How you can help The Argus

With the launch of voluntary paid subscriptions, you can help make this work possible.

Dear Argus Reader,

Back in the days when I contributed a twice-weekly column to The Berkshire Eagle, I once wrote a piece titled, “Last Newspaper Reporter Fired.”

It was a satirical take on what was happening across the country: Newsrooms laying off staff, cutting back on important coverage, and often shuttering altogether. The future of local news seemed bleak, the troubling impact on communities and democracy becoming ever clearer.

At the time, I joked that after his firing, that very last newspaper reporter—still as dedicated as ever—stood on a street corner with a sign: “Will collect facts, investigate wrongdoing, and protect the public interest—for food.” And foreshadowing the arrival of artificial intelligence, the column noted that it wasn’t even written by me, but rather, by the “News-a-Tron 9000,” described as “a partially sentient computer system” that would now write every story.

It’s hard to believe, but that piece was published seventeen years ago—all the way back in May, 2007. (Two points of reference: The first iPhone didn’t go on sale until the following month, and I still didn’t have any gray hair.)

Fast-forward to 2024.

A couple thousand newspapers have folded.

Others have been rolled up by private-equity investors who see more value in cutting newsroom staff and selling company assets than producing the quality local news and information we need.

Misinformation about matters near and far floods our feeds.

And many remaining news outlets—while aggressively pursuing new and creative strategies to survive and deliver for their communities—have been forced to abandon the investigative and context-rich storytelling that just takes too long and costs too much to produce.

That’s why The Argus exists. To fill a need in our region for more of those “important stories fully told.” Ones that often require weeks and months of full-time work: Digging into public records, interviewing dozens of people, and exploring the nuance and complexity that can help bring deeper understanding.

The Argus is also here to provide lighter features and profiles, thoughtful news analysis, podcast conversations, and humor. Taken together, it’s a publication that aspires to become something like a New Yorker magazine for the Berkshires region and beyond.

Over the last year, I’ve spent many hours talking to journalists involved in local-news experiments around the country to find out what works. Those conversations have been, in equal parts, helpful, exciting, invigorating, and yes, sometimes worrisome. But while times are challenging for local media, promising and exciting new experiments are popping up everywhere.

The Argus is one of those experiments. As a newsletter and newsmagazine with no paywall and no advertising, it’s entirely community-supported. That’s both important and challenging. Important, because no one should be denied access to important stories about their community because they can’t afford to pay. And challenging because, well, it means The Argus relies exclusively on readers who value and appreciate this work.

When voluntary paid subscriptions—starting at just five dollars per month—were launched a few weeks ago, it was gratifying to see an initial group of Argus readers step up. And to watch as others made one-time donations to help us grow.

During April, all new Founding Supporters (paid annually) receive their choice of an Argus tote bag or coffee mug. NOTE: Our coffee mug is certified to hold other beverages, too.

It’s not rocket science: Financial support is required for this work to continue and these important stories to be told in full. This year, that support will pay for research and reporting expenses, new editorial infrastructure, technology tools, and the vital brainstorming sessions we hold monthly on a secluded Caribbean island. (NOTE: One of these is not true).

One example? The resources to deploy technologies for immersive story design, like that seen in last month’s, “In Great Barrington, a tale of two sidewalks.” It’s something you’ll see more frequently in upcoming Argus features as we seek to engage readers in ways that aren’t often seen in local news.

Become a paid subscriber today.

Your support fuels deeply reported stories. And more.

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What I’ve learned from other journalists leading news experiments around the country is that the smaller the community and population, the more challenging it can be for the finances to “pencil out”—especially considering the ongoing cost of those magical Caribbean brainstorming sessions (whose photos have somehow not made it into our socials). In all seriousness: That’s why every paid subscription and one-time donation makes a difference.

If you can join today with a voluntary paid subscription, your support will make this work possible and ensure it’s available to all. But if it’s not currently in your budget, you can help enormously just by sharing this email—and links to Argus stories—with your networks.

I look forward to continuing and expanding this work to shine light on those stories that need telling, in full.

As always, my thanks for reading. Get in touch anytime.


P.S. In April, every new Founding Supporter (paid annually) will receive their choice of a Berkshire Argus mug or tote bag. Because seriously: What’s a newsmagazine without its own damn mug and/or tote bag? Both feature the Argus logo and our trademark modern-journalist’s credo, drawn from that long-ago column: “Will collect facts, investigate wrongdoing, and protect the public interest—for food.”