OPEN LETTER TO KYFORWARD READERS: A sad, last day for this publication. Time to pull the plug
It is my sad duty to tell you that May 3 was the final day of publication for KyForward, which is concluding at the end of its 10th year of the very weekend it was launched.
We remember that Kentucky Derby well, just as we will remember that Billy Reed was our reporter on the scene for his 53rd Run for the Roses this year -- and writing for us. It's a good send-off, Billy.
We've had a bit of a wild ride over the 10 years of this grand experiment in an attempt to create a newspaper of the future for Kentucky, a place we love – and a place that needs what we had hoped to accomplish. Perhaps one day, someone will figure it out. Maybe what we've done will pave the way.
Along the way, we lost two of our founders, Mike Farrell and Gene Clabes, and that certainly diminished a team that ran mostly on passion and grit and pure determination. We trudged on – through the early years, through the terrible “fake news” noise and even through the worst of the pandemic. But while our readership continued to grow and we built an impressive network of columnists and experienced freelancers and partners statewide, we have not been able to build the revenues to sustain the work – or to advance the content as we had hoped.
The sobering non-response from readers to our 2020 year end NewsMatch campaign was too disappointing for words. We made the match for the national funding, but it came from readers of our sister publication, the NKyTribune.com, with very little support from KyForward readers. As a nonprofit public service newspaper, voluntary reader support is critical.
Over the years, we just never got traction with sponsors from the business community or the area's universities either (that includes UK Athletics too – and we certainly invested enough in coverage there). We also invested in interns, (yes, we paid them) providing opportunity for student journalists to get practical experience and jump-start their careers. We spent too much time chasing prospective sponsors – from those who wanted our services but didn't want to help pay for them. Too many businesses have turned their marketing over to big “expert” firms who aren't connected to the community, who don't have a community-good imperative and who don't give two cents about local journalism. Do you really know what your "digital" buy is getting you? You might be shocked. So after 10 years of providing life-support with our own resources, it's time to pull the plug.
We will be investing our energies in the NKyTribune.com, which enjoys the warm embrace of the Northern Kentucky region happy to have its local news back. Both readers and the business community support it in a big way.
We will be archiving some of KyForward's best content at the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism website over the next few months. Give us a little time and you will be able to find KyForward's best work archived there. Your favorite columnists can be found now at the NKyTribune.com. You can sign up for the Trib's daily e-newsletter (a headline service) here.
Local journalism matters. Journalism matters. Please support your local community newspaper. No more Kentucky daily and weekly newspapers should go away. No more online nonprofit public service news sites should have to shut down. Support KET and the terrific nonprofit Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Take a look at Tom Latek's terrific coverage of the state legislature at Kentucky Today. Follow the Daily Yonder and The Rural Blog for well-told stories about rural issues. Support these efforts.
It doesn't take much, really, but it does take a recognition by both readers and the business community that there is a cost to providing you with the news you want and need. It is the real stuff. Even when you don't like it. Somewhere in all that mess, you will find the way to democracy.