DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Community Means Contributing
I attended college in a small town in Vermont. It was a tight enough knit community that the cashier at my bank also moonlighted as a waitress, and knew me—and my account—well enough that she once advised me to order a less expensive dinner because she knew I should budget my money.
As well, there was a general store that took a decidedly Hawthornian approach to holding patrons accountable; instead of scarlet letters, though, they taped bounced checks on the countertop by the cash register. There was a certain public shame to display the persons who had bought groceries or hoagies with a check that their bank account could not cover.
It was small-town accountability—and, unfortunately, that has recently been at the forefront of my mind in terms of running the business of this newspaper.
The Messenger has nearly “survived” for two years. The business model is simple: We provide the paper to the community to free by relying on local businesses purchasing ads. We enjoy profiling community leaders, writing stories about current culture, and reviewing local bands, and we appreciate that we provide an opportunity for local businesses to promote their goods and services in our pages.
We have survived because dozens of wonderful, responsible businesses have been faithful advertisers in our issues. But we also have suffered immensely because some businesses have not paid their bills.
I won’t list all the businesses that have failed or refused to pay their invoices, but it has been enough that I took a loan on my house this year to stop-gap that lost revenue. In particular, Wiley’s World of Pasta has been stubborn about paying a $1000-plus invoice. We have sent repeated invoices and, when we sent someone in person to request that some/all of the bill be paid, we were told we were rude.
I do feel bad singling out this business, but also feel as if the table were turned, and we had eaten a massive meal and ditched without paying, they also would be frustrated and flummoxed. We have been stiffed by a number of businesses in the region who have refused to pay for ads they have run in our paper, or have eluded our attempts to collect bills. So it goes, I suppose.
Fortunately, though, there are dozens of other businesses in the region who have been incredibly loyal and diligent about paying for our services. Quite simply, without the support of this community, we would not be able to continue to operate.
Which brings me to the more important point: This is our second annual Give Guide. Throughout the year, we run free ads as often as possible for local nonprofits which are doing amazing work to build and support the community here. Also this year, we have introduced a new column, our Public Profile, which Q&As with community leader. In this issue our writer Zac Morel talks with Pamala Joy, the founder for Food Angels, a unique sort of food bank that provide fruits and vegetables to some of the region’s most needy. We have been pleased with the support we have and can provide local nonprofits and social service agencies—and hope to continue and expand that coverage.
In this Give Guide, we have a list of local nonprofits, all which deserve your support and we encourage you to find at least one to send a donation to this holiday season. We also hosted our first readers’ survey this year—asking you-all what nonprofits and nonprofit leaders you believe deserve special attention. On Page 9, we list the results from that readers’ survey.
We want to continue to be an important and supportive member of this community—and we ask you for suggestions and feedback about how you think we can best do that. A community is only as good as its weakest links—and we hope that in the New Year that we all pledge to be better, more productive members of this unique community.
Be well, friend.