John Oliver Wants You to Support Village Green

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“The newspaper industry today is in big trouble … and that affects all of us.”

That’s the thesis of John Oliver’s brilliant Last Week Tonight segment from August skewering trends in journalism and training a glaring spotlight on the erosion of newsrooms across the county.

Oliver decries the fact that advertising is producing less revenue year over year for news, leading to cutbacks in newsrooms and less coverage of local government.

Oliver runs a clip of David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun reporter and creator of The Wire, who bemoans the fact that aggregation sites like The Huffington Post don’t send reporters to Baltimore Zoning Board meetings. Simon notes that such coverage is “the bedrock” of a free and democratic society and that the failure to cover local government is a recipe for rampant political corruption.

In another clip, the owner of a newspaper berates a reporter who is worried that giving readers what they want (in an effort to produce “more clicks”) will result in coverage of puppies over coverage of Iraq. The publisher chides her for “journalistic arrogance” and tells her that if they can get enough traffic from puppies maybe then they can also cover Iraq, then yells, “F*ck you!” at the reporter.

Well then.

When this Last Week Tonight segment came out in August, a number of friends emailed the link to Carolyn Maynard-Parisi and me, the two editors/reporters/publishers/janitors at Village Green.

Our takeaways:

First, we’d like to name John Oliver as Village Green’s 2016 Sexiest Man Alive. He may be a bespectacled, diminutive Brit in need of dental work, but he gets us, he really gets us.

Second, Village Green is doing a lot of what Oliver points out needs to happen but is not happening in many communities across the nation due to a lack of revenue.

“A big part of the blame,” said Oliver, regarding the erosion of revenue in journalism, “is on us and our unwillingness to pay for journalism. We’ve been getting it for free.”

In Maplewood and South Orange, we’re better than that. When Village Green instituted a limited, metered paywall in May (5 free articles per months with certain pages on the site not counting toward the meter), scores of community members stepped up. We now have nearly 500 active subscribers paying either $5/month, $15/quarter or $39/year to have unlimited access to the site.

This, on top of our traditional banner and box ads on the page (thank you, Village Green advertisers!), are helping to keep us afloat and pay for journalism such as:

And there’s so much more. We can’t do it without your support. Yes, it’s not all Watergate-style investigative reporting (we aren’t covering Iraq, for certain), but we keep a constant eye on government meetings, elections and policy discussions and we shine a light on the elements of our community that make us unique, as well as inform our readers of all the great events, organizations and businesses in town.

And, indeed, occasionally we run a puppy story.

Please consider supporting Village Green and ensuring our future by becoming a subscriber. Click here.

As John Oliver says, “Sooner or later we are all going to have to pay for journalism or we are going to pay for it. Because if we don’t, not only will malfeasance run amok but the journalism movies of the future are going to look a lot more like this”:


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