by Rick Boettger…….
Air is free. Water is almost free. The Blue Paper has been free for 20+ years. Why do we want you to pay us for it now?
So far, only a small percentage of our readers are contributing, so far less than a hundred. Please, do not stop reading here if you are not among them. I’m NOT going to guilt-trip or even ask any of you for your money. I want to ask those who do contribute why they do so, and those who don’t, why they do not.
It is an interesting question for our times. So much is free, like music, movies, and long distance phone calls, that used to be expensive. Oddly, people used to pay for newspapers, but since the New York Times gave away their paper online for free from 1996 to 2005, putting a hundred other newspapers out of business (just a guess), readers have been conditioned to avoid the “pay portal.” It is a national worry, the increasing demise of local reporting.
Maybe all I have to do is ask. The first two of my wealthy friends I approached have offered $100/month each. A friend still working, as most of you do, to support his family, has agreed to send in a small, token amount just as a vote of support for us.
Because for Naja and Arnaud, it is more than just the money. I have told them they are in my will for a quarter million if they are still doing The Blue Paper when I die, but that is not enough. Nor my paying for the month+ between March 15 and April 26, the day, the Pulitzer prizes are announced. (More about those below.) But they say we deserve to see it from our readership, no matter how small the amount.
People in the Keys are incredibly generous. I do the tax form 990’s for two very prosperous nonprofits which are greatly supported by their members with donations. Maybe we should borrow a page from the Symphony and other arts groups: list our patrons in every playbill. I must admit I like seeing my and Cynthia’s names listed as “Mozart Society” supporters, quite a decadent feeling for this Upper Peninsular born, lower-middle-class raised Midwesterner.
Some people would NOT want anyone to know they support us, because we do take on the rich and powerful, and they may be vulnerable. I would love to list a lot of “anonymous” donors, almost a special emblem of our power under the First Amendment. Readers, what do you think? You are already an elite down here—about ten percent of our population reads us.
We lose a lot of advertising to print papers that make no attempt to honor the First Amendment by watch-dogging our government. The Weekly just wrote an editorial congratulating themselves for staying in print as the Keynoter and Herald cease print in Monroe. They credit themselves for avoiding “’top stories’ that are read and just as quickly forgotten” with the objective to “sensationalize it for short term shock value.” They say they “recognize the delicate balance of hard news and community news.” They present this in a Feb. 2 edition featuring 14 press releases, featured artists and bios, but ZERO actual reporting. If we die, that’s what you’re left with, folks. (By the way, they must be referring to the “$15 MILLION” headline and mug shots of the County Commissions on our downtown newstands—that is, my investigation and prosecution of them for their egregious ethics violations is just “sensational” and “quickly forgotten,” unlike, I suppose, The Weekly’s full-page feature on Today We Eat Paella at the Little White House. (A couple of months after George Neugent got Public Reprimand and Censure as well as a fine from the Ethics Commission for taking tens of thousands of dollars worth of free golf club memberships, and years of bad financial reporting, The Weekly did a full-page puff piece on him without even a question about any of it. They of course have not reported any of the ethics violations.)
So, what I am going to do is ask more people directly, and I’m sending out an email blast to the many people whose causes I have long supported. A desperate Hail Mary I have already done is nominate Naja and Arnaud for a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. It is the hardest application process I have ever done, and I needed some help from Naja and our other PhD, Martha Blank, to finish. The Pulitzers are not awarded for anything in the past, just 2017. But just last year alone, The Blue Paper did these three:
1] A ten-part series on the illegal arrest of immigrants, resulting in the ACLU sending our Sheriff a warning to stop doing so. Some of this was covered nationally, but barely a word by any other Keys publication.
2] Another ten-part series on Pritam Singh’s being allowed to use [maybe] 17 transient licenses to build a 175-room hotel at Oceanside. That won’t happen again, and, along those lines, the Girards just recently stopped the conversion of regular housing to vacation rentals by exposing the Key Cove transient license transfer shenanigans. They have done more for our “top priority” worker housing, with their investigative journalism in the last two years than any of our governments have done in the last ten.
3] A 17-minute video of Irma in the Keys. The Girards did not evacuate. Theirs was the only local video coverage to include actual storm footage, all of the other national and local [non US1 radio] reporters having evacuated. It has been viewed going on 200,000 times on our website and YouTube.
Here are links to the url’s of the 20 stories, including answers to the Pulitzer 10 questions they ask for each.
Series on local immigration enforcement: HERE
Series on Oceanside 175-room hotel: HERE
Video on Hurricane Irma: http://thebluepaper.com/hurricane-irma-key-west/
My thanks to the 1st Amendment heroes who DO support such reporting, and it has been a great run writing for you.
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Key West The Newspaper
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