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Barb Shepherd

Across the country, city councils are meeting with no reporter in the room. Developments and tax increases are being approved and quality-of-life-changing laws are being passed, and no one’s watching for the people.

Local elections are happening with no reliable way for voters to get objective information about the candidates. Nonprofit organizations are doing good and staging fundraisers, and there are no newspapers to write about them.

Over the past 15 years, a quarter of America’s newspapers have gone out of business, The Atlantic reports.

Hundreds more have been taken over by giant corporations and venture capitalists interested in money, not in the community. These newspapers have seen page production and customer service outsourced to faraway shops, newsroom budgets slashed and journalists rendered unable to report and investigate all that needs it.

We at The Beacon are extremely proud — and grateful — to still be here, doing what we do for the people of West Volusia. As you can read at the top of this page, our mission is to unite, empower and strengthen our community.

We started nearly 30 years ago with that purpose, and continue to fulfill the mission.

We admit, among small newspapers across the country, The Beacon enjoys some advantages.

A big advantage is YOU. Our community is a vibrant one with a strong appetite for local information. West Volusia residents care about their communities, and they value a news organization that keeps them informed and involved.

Many local businesses recognize the value of — and profit from — advertising with us.

The quality of The Beacon’s people is a major advantage. Over the past nearly three decades, I have had the privilege of working with some of the most thoughtful, talented, committed people you could find.

I can say with confidence that our newsroom’s collective knowledge of the history and status of West Volusia’s communities and local governments is unparalleled.

But Beacon employees have not been paid what they are worth, and that needs to change. Sometimes, our wage scale has meant saying goodbye to people who had to move on to higher-paying jobs. More often than not, though, we’ve found creative ways to shift responsibilities and dollars and keep those people working as watchdogs and marketing consultants for West Volusia.

It helps that many of them value The Beacon’s mission more than money.

The coronavirus pandemic has hurt and changed local businesses across West Volusia, and we are no exception. At the same time, Facebook and Google rake in millions in advertising revenue — revenue that used to go to newspapers — while using the local newspapers’ content to draw traffic to their ads. They pay newspapers very little or nothing.

Both the pandemic and social media, each in its own way, have highlighted the importance of access to reliable, fact-checked, comprehensive local information … to strengthen you, unite all of you, and empower you to be a force for good.

To meet the new minimum-wage requirements — and to achieve our goal of paying all 23 Beacon employees a living wage — we’re asking for your help.

We’re giving you the opportunity to support and strengthen our news organization with a tax-deductible contribution, made possible by a partnership with the nonprofit Florida Press Foundation. You’ll find all the details and a “donate” button on our website, at www.beacononlinenews.com.

We’re also launching “choose your price” digital subscriptions, which will allow online readers who can afford it the opportunity to pay a little more each month, so we can maintain a very low price ($1.99 a month) to keep the news accessible to those who have less.

If you are able and decide to support us in this effort, here’s what we can promise you: Your money will go to local people and into the local economy, not to out-of-town owners or stockholders.

It won’t go to overpaid CEOs at the top, either. The Beacon’s publisher (that’s me) works for the handsome sum of $200 a month. That’s not a typo. I gave up my salary in 2020, and was able to do so thanks to my husband’s excellent retirement planning.

I was glad to do it, so my employees could have a little more.

We invite you to support the people of The Beacon, so they can continue to support you. Thank you.

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