The Reader is launching Focus Forward, our first-ever membership campaign. If you missed our announcement, read about it here.

On Monday we told you a little about our membership campaign, Focus Forward, with a goal to add 100 members by the end of December. Today publisher, editor and co-founder John Heaston wants to tell you a little about what exactly is on our minds as we look toward 2022.

Thank you. Starting in 2020 and through 2021, we were with you during the spread of the deadly coronavirus, we were on the frontlines of historic protests against police violence, and we put the spotlight on systemic inequities that have ravaged our neighbors’ lives — among other challenges. I can’t even begin to express how your interest in our reporting brings brightness to our team in dark times.

We recently shared with you about Focus Forward, our editorial vision for 2022. It’s The Reader’s initiative to reflect that brightness back to readers — and is a direct response to what you and your neighbors told us in surveys, emails and conversations that you want to see.

This work needs your support. Over the next six weeks our goal is to add 100 new members. All membership proceeds during our winter campaign funds 2022 reporting for Focus Forward.

Focus Forward doesn’t mean we’ll turn a blind eye to the challenges we face, or our stories will always be upbeat. It means every story we report will aim to give you information you need to move forward in changed times, and to create impact in Omaha.

Here’s just some of the things we’re planning:

Advised by the widest range of local media and community experts, we’re bringing one of the most established and proven civic journalism and engagement programs to Omaha. We can’t say much now, but know we beat out over a 100 other interested communities to ensure the most important public meetings are covered start-to-finish and local government is understandable and accessible for all.

We’re also launching a thorough and extensive collaborative journalism initiative to explore, humanize, address and seek solutions for systemic inequities. If Omaha is a great place to raise a family, then the geography within it can’t define our destinies. We won’t often break the news, but we will do our best to build the news, so our community not only gets the hard facts, but also the perspectives and context to have a deeper understanding.  

As part of this, we want to look at the significant gaps in education and housing, especially affordable housing, how public investments and zoning frameworks impact that, and how basic living arrangements and educational opportunities are fundamental to fighting the brain drain and creating equitable outcomes.

Along those same lines, we also intend to look closer at immigration with our sister publication El Perico, recognizing how our fastest-growing demographics reflect our long history as a community of immigrants that has kept our economy and culture vital.

Big ambitions? Absolutely. But we have to do it to help our neighbors Focus Forward. 

These goals do come at a cost, and these days we have to do less to give. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 85 local newsrooms across the U.S. have shuttered. A record 16,160 newsroom jobs were lost in 2020. The numbers aren’t out yet, but we expect similar losses in 2021 as revenue streams and emergency support were depleted. 

That’s why we need you. The last two years have been hard for everyone, but without local news that’s focused on delivering facts, context and ideas that move in the right direction… well, forward won’t be the direction we’re heading. 

Do you want to get beyond this? Can we count on you to support journalism that takes us forward, not backward?

Sincerely, 

John heaston


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