If you enjoy reading the Heron and feel you are better informed about downtown San Antonio, if you want this cool little website to keep churning out thoroughly-reported stories, if you’ve thought about supporting us with a contribution, but haven’t had the time, there is no better time than now.
Last week, we turned three months old. While it can take a year or more for start-ups like ours to become sustainable, the Heron is not far from it. That’s largely because of our extreme low overhead.
It’s worth remembering that we are a registered nonprofit in the state of Texas. You can give to us at any time. We do not have 501(c)(3) status, but we’ve hired a lawyer to start that application process so we can start pulling in larger donations. This month, we start applying for grants, and begin a search for someone who can sell the site to potential sponsors. No matter from where we pull in revenue, it won’t impact our editorial independence. More on that in a second. First, some transparency.
It takes $1,230 to fund everything you see coming out of the Heron each month. That’s right, we are the Oakland A’s of San Antonio media. That figure doesn’t include my living expenses, but I’ll expand on that in a moment.
A few weeks ago, we joined Patreon, which is like a voluntary subscription services where people decide how much they want to contribute to a content producer, whether that be an artist, musician, podcaster, or news organization, per month. So far, we have 40 patrons — if you’re one of them, thank you, again! — who donate between $1 to $100 each month. (One of the two $100 donors is my mom, but, hey, she still counts.) What’s cool is that you can change your amount or opt out at any time.
Through the generosity of our 40 patrons, we pull in $549 a month. That puts a sizable dent in the $1,230 figure, which pays for freelancers, two Geekdom memberships (including a mailbox and locker) and marketing ($100 in Facebook boosts).
The rest, including my living expenses, comes from my personal savings and a part-time gig I have doing the newsletter for the WellMed Charitable Foundation.
We have big dreams, but right now, our priority is becoming a solvent organization this year. More patrons means more and better content. If we doubled our patrons to 80, or even 100, you’d see the quality of the Heron skyrocket. I bet my reputation on it.
Will you help us get there with your support at patreon.com/saheron? Again, any contribution is fantastic.
(Side note: I’m working on setting up Paypal on the site for folks who want to give a one-time donation. We also take checks, and those can be mailed to San Antonio Heron, 110 E. Houston St., 7th Floor, San Antonio, Texas, 78205.)
Another way to support the Heron is by purchasing taco apparel from The Tacoist, a site I started two years ago. One hundred percent of the proceeds go toward the Heron. So far, we’ve pulled in $7 in T-shirt sales.
Some of the merch is on Amazon:
Most of it is on elmercadodetacoist.com.
A quick note about editorial independence: Who you get your revenue from, as a news organization, does not define your independence as a newsroom. Organizations that are 100 percent reader supported aren’t intrinsically independent, just as organizations that pull in advertising or sponsorships aren’t automatically compromised.
The decisions a newsroom makes on merit alone, while deflecting as many biases as humanly possible, is what defines its independence.
That said, I want to be very clear that your contribution is like a vote of confidence. Our everyday decisions — Is it a story, yes or no? And, if so, how do we cover it? — we have to base on the core news values. We must maintain full editorial control, no matter who funds us, if we are to maintain our legitimacy.
Along those lines, some time this week, I’ll have a page on saheron.com that lists all of our supporters — the Patreon 40 and a handful of one-time donors. We won’t disclose specific amounts, but will list them by range of contributions. This is absolutely necessary in order to maintain our transparency as a journalism organization.
In other Heron news
Soon, hopefully this week, we’ll announce our third board member. It’s been myself and Irene Abrego, journalism instructor at San Antonio College, at the helm since co-founder Jolene Almendarez resigned in late August.
We continue to search for more board members, but it has to be the absolute right fit. If you’re interested, email me.
That’s all the updates I have for now. Have a great remaining Sunday, and enjoy this cool weather.
Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | firstname.lastname@example.org | @rbolivo on Twitter
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