By Emily Votruba
My friend Andrea Claire Maio was interviewed for an IPR segment that aired today, about her TV show project, Back to Your Senses, for which she is seeking funding through a new crowdsource fund-raising site called Mobcaster. My personal view is that Andrea’s project is really exciting, and I’m happy for her that she got this great radio exposure today. (Read more about Back to Your Senses here, if you like!) I’m also grateful to her for mentioning our newspaper on the segment. She cares about this paper and the cause of local journalism a lot.
Unfortunately, the IPR reporter who interviewed her inserted a rather huge factual error into his report. He said that I, Emily Votruba, earn an income from being the managing editor of the Alert. This information did not come from Andrea, who knows that is not true.
So I thought I’d go ahead and take this opportunity to clarify how the Alert works. Back in December 2010, a group of people met in the Elberta Library to discuss what we wanted in a local newspaper. Clearly many people in our Village felt a need for a newspaper—the turnout was fantastic. About fifty people of all ages showed up to discuss the possibilities and begin framing the structure of the Elberta Alert, the name we decided on as a group. It’s true I called that meeting and facilitated it, but from start to finish, the Alert has been a truly collaborative project (as most great things are). Because I wanted to help the newspaper to succeed, grow, and be a “real” newspaper someday, and I also wanted to protect myself and the other volunteers from lawsuits, I went ahead and did the responsible thing and set up an LLC (I paid the fee) and made myself managing director. (This information has always been out in the open, by the way, and is printed on the masthead of the paper.) But I do not now, nor have I ever, drawn a cent of income from the Elberta Alert, and no one else does either. I, for one, hope that someday we actually can generate some revenue for the editorial team, contributors, and for Village community projects. But for now we’re just barely covering our print costs each month.
Our team has just put out our ninth issue. The fact that this publication has been able to pay for itself, through ads, donations, T-shirt sales, and subscriptions, is a testament, I think, to several things. One, the desire of the residents and businesses in our community (and donors and subscribers from afar!) for deeply local media, in which we tell our own stories as engagingly and as accurately as possible. Two, the tremendous effort of all the Alert volunteers and contributors, including myself, who work on this project for absolutely no pay. The Alert is truly a labor of love. The Alert, in a way, is succeeding because it never has tried to make money.
There are several unfortunate ironies to the error on IPR today. One is that Andrea Maio’s project is all about “leaving the safety of what you know, for the sake of what you love.” Andrea herself has done that. She’s trying to make a go of life in Northern Michigan, here in the place she loves, though it’s awfully hard sometimes. The stories that Andrea hopes to tell, about people pursuing the deep pleasure of work they love and care about, in spite of uncertainty and even hardship, is the story of the Alert. We don’t know if this story has a happy ending. We only know that it has an extremely joyful and exciting middle.
Thanks for reading.