalism alive and thriving.
Reaching the goal of 3,000 subscriptions is definitely something we can do—in the first few days of the appeal, almost 500 readers have signed up.
Please join me and hundreds of your generous neighbors in supporting BKLYNER.