As we prepare to turn the page on 2019, I want to take a moment to thank you, from all of us at The Philadelphia Inquirer, for your loyal support of what we do.
It is because of you that our journalists are able to investigate abuses of power, expose corruption, and right wrongs that otherwise would remain shrouded in darkness. It is because of you that employees throughout our company work all year long and around the clock to produce and deliver the news in the ways you want it: in print, on your phone, through your smart speaker, and more.
We do all of this and more because, to us, there is no greater calling, no mission more important, than to serve the people of the Philadelphia region. It’s part of our DNA as a public benefit corporation and part of what our nonprofit owner, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, helps us achieve through grants that have allowed us to upgrade our technology, aid our investigative reporting, and include more diverse voices in our news report.
Being a for-profit public benefit corporation owned by the nonprofit institute means that we are not beholden to hedge funds or Wall Street shareholders — a scenario we see playing out with detrimental effects throughout the news industry. But it does not insulate us from the financial hardships affecting media organizations everywhere.
While local and regional newspapers continue to shutter, causing “news deserts” where no independent media outlets remain, I keep coming back to two statistics from the Pew Research Center’s annual state of the news media report: 71% of Americans think their local news organizations are doing “somewhat well or very well” financially, and 84% said they had not paid a dime to subscribe or donate to a local news organization in the past year.
Make no mistake: Local media outlets, including The Inquirer, are nowhere near as financially healthy as they were 10 or 20 years ago. And we know — due to shifts in advertising, the rise of digital platforms, and other factors — that our greatest hope for a strong, sustainable future is through the support of people like you who believe in and are passionate about our mission to create essential journalism that benefits communities and improves lives.
When I came to Philadelphia four years ago, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest announced his groundbreaking donation of The Inquirer to what would become the Lenfest Institute. He used to remind me all the time that journalism — The Inquirer — was every bit as critical to the fabric of Philadelphia as its world-class museums, theaters, schools, hospitals, and other institutions. “There is nothing I could think of as important as keeping journalism alive in the city I love,” he’d say.
For so many of us at The Inquirer, keeping journalism alive in Philadelphia isn’t a choice, it’s a calling. It has been that way since our first issue came off the press on June 1, 1829. John Norvell, The Inquirer’s co-founder, said at the time, “In a free state, there should always be an inquirer asking on behalf of the people: Why, why, why?”
From The Inquirer’s first owner to its current one, our mission remains focused on serving the people of Philadelphia. We invite you to join that mission by subscribing at Inquirer.com/subscribe and giving to The Inquirer’s Investigative News Fund with a tax-deductible donation at Inquirer.com/donate. We are so grateful for your commitment, whether you are a reader, advertiser, or donor. From all of us here at The Inquirer, we wish you a happy holiday season and joyous new year.
Terrance C.Z. Egger is publisher and CEO of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Email him at AMA@inquirer.com.