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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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EDITORIAL: Local news is one of those struggling local businesses


The past year of 2020 came with plenty of unexpected news. For the news industry in general, it meant a significant drop in advertising revenue and layoffs and pay cuts for reporters.

For The Sentinel in particular, however, we weren’t hit quite as hard and we were actually hiring at the end of March while others were laying journalists off. That was thanks to the continued support of our paying subscribers, as advertising only makes up about 1/3 of our revenue.

We expected to see a wave of cancellations following the rapid rise in unemployment claims early on in the pandemic, but we were pleased to find that our existing subscribers continued their support for local news.

We did see advertising revenue drop, however, as businesses which closed or were struggling trimmed down their advertising budgets along with cutting anywhere and everywhere possible. That meant less revenue available to pay reporters to cover local news, which meant we repeatedly had to cut stories like:

  • More coverage of the pandemic’s impact on local businesses
  • More in-depth reporting on the city’s budget and Measure M
  • More coverage of local crime trends and arrests
  • Stories featuring the work of local nonprofits
  • More profiles of local business and community members

One reader summed up our mission best with a thank-you note this week: “Thank you for continuing to deliver local Citrus Heights news which is not available anywhere else.” That’s why The Sentinel began in 2014, to cover important local stories in our community that go overlooked or under-reported by regional news outlets.

As another reader said: “You answer all the local questions that nobody else cares about, but if you’re a Citrus Heights resident, it matters to you! Thanks for all the hard work.”

We’re grateful that our work is appreciated, but we’re also mindful of the stories readers never heard about because we didn’t have time to cover them. As one reader told us: “You are it, as far as (news coverage in) Citrus Heights, which is a huge responsibility.”

It is a huge responsibility that comes with a significant time commitment to conduct interviews, take photos, write up articles, and make sure facts are checked (and double checked) to ensure accurate, informative stories are published.

It was encouraging to see the outpouring of support from our readers to help local businesses survive, but we also hope our readers realize that local news is one of those businesses struggling to survive as well, and that local news relies on the support of local readers.

See a list of the hundreds of newspapers that announced layoffs and downsizing this year: Click here

We believe the future of quality local news is reader-supported, locally owned publications. Three of the four people who make up The Sentinel’s small staff live in Citrus Heights, including the publisher.

Although we saw a more than 40% increase in articles read on The Sentinel in 2020, our paid subscriptions increased at a slower pace, leaving us on track to end the year with about 50 fewer subscriptions than anticipated.

In 2021 we’d like to expand our coverage by giving our part-time reporters more hours, and adding two freelancers to our team. But to do that, we need your help.

To those of you who have already subscribed, thank you, and feel free to share this with others who haven’t. To those who read The Sentinel, but haven’t yet subscribed, would you consider helping local news thrive in Citrus Heights and become one of those 50 subscribers we sought to add in 2020?

The cost to subscribe is less than $4/mo., and you’ll get unlimited access to all of our local stories, along with knowing you did your part to help keep local news alive in Citrus Heights. (See subscription options here)

-Luke, Nadia, Mike & Rylie
The small team committed to covering local news in Citrus Heights

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free Weekend Edition to get one email each Sunday with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)