A free press: This is why we do this

People often ask us why we do this. Why we labor to provide this community with free access to a community newspaper. Our answer is simple: We love our community and strongly believe in what we do. It’s a labor of love. We also endorse and embrace the principles of freedom of the press, hence the name on our logo.

We believe in the importance of a community newspaper dedicated to carrying out the principles of providing news that both informs and encourages the community to work together for the common good, regardless of political viewpoints or socio-economic status.

A labor of love

So yes, we do what we do out of love of community and a desire to keep that community informed. Now you know why we do this.

Once upon a time Franklin County had several strong, viable community print papers. Those papers were a vital part of our communities for well over a century. They recorded the community’s history, told the stories that knitted the community together and kept neighbors and neighborhoods connected.

Chambersburg’s Franklin Repository, forerunner of Public Opinion, Waynesboro’s Record Herald, Greencastle’s Echo Pilot and the Mercersburg Journal, have their roots in the 19th century.

Today, all but the Mercersburg Journal are part of the mega-giant Gannett-Gatehouse chain. These “local” newspapers still put out token print editions, but they are managed and printed in York. Their digital editions require subscriptions and require paid subscribers to log in through a paywall.

When we established Franklin County Free Press in 2019, we had a few goals: Provide the most complete coverage of local news and events to our community without fees and paywalls.

Of course, we hoped to make at least enough money through advertising sales and donations to at least break even.

The community immediately embraced us, and businesses who shared our vision jumped on board, happy with the affordable advertising options we offered. Readers were generous with donations. We were breaking even, even though we were far from recouping our initial investment.

Then along came Covid, and the government-mandated shutdown of small businesses, our core advertisers. We did slowly recover, and today are back at the break-even point.

Read: Celebrating freedom of the press

The Year of the Free Press

why we do this
Nathan Neil

This year under the leadership of businessman and philanthropist Nathan Neil, our publication has seen some significant transformations. With his background and ownership of a web development firm, he has been able to leverage these resources to more than double our average readership.

In January, we launched an overhaul of the mobile version of the publication. Almost 85% of all our readers are now reading from their smartphones. We also added integrations to streamline our ability to get the news out across social media. Specifically Facebook, Twitter, and Newsbreak.

We also recently added a feature that provides audio to listen to our stories. This has been well received, however because of the sheer volume of news we publish, we haven’t been able to commit for it to be on every story yet due to the costs, but recent advertisers are getting us close. Based on the number of people who used the feature, we are making this a priority.

Last week you might have noticed that you can comment on our stories. We integrated with Facebook to allow the public to comment on publications. Most publications have done away with comment sections because of spam, but we believe that our approach to this will prevent many of the downsides that led many publishers to ditch the feature. We want to bring the conversation back.

So now you know why we do this. What you might not know is the cost of producing a Local Independent Online Newspaper (LION). Yes, we really are LIONs, along with several other such newspapers across the country that are changing the face of local journalism.

Running a newspaper is expensive

There are expenses associated with running a newspaper; even without printing and delivering a physical print paper.

Those costs include:

  • website design and upkeep,
  • hosting and bandwidth for our 10s of thousands of readers
  • costs of software to provide features important to our readers,
  • employees to help write and upload stories,
  • an editor to read, write headlines and run the operation,
  • memberships in local organizations like CVBA and civic organizations that help us stay involved in the community; and abreast of local issues so important to readers.
  • cost of advertising to get the word out their about our existence, and to attract readers that might otherwise never hear about Franklin County Free Press.

Goals for the future

There are many things we would like to do to improve readers’ experience on our website. One of our biggest goals is to afford the development of a mobile app so readers can access our website on their smartphones, easily receive notifications, and become less reliant on Facebook which has suppressed our reach an increasing amount in the last year.

If you feel inclined or support our noble cause, please consider making a donation. To write or contribute in any way, please ask how you can help by emailing our Publisher, Nathan Neil at info@fcfreepress.com.

If you would like to donate to support our efforts please click here.

Why do we do this? We do this out of love for the community. To provide a platform for local news that has disappeared over the last decade. We do this for you, our readers.

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