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Our “new normal,” or how we are changing to respond to COVID

A number of our readers know I used to be a consultant. I would sometimes lobby.

I worked on health care and human services issues, like Medicaid funding and foster care reform. We built a strong consulting firm with some of the best clients in the Pacific Northwest.

And, while we had some unique successes for clients, it was clear to me that our politics – and our media – was changing.

We needed “safe tables” to engage with one another, where a range of credible voices could participate.

So, after the ACA passed and the backlash came in the Tea Party election of 2010, we launched a conference series called State of Reform. It was and is non-partisan and policy agnostic, focused on creating opportunities and conversations to collaborate on health reform.

And it worked.

Since then, State of Reform’s unique approach grew to 13 markets, across red states and blue states. It’s now one of the largest health policy conference series in the country.

As part of that intiative, we started covering health care and health policy through a journalism that was like our events: policy agnostic, but unafraid to say 2+2=4 even when cable news might tell us the answer is 3 or 5, depending on one’s partisan leanings.

It turned out people wanted a “safe table” to get around, after all, whether they were in Olympia or Austin, Sacramento or Anchorage.

So, during that time, we wound down our consulting work and committed ourselves to finding a way to build a new media model that supports a better civic conversation.

We chose this task because we think this is the biggest challenge of our time: createing the social infrastructure to support holding our civics and our politics together, just as it feels like it’s spinning more and more out of control.

In 2017, we took over the Washington State Wire. We thought the same approach would work: build a non-partisan approach to covering policy that is also unafraid to set aside the false equivalency of “both sides-ism,” and which is funded through event revenue rather than clicks and impressions.

We are civic minded. We believe in the ability of our community to solve problems if there are “safe tables” where those problems can be wrestled to the ground.

Since COVID struck, our model of free content funded by event revenue is on shaky ground. We’ll see what December looks like as our 2020 Re-Wire Policy Conference rolls around, but it’s clear that we can’t wait that long to figure out a path towards sustainability.

Truth be told, the success of State of Reform has subsidized the Wire since 2017 as we have grown both sites. In fact, our business plan actually required three years of losing money at the Wire while we grew it, and our Re-Wire Policy Conference, to sustainability.

Then COVID hit just as sustainability was on the horizon.

So, moving forward, we have had to make some decisions.

First, we’ll continue our convenings and conference like Re-Wire, but we’ll do them virtually rather than in person. While we all might wish normal was soon to return, I just don’t see that happening for some time.

Second, we will continue to generate non-partisan, policy agnostic content that we hope you find to be smart, unique and a value-add to your day.

In our recent reader survey, 65% of respondents said you would be willing to pay for content at the Wire. That’s an amazing level of support for a news site like ours. And, we thought it was time to take you up on that support.

So, that is where things have come: we would really appreciate your help directly funding the content that we provide at the Wire with a monthly recurring contribution of $5, $10 or whatever amount works for you.

We considered a subscription model and a paywall. After all, 76% of content sites have a paywall these days.

But, we don’t want to turn our engagement with you into a transaction.

We think we have built a good base of support among our readership, and we’re hoping that you will put some wind in our sails as we wade through COVID.

So, we’re asking for your support.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll do a few things to improve our site and hold ourselves more accountable to you. For example:

  • We’ll create an “About Us” page that will list the bios of all of our team. We have never wanted to make this about our writers, but I think the information would help you better make an informed decision about supporting us.
  • We’ll develop a membership model with select benefits for members, like special briefings on campaigns, policy debates or the session.
  • In a move that no other outlet has done to my knowledge, save one in Texas, we will post all of our funders and members. Everyone who has ever given us money since we re-launched this site in 2017 will be listed on our “Wall of Fame.” We want you to know that our work is based on our analysis and our sourcing, not our supporters.
  • We will create a clear schedule strategic plan so that you can know exactly what our scope of work includes is and how we are working to build a new model of local public service journalism. We want to put in writing what you can expect from us as you consider supporting us.

So, there you go.

Over 100,000 small businesses have already disappeared in the US. It’s projected that 1m will ultimately close.

We’re working to make sure we’re not one of them. And, we’d appreciate your help in doing that.

It’s truly an honor that you let us inform your thinking in a time of polarization. We’ll do the best we can to live up to the gift of your attention.


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