The United States still hadn’t agreed it needed a chief executive when Alexandria’s Gazette Packet began publishing in 1784 (its name was the Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser at first; then the Gazette and Port Packet; the Gazette Packet emerged in 1834). Since then, the newspaper has chronicled Alexandria’s evolution from port city to consistently interesting D.C. suburb—a transformation that continues to animate its letters pages.
And now it needs some help. The Gazette Packet launched an online fundraiser late last year in hopes of raising $50,000 for the Gazette Packet and other publications operated by Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. So far it’s about two thirds of the way to its goal.
Since the pandemic began, the company has had to equip its production staff and editors to work from home, editor and publisher Mary Kimm tells Washingtonian in an email. It hasn’t filled open positions, “and that has meant everyone is doing more,” she writes. The paper has “cut costs everywhere,” she says, and people have taken on more responsibilities: Kimm has been an editor on four papers, including the Gazette Packet, she says. Connection vice president Jerry Vernon has filled in at various departments. (He’s also listed as the organizer on the Gazette Packet‘s GoFundMe page.)
What will $50,000 mean? That sum will “allow us to bridge the operational gaps between a deep valley and the arrival of the funds from the Paycheck Protection Program,” Kimm writes. “And that will give us some time to try to create a revenue stream that could sustain us.”
Kimm notes in an editorial published at the end of January that advertisers like restaurants and local businesses have been clobbered by the pandemic, and that event advertising has all but disappeared. That’s on top of a precipitous long-term drop in advertising revenue for newspapers as Google, Facebook, and Amazon have continued to vacuum up ad dollars: The three companies now receive more than half of all ad spending, the Wall Street Journal reported in December.
Kimm says there are “no magic answers” for the questions that face the Gazette Packet or other local newspapers. “We will need a combination of solutions, because just one source is unlikely to unravel the tough situation that we face.”