The Indypendent is now old enough to vote or fight in a war or better yet dodge a draft if one should ever be reinstituted. How time flies.
Eighteen years ago this week, the staff of The Indy published its inaugural issue during the waning months of the Clinton administration.
Our early issues weren’t much to look at — four black-and-white pages with scrunched up text and tiny photos — but we were convinced we could do a better job of telling the story of radical social justice movements in New York City and beyond than larger, more complacent media outlets.
Wars, terrorist attacks, a global financial crash, history-making presidential elections, visionary new social movements such as Occupy Wall Street, Climate Justice, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo all lay ahead of us.
If we had realized at the time how difficult it is to publish a newspaper by the skin of our teeth year after year, we might not have tried. But we persisted and from there we never stopped. Here we are, all these years later, still publishing while many other prominent New York City news outlets recently have been closed or eviscerated including the Village Voice, DNAInfo and the Daily News.
What accounts for the fierce devotion of so many Indy volunteers and readers over the years? I think the answer lies in the larger media landscape, in which a handful of enormous media corporations dominate public life. In such a setting, this paper stands out as a rare media institution that belongs to “us” as some of our supporters explained in this video.
But while our continued survival has been something of a miracle, surviving isn’t enough. Since Donald Trump’s rise to power two years ago, we have responded by placing outdoor news boxes across the city and have more than doubled our circulation to 45,000 papers per month. We are now able to amplify the voices of social movements like never before.
Embracing a multi-media world we could have scarcely imagined 18 years ago, we are also publishing more original online content than ever before on our new website while producing podcasts, short videos, an e-newsletter and starting next week a weekly half-hour news show on WBAI-99.5 FM.
We do all this on a shoestring budget where we make every dollar go as far as it can. However, a free press is not free.
While reader support has helped power The Indy from Day 1, it’s always been a fairly small number of people who have stepped up compared to our overall readership. If you enjoy reading The Indy and look forward every month to our thoughtful, hard-hitting coverage of the issues and the movements that matter and have not given before, don’t leave it to someone else to help keep us going strong. Make a one-time or sustaining contribution today.
When you give, you not only support fiercely independent journalism, you become a part of a larger community that makes The Indy possible. And there’s never been a more important moment to do so, as headlines regularly proclaim the demise of both legacy media titles and promising new startups while an authoritarian president declares independent journalists are “the enemy of the people.”
Our best work lies ahead of us but we can only do it with your support. Help us lay the groundwork for the next 18 years. This is one paper that will never be old enough to retire but it could use some social security.
John Tarleton is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of The Indypendent.
Photo (top): A satisfied reader. Credit: Elia Gran.