It is with deep gratitude and humility that I write to you today with an announcement about the future of LebTown.
On Wednesday, Jan. 5, LebTown will enter an indefinite publishing hiatus. This decision does not come lightly on my part. Although being publisher and editor of LebTown has led to many moments of joy, and occasions of deep fulfillment, as I approach four years in this role (half of which took place during the ongoing pandemic), I must take stock of what we’ve done and where we are, and what this progress has cost.
We have been fortunate to have support from advertisers and members who believed in our mission, and did our best to deliver on LebTown’s original promise by publishing more than 4,400 articles that simply would not have existed without community support—plus a significant financial investment on my own part.
We took to heart our mission of providing timely, accurate, and comprehensive journalism intended to help people navigate their daily lives and promote the general well-being of Lebanon County, and we wouldn’t have gotten this far without our members and advertisers.
Sadly financial support from the larger community has not been easily forthcoming, and it has been more of a solo endurance challenge than I anticipated; coupled with the difficulty of finding qualified and engaged journalists to pursue stories, it has taken constant efforts to maintain the quality, integrity, and scope of our news reports—all while not taking a single dollar out of the outlet as personal income, and using an astonishing 85%+ of our budget to pay contributors.
These daily exertions have been made inordinately more difficult to carry out in the wake of an ever-increasing amount of targeted and vehement outlashes against the outlet, as well as much more serious personal harassment that at times has caused me to wonder whether I should fear for my physical safety. I have been publishing news online since 2008 when I started the Penn State website OnwardState.com, and I have never experienced such raw vitriol as I have in recent months.
While I need to take some space for myself and reduce what has at times felt like a seriously dangerous amount of stress, I see it as my life’s work to construct a truly participatory and equitable model for local news in Lebanon County. Although LebTown is pivoting from its current form and our daily newsletter will be on hiatus for an undetermined period of time, I plan for LebTown to return with a reimagined model that takes into account these difficult lessons while also preserving what readers have come to appreciate and expect from us over the last several years.
During this period we will not be publishing at the same frequency or scope that we have been for the last several years, and make no warranties or promises about what actual output will be during this period; however, members who remain supporters of LebTown through this transition period will be directly involved in planning conversations about what the next iteration of LebTown entails.
Although advertising makes up the bulk of our revenue and those commitments will be suspended for the time being, any membership funds that continue to flow to LebTown during this hiatus period will go directly towards continuing our highest impact journalism, and all remaining members will have direct input on how those funds are used.
Additionally, I pledge to provide monthly accountings of membership revenue so you stay informed about what you’re supporting during this hiatus, and you may choose to cancel at any time in the future.
If this post is a wakeup call for you, please considering joining as a member today and participating in this process. With other thoughts or suggestions (or offers of big donations), please reach out to me at email@example.com.
Thank you for reading LebTown,