By John Derr
Some of you may be surprised to have a print version of the Chestnut Hill Local in your hands this week. I have received more than a few messages from people asking if the Local will still be printing a newspaper. Of course we will!
A newspaper is recognized as an essential service. And even if it weren’t, we would find a way to continue to bring you the news specific to your neighborhood. We will do everything we can to continue to inform and support our community. But, like a lot of other small businesses, we now find ourselves in the financial fight of our lives. Keeping a newspaper going is a fiscally challenging prospect under the best circumstances. Add a pandemic into the mix, and, well, I don’t even have to finish this sentence.
For the past 62 years, the Local has been the chronicler of life on the Hill and the neighborhoods of Northwest Philadelphia. The newspaper serves as the historian of the lives of its people and the times of their lives. Past copies exist in bound books in our Town Hall office and at the Chestnut Hill Conservancy, each issue a snapshot of the prominent personalities, events and issues existing in that moment.
For years the Local has struggled to make ends meet, but over the past year, we have been on an excellent trajectory. Advertising revenue in 2019 was up considerably over the prior year. This year, we worked to create a new membership strategy with the CHCA to create a more favorable allocation to Local for each subscription. And we are working on promising plans to grow our distribution, not only in Chestnut Hill, but in neighboring communities. This was shaping up to be a desperately needed good year for the Local.
We are working hard to make sure the Local is not a fatality of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are exploring every avenue available. We know we are not the only ones in this position, and we will do everything we can to help others who are. If you would like to help us out in any way, you can contribute to the Local through the Chestnut Hill Community Fund.
The CHCF has created an emergency fund for the Local. Checks can be made out to CHCF and sent to CHCF Local Emergency Fund, 8434 Germantown Avenue, Phila. PA 19118. There is now a GoFundMe page to contribute to this effort.
We will do whatever we can to survive and while we are doing that, we will continue to fulfill our mission, which is to inform our community and to promote local business. When the COVID-19 crisis began, we created a landing page, sponsored by Chestnut Hill Hospital, on chestnuthillocal.com that is regularly updated with news and stories to help families make informed decisions.
We are putting more papers out on the street and producing stories that provide you with a local perspective you won’t find anywhere else. In today’s Chill Local section you will see ads from more than 30 local restaurants which we have offered to run at no charge in an effort to support them through this difficult time. And when other local businesses are permitted to reopen, we will try to do the same for them.
A dedicated staff is champing at the bit to get in the office despite my best effort to keep them away as much as possible. We are working through the difficult logistics of working remotely when necessary despite outdated computers and software. We are committed to getting the Local into your hands every week, especially now.
It’s a difficult thing to ask for help when so many others are also in need. I do it with great reluctance. However, I do it knowing that on the other side of this terrible time, the Chestnut Hill Local will be a central figure in helping the community and its businesses recover.