ITHACA, N.Y. – The Ithaca Voice is celebrating its second birthday this week and we have a big announcement to make.

In our first public entry, former editor and founder Jeff Stein wrote:

“Our business model centers on selling valuable sponsorships to Ithaca-area businesses searching for effective ways to reach large numbers of local customers.

To make that possible, we are going to produce a website — updated more than once a day — that earns its readership. If we fail, it will be because we don’t generate the stories most relevant to your life.

The Voice will thus work to report on stories that are in-depth, enlightening, engaging and — above all — local.”

My, how far we’ve come!

We’re definitely publishing stories more than once a day. And judging by the fact that people visit our site, on average, more than half a million times per month, it seems like we are keeping readers engaged. But our business model is evolving, in part, because of the outpouring of support from the community and the things our readers tell us they want more of.

That’s why we are launching our reader membership program, an optional donation platform with several tiers, offering readers a means to support The Voice.

(Check out the member donor levels below.)

http://ithacavoice.wpengine.com/membership/

Notice the word optional. All of The Ithaca Voice content is and always will be free. We believe that one’s financial means should not dictate whether he or she is informed about their community. You will never have to pay to read news.

But if enough people chip in, we can definitely provide the community with an increase of the quantity and quality of our news, something we always strive to do. It also lets us change up not just what kind of news we get out to the community, but how we get the news out to you.

Your donations will help support the following initiatives:

The Ithaca Voice events and panels
In-depth freelance projects about the community
A full-time look at development in this community AND how it impacts the people who live here
Keeping quality reporters at The Ithaca Voice
Upgrade our website: No more crashes, no more host errors

We are grateful to anyone who supports The Voice in any capacity, whether it’s becoming a member, sharing a story on Facebook or answering a call from a reporter at 10 p.m. on election night.

Thank you for making another amazing year happen. Your voice is here.

Sincerely,

Mike Blaney | Executive Director

Jolene Almendarez | Managing Editor

Benjamin Torrey | Video Manager

Michael Smith | Reporter

Jennifer Wholey | Dining/Restaurant Editor


The Ithaca Voice events and panels

This is first and foremost one of the most exciting things we hope to do with membership funds – host public panels, live streams and events for the community.

When we interviewed Mayor Svante Myrick about The Ithaca Plan in a live stream in March, more than 800 people tuned in to the broadcast. The interview was watched more than 1,400 times on our Facebook page. And all the questions were from our readers.

The viewership was pretty astounding for us. We definitely didn’t expect that many people to watch our first live broadcast. It’s not the first time we have seen people in Ithaca and Tompkins County show huge numbers when it comes down to having their voices heard.

At the first public opioid panel last fall, a room at the Tompkins County Public Library attracted more than 50 people for a panel discussion about opioid treatment. Again, the questions asked about treatment and addiction were from the community.

Readers have shown us that this is the kind of thing you want to see more.

We can’t wait to oblige.

In-depth freelance projects about the community


Remember the 10-part series about veterans in Tompkins County? Or the five-part series on Homelessness in Ithaca? The comprehensive coverage of The Ithaca Plan? A look at issues facing West Village residents? Wall-to-wall coverage of lead tainted water in public schools? Prostitution happening in Ithaca?

We want to give you more of those kinds of stories. A lot more.

Our plan is to hire a few freelancers a year to take on series pieces. Our full-time reporters do pick up larger projects, but the process of producing long-form journalism on top of daily assignments can be slow.

Having freelancers on-board to tackle one big issue at a time is the best way to get you the information you deserve about your community.

A full-time look at development in this community AND how it impacts the people who live here

Ithaca is constantly changing.

New building projects are going up and old ones are falling by the wayside. If you follow the work of our contributor Brian Crandall, you already know the details of all the latest construction in town. (Brian Crandall, by the way, is a freelance contributor who maintains a full-time job in Albany.)

But what we seldom have time to report is how new development projects impact the people in Tompkins County and what these major projects do to our economy.

There is a stark divide in economic equity here in Tompkins County. We refer to it as the townies and the gownies. That divide and what people are doing to close the gap deserves more attention by The Voice.

And the basic fact is that the more reporters we have, the more we can help shed light on these kinds of issues. That’s why we want to bring on another full-time reporter within the next year.

Keeping quality reporters at The Ithaca Voice

Nobody works at a non-profit news organization to get rich. Nearly every person who works here left a previous job and took a pay cut to make The Voice happen.

And we have no regrets.

But with most of us working long hours and side gigs or freelance opportunities to help make ends meet, something has got to give. Burnout is real.

We modestly want to provide The Ithaca Voice workers with healthcare options and, eventually, a Tompkins County living wage of $14.34 per hour. This helps ensure that all of us at The Voice can afford to keep living in area, allowing us to build institutional knowledge of the community.

We want to commit to being a part of The Voice for the long haul.

Upgrade our website: No more crashes, no more host errors


If you read The Voice regularly, you have definitely seen this message while trying to access content:

It is the bane of our existence and more than a minor barrier to getting you the most important news of the day.

With extra funds, we hope to update our website to be able to handle larger readerships (one of the causes of website crashes) and more reliable access so you can get the news you need when you need it.

Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.