The top stories of the past year and a thank-you to everyone who made it possible to continue our work.
By Matt Skoufalos | December 31, 2018
If you’ve come to read NJ Pen in the last 12 months, thank you and welcome. Some of you may be new to us, but our data tells us that 353,317 of you checked in with us this year.
For an independent local news website covering nine towns in South Jersey, that’s a healthy number. It reflects a figure comparable to the population of the surrounding region. It shows us that we’re having an impact in the communities we serve.
Those 350,000 of you who read NJ Pen in 2018 looked at pages on our site nearly 1.4 million times. Ten percent of that traffic came from people who were simply doing a web search for something we’d written about.
In 2018, 60 percent of our readers were new to the site, which shows us that the audience for our work continues to grow almost five full years into the job.
Most of that work is being subsidized by a fraction of the people who’ve read or otherwise benefited from it. Although there is no paywall restricting access to the unique flavor of journalism provided here, it does demand full-time labor to produce.
In the past, much of that would have been subsidized by advertising dollars. We are fortunate to provide those services to a handful of high-quality, supportive, local small businesses—and thank you to all our loyal advertisers for supporting this work! But in 2018, and going into 2019, it won’t be enough to fund the entirety of our news operation.
NJ Pen was begun in part as a public service to the communities it covers. It is among our core values to provide useful information to the general public in the interest of civic engagement and awareness. We think better informed communities are stronger communities. We wanted to keep our information free, the better to keep it freely read.
But to date, only 140 of our 353,000 readers have opted to support our work in this model. That’s 0.04 percent. And we’d love to be able to continue in this fashion, but without greater contributions, it’s simply impossible.
We ask for $8.99 a month from our readers in an ongoing contribution (three months for $25). That’s about the price of a lunch. Enough lunches pay for rent, gas, phone bills, and the cost of bringing you reliable information about the place where you live.
If you’ve been a reader in the past year, please throw a few bills in the guitar case. It means more than you can imagine. Thanks.
Sometimes the biggest news of the day doesn’t travel the farthest or take the most amount of time to produce; sometimes the most exhaustively researched stories don’t make the deepest impact. But in 2018, the biggest stories that NJ Pen broke traveled far beyond our Camden County coverage area. Likewise, many of our readers may be unfamiliar with some of the new features we’ve introduced in-house. Here’s a handful of hits from past year.
Police and Fire
The work done by local emergency services personnel has often comprised the bulk of our breaking news reports, from significant arrests and prosecutions to the efforts of first responders in moments of tragedy. In 2018, that was true again, as police and fire news led our local coverage efforts with 68 stories. Here are the highlights.
Small business has always been a coverage focus at NJ Pen because its impact reverberates far beyond brick-and-mortar walls and into community life.
In 2018, we produced 57 such stories, introducing readers to 27 new local businesses, and notifying them of the closings of 10 others. That alone is often a reason many readers tell us they follow our work, but in addition, we’ve tracked trends in economies beyond the borders of our downtown shopping districts.
From elections coverage to policy action, we produced 42 stories on local government in 2018. Keeping an eye on the mechanisms of power and civics in the information age is an ongoing process, and not all the work happens within the confines of public meetings. NJ Pen has endeavored to bring you closer to the people behind the decisions from both sides of the voting booth. Here’s some highlights from the past calendar year.
Local school coverage often doesn’t catch the notice of readers without children in the district until there’s a bond referendum or some other controversial item of interest. Nonetheless, public schools are often the sites at which a variety of community concerns intersect, and keeping an eye on their activities is part of the work we do.
In addition to being one of the only sources of school board candidate voting information, NJ Pen produced 25 stories about the districts in our coverage area in 2018. Here are a few of the highlights.
The “people” category is often a catch-all for our human interest news, which can be far-ranging in subject matter. From remembrances of lost neighbors to solutions-oriented public policies, we delivered 23 such stories in 2018. Here’s some of the most-read among them.
Local arts and artistry are among the least frequently covered topics in our coverage area, owing only to the limitations of our staffing. Yet in 2018, NJ Pen uncovered a handful of significant storylines among the local creative culture in South Jersey. Here’s a sampling.
NJ Pen very infrequently offers editorial commentary on the events of the day, but is always welcoming of well-considered opinions and letters to the editor. We also have been fortunate to be able to publish the work of a handful of guest writers in 2018. Here’s a collection of the best essays and guest contributions from the past year.
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