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You make the difference in keeping local journalism sustainable
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From the Editor

You make the difference in keeping local journalism sustainable

Napa Valley Register

It’s no great secret that traditional news organizations — including newspapers, TV, radio and magazines — were struggling even before the pandemic.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with journalism itself. Rather, as we have discussed before, the advertising model that funded these outlets for decades, even centuries in the case of newspapers, has been upended by the internet.

We still get considerable revenue from advertising, and our advertisers still find good value in what we offer, but many kinds of advertising, particularly classified ads, have largely moved online. The new digital environment has fractured the ad market into small, niche categories. That makes it harder for general circulation news outlets to make money — all while big online outfits like Google and Facebook siphon off the bulk of online revenue.

Before the pandemic, things were looking much better for traditional media outlets, including the Register. It looked like we were developing a sustainable business model — not the rolling-in-dough pre-internet days, but not bad compared with the disastrous decades since the turn of the century, when things began to fall apart.

Since the pandemic, of course, things have taken a turn for the worse for many industries, including journalism. The Poynter Institute is keeping a running log of furloughs, layoffs, and pay cuts in the news industry since March.

It is very grim reading.

It includes some news organizations that have, like so many businesses in this harsh economy, simply thrown in the towel and closed forever.

And yet what we do as an industry is more important than ever. How do we know? Readers vote with their feet, or more accurately, with their eyeballs.

When crisis strikes, whether it be the coronavirus pandemic or wildfires or earthquakes, you turn to us in huge numbers. Between March and late September, when the Glass Fire hit, our traffic was up a minimum of 30% per week over a normal week, sometimes a lot more.

When the fire hit, traffic was double or even triple normal for weeks on end.

Why? Because you want and need reliable local information and we’re the main organization with the infrastructure and expertise to bring you that information.

Now that COVID-19 cases are spiking in Napa and across the country, that need is back. Already we’re seeing our web traffic creeping back up as the public becomes more aware that the virus is back with a vengeance (actually, it never really left).

At the same time, we’re not immune to the economic trauma that has affected journalism and so many other industries. We’re covering the resurgence of COVID-19 with the smallest staff the Register has had in its 157-year history. My team is working harder than ever to keep telling Napa County’s stories, from urgent health news to the people and places that make this community special.

We’re getting assists from regional and national wire services, but ultimately, it is the small band of reporters in our local newsrooms that make the Register and its weekly papers essential to your life.

Now it’s your turn. If you find value in what we do every day, if you find yourself turning to the Register even occasionally to see what’s happening with the virus or fires or any other important issue, please consider joining us as a member. Our online rates are not expensive — sometimes as little as a few bucks per month for the basic online plan.

Every dollar counts. We don’t expect every reader to subscribe, but if even if a significant minority of readers were to become paying members, even at the most inexpensive level, our economic stability would be assured. We could even begin to grow back some of the staff losses we and all other news organizations have suffered over the past decades.

So please, consider supporting and defending local journalism by visiting and becoming a member at whatever level you can afford.

If you are already a member, please know that your contribution, however small, is vital to keeping the Register alive and useful for our community. We cannot thank you enough for your support.

Editor’s note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit



You can reach Sean Scully at 256-2246 or

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Sean has been editor of the Napa Valley Register since April of 2014. His previous credits include the Press Democrat, The Weekly Calistogan, The Washington Times and Time and People magazines.

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