From the editor’s desk: Northern Rhode Island is lucky indeed

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The work of a journalist is not for everyone.

There’s the long government meetings – sitting through hours of sometimes tedious debate and discussion in hopes to help translate the important actions of local officials to the general public.

There’s the feeling of always being, “on call,” with pressure to stay constantly connected less you miss some important news in your beat.

There’s the imperative for accuracy, ensuring every fact and grammatical turn-of-phrase is as close as you can get to perfect; the confidence and instinct required to make decisions about what information is important to your audience; and the judgement needed to create stories that are neither dry and boring, nor too sensational and at risk of bringing in viewers and readers, but adding nothing of value to the community.

Then, there’s the job insecurity in the ever-changing news industry as outlets merge and scale back staff. More than 500 journalists were reportedly laid off in January of 2024 alone, the same month the Washington Post published an opinion piece titled, “Journalism may never again make money,” pointing to an industry in crisis.

It’s no wonder that even established media outlets have trouble retaining quality talent, as great reporters and writers often move on to somewhat less anxiety-inducing careers.

At NRI NOW, we’ve been extremely lucky to have many committed contributors willing to work for the love of the news business – often for little or no pay. We have Dick Martin, an award-winning writer whose works have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including Smithfield Times, The Observer, Providence Journal and The Woonsocket Call. Then there’s Karen Iacobbo, a talented writer who has been with our publication for more than four years, and whose photography and community engagement is among the best you’ll find in the region, in our humble opinion. Experienced journalists like Karleen Kozaczka, whose resume includes time at publications including The Boston Globe and Providence Monthly, and Russ Olivo, who spent decades keeping northern Rhode Island informed at The Woonsocket Call, write the stories you’ll find here on NRI NOW. Some contributors, such as Betty Mencucci, with her popular Burrillville Then & Now features, and Jim Weicherding, with his weekly Sunday Cartoons, even provide their work free of charge in hopes to raise awareness for their respective causes and organizations.

Those we do pay, at times, have had to wait for the money they’ve earned while our business works to grow its advertising base. They do what they do not for money or personal acclaim, but for the privilege of telling your stories, and because they believe in the importance of what NRI NOW brings to the local community.

I founded this publication six years ago with the knowledge that our region was at risk of becoming a news desert. With once independent local news outlets being acquired by large, out-of-state corporations, and those that remain cutting back staffing and with it, local coverage, stories in northern Rhode Island were increasingly going untold, a dangerous and depressing circumstance that I believe leads to a disconnect between locals and their neighbors – and between elected and appointed leaders and the larger community.

“I take pride in covering town events and always have, and relish my role in, ‘getting the word out,’ about what is happening in town,” noted contributor Dick Martin of his experience with our publication. “Since retiring as a high school English teacher, it has given me a new calling. I don’t get paid a great deal. I do it because it needs to be done.”

Our goal is to remain a dependable resource to the community, and to serve as an example of how our local news can thrive, even as others fail. And we’re succeeding – content on NRI NOW has been viewed 255,000 times in the last 30 days alone. Our newsletters reach thousands of subscribers, and our income and readership have grown nearly every month since our founding in 2018.

We support local businesses and offer much publicity to them for free. Our editorial content, from new business features, to weekly roundups and listings of local events, are always published as a courtesy to those mentioned and the larger community. Our hope, always, is to foster mutually beneficial relationships that garner local businesses and organizations the attention they deserve, while securing enough paid, local advertising to remain sustainable.

But while paid local advertising will likely always make up the bulk of our funding, it is, by design, a finite resource, as our coverage is limited to the three towns of Burrillville, Glocester and North Smithfield. We won’t charge you for our content, but we do need reader support to maintain and grow the publication.

And so, I would like to announce the new Northern Rhode Island NOW Writer’s Fund, a chance for you, dear reader, to support our ongoing effort to bring vibrant and engaging news to the community. Every dollar donated via a new feature on the homepage – also seen on this post – will help us to sustain and enrich our coverage of northern Rhode Island.

I ask that you consider donating, and will also use the feature as a way to solicit feedback on the website itself. See a story you love on NRI NOW? For as little as $1 (every little bit helps) cast a vote of support, and tell us in the comment form below that you want to see more like it. Is there a particular writer or contributor you wish you’d see here more often? Mention their name in the feedback section, and we’ll do our best to make it happen. Do you wish we’d offer more – or less – coverage of a particular subject matter, whether it be schools, sports teams or a particular government board? Vote with your wallet and we promise to take all of your feedback seriously.

Thank you for your consideration and for helping us to make NRI NOW a noteworthy success in a challenging but important industry.

Your publisher, founder, and unrelenting newshound,

Sandy Hall

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