Investigative Post celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022. I anticipated the year would include a fair amount of introspection, but aside from a column I wrote in February and a podcast we posted earlier this week, we were too busy with the present to reflect much on the past.
That’s a good thing, because 2022 was our busiest year yet. Head-spinning at times, but all good.
We turned over three-quarters of our reporting staff and this summer brought on board J. Dale Shoemaker, I’Jaz Ja’ciel and Garrett Looker. In doing so we improved our staff diversity and bolstered our capacity for data-based reporting and video and audio production. Meanwhile, Geoff Kelly continued to anchor our staff. His combination of reporting and writing skills and institutional knowledge is as good as any journalist in the market.
The work of these reporters, along with the departed Mark Scheer and Layne Dowdall, resulted in no fewer than 216 pieces of content. There were investigations, of course, as well as follow-up stories, shorter enterprise pieces we refer to in-house as “DailyPosts,” and the reintroduction of podcasts that feature video as well as audio versions, thanks to Garrett’s talents.
Some of our best reporting involved enterprise stories by Dale and Mark on various aspects of the Bills’ proposed stadium; we explored issues that were otherwise largely ignored by most other local news outlets, such as the stadium’s uninspired design and the considerable cost to taxpayers of hosting the team. Dale also produced a number of stories documenting the subsidies doled out to corporations in the name of economic development. (I mean, did Amazon really need a handout?)
Geoff did a yeoman’s job reporting on racism in the ranks of Buffalo police, a curious alliance the Roswell Park Cancer Institute has with a Russian oligarch and the ineptitude that permeates City Hall.
Layne continued her in-depth reporting on the struggles of Buffalo public schools and documented that Buffalo is cutting down trees at twice the rate it’s planting them.
I’Jaz was the first reporter to join our urban affairs team, which we established over the summer. Her work includes stories on Buffalo’s sky-high eviction rate and City Hall’s shocking indifference and incompetency involving an eyesore of a property on the West Side.
All this reminds me: We’ve got an online poll I’d like you to take, if you haven’t already, to choose our top story of 2022. Here’s the link. Hurry, as the poll closes Friday.
Our website traffic grew this year by 25 percent, at a time when most news websites have been losing audience. I attribute the growth to us publishing more frequently. A redesigned website we launched in September didn’t hurt.
Reader interest grew in WeeklyPost, our email newsletter sent Sunday mornings. The percentage of recipients opening WeeklyPost doubled over the past year to 60 percent. Of late, the “open rate” has approached 80 percent some weeks. The industry standard is about 30 percent. (You can subscribe here.)
We continued our successful partnership with WGRZ, 2 On Your Side.
We won the libel lawsuit filed against us several years ago. (Kudos to our attorneys, Joe Finnerty and Karim Abdulla.)
Thanks to Savarino Companies, our office was renovated. That construction, coupled with a reconfiguration of office furniture, expanded the capacity of our main newsroom from four to 12 people. (I plan to fill all the seats in due time, donor support willing.)
We developed a blueprint for our All In Media (AIM) program, intended to promote the development of journalists of color, and pitched it to a dozen local foundations. (Implementation comes next year.)
On the business side, we project raising $634,000 this year, up from $545,000 in 2021.
We launched an aggressive digital marketing and direct mail campaign aimed at making more people aware of Investigative Post and encouraging donations.
There was one unfortunate development. Nancy Webb, our beloved director of development and administration, is moving with her husband to Indianapolis. She was the glue that kept our office in order and will be missed.
Donate to support our nonprofit newsroom. Contributions of up to $1,000 made by Dec. 31 will be matched.
Looking forward to 2023, we have a new development director and administrative assistant joining us, with a mission of raising $800,000 for the coming year. We’ll make a formal announcement with details shortly.
In addition to raising more revenue, we’ll focus on growing traffic to our website and improving our engagement with readers. Early in the year we’ll introduce push notifications and text alerts for readers who want a real-time heads-up when we publish fresh content. We’ll also expand our presence on social media and build off our digital and direct mail efforts of 2022.
Last, and not least, we hope to add a quarterly print edition, a prospect that makes newspaper hacks like Geoff and me very happy.
We’ll add a reporter the first quarter of the year to cover criminal justice, thus rounding out our urban affairs team. That will give us the largest reporting staff we’ve had in our 10-year history, and it’s not out of the question we’ll add another before 2023 is out.
We’ve begun laying the groundwork for a number of major investigations for the coming year, which you’ll find on our website and on Channel 2. We expect another high-impact year.
We plan to implement the first phase of our AIM program in the fall, introducing journalism as a career option to city high school students and employing college interns to learn the craft.
And finally, with Covid under control — more or less — we’ll resume our event series, hopefully the first quarter of the year. (Sportsmen’s Tavern, here we come!)
Of course, making all this a reality depends on us raising the necessary funds — $800,000 worth. As a nonprofit, we rely on community support to fund our work. Our annual campaign closes out the end of this week, so please consider making a donation, if you haven’t already.
Donations of up to $1,000 made by Dec. 31 — that’s midnight Saturday — will be matched by a consortium that includes NewsMatch. Come on, double your money!
Donors who contribute at least $250 will receive an Investigative Post t-shirt designed by noted local artist Michael Morgulis, of New Buffalo Graphics fame. Contribute at least $500 and you’ll receive a new cartoon drawn exclusively for us by Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Toles. For a $1,000 donation, he’ll autograph it with a personal salutation.
You can donate online or by mailing a check to 487 Main St., Suite 300, Buffalo, NY 14203.
So, that’s my report. I’m proud of the independent, high-quality, high-impact reporting we continue to produce. We’re making a difference, and with your support, we’ll continue to do so. Unlike a lot of news outlets, our best days are ahead of us.