the season's tithing


A few weeks ago, a colleague and I sat my office debating whether or not the state of the economy affected us. Both gainfully employed, well educated and well traveled, we surmised that no, Wall Street had nothing to do with the way we lived our daily lives. Although we conceded that was perhaps an elitist attitude, we both consider ourselves the sort of people who have seen real suffering in the world. We don't really pay much mind to money or its accumulation, and if push were to come to shove, neither of us has any qualms about shoveling shit to feed the family.

Today we're singing a slightly different tune.

Last week, BW publisher Sally Freeman convened the regular staff meeting to make a brief announcement. She asked the entire staff to forfeit 10 percent of their wages in order to assure the continued viability of Idaho's only alternative paper.

Managers, like myself, were asked to give up more. Suddenly, my colleague and I found ourselves floating within the boundaries of the economy's ripple effect.

I share this news with BW's readers for two reasons. First, it's always better to hear news like this from the horse's mouth. Rather than quell rumors, all of us at BW think it's prudent to be as honest as possible about our situation. After all, we're doing better than most. Last week thousands in the news industry lost their jobs and today, Tribune Co., which runs two of the nation's largest newspapers--the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times--sought bankruptcy protection. Boise Weekly is hardly in such a dire financial situation.

Second, I share this news to illustrate a larger point. People often ask if working at BW is a paid gig. I think the perception is that a free paper must not generate enough revenue to pay its employees. It is a paying gig. While it may not be a gig that's as well paying today as it was before last Friday, I can honestly say I don't much care. Can BW sustain a viable business model without money? Of course not. Can I sustain my lifestyle without a monthly infusion of cash? Of course not. But am I willing to put a little less dough in my pocket every month in order to see a concept I believe in sustain through an economic slump? Yep.

After having met with each of the editorial staff members individually in the wake of this news, I can say proudly that we're all at BW for something other than the paycheck. Not only did some of the staff offer to give more than 10 percent of their salaries, but the general consensus was that they were happy to sacrifice for the greater good.

So we go into the holiday season with tighter belts, and for some of us, we learn how to really budget. It helps that we're an optimistic bunch. We really believe in what we're doing and we know that our readers do, too.