John Bebow is president and CEO of the Center for Michigan and Bridge Magazine
We at Bridge can’t say those words often enough. To readers. To individual donors. To philanthropy. Thank you.
Because of all of you, Bridge continues to expand statewide, nonprofit, in-depth news delivery at a time when credible civic information has never been more important.
Because of all of you, Bridge now has 14 experienced staff journalists and a growing roster of freelance reporters and photographers who develop and deliver new editions each day.
Striving to serve Michigan throughout the crisis
The Bridge staff continues to track county-by-county caseloads and Michigan’s testing capacity every day while providing the latest news and analysis on public health orders, unemployment and the state’s economic prospects, and what our shared future may look like.
We just launched a new section, Bridge Business Watch, to help employers and workers navigate the long path to recovery out of the coronavirus shutdown. And we are ramping up a new, editorially independent BridgeDetroit public engagement and community information service.
Your readership is overwhelming – as are newspapers’ struggles
In response, Michigan has turned to Bridge like never before. We’ve seen a ten-fold increase in readership. In digital publishing parlance, 6 million “users” have consumed Bridge content since March 10.
We share all this with no hubris, only deepest gratitude for Bridge’s financial supporters and concern for our friends and colleagues in traditional newsrooms.
Last year, the American Journalism Project declared: “Market forces are failing local news, and as a result our democracy is at risk. At the center of this storm is the economic crisis faced by newspapers, which have lost roughly half their revenue since the Great Recession. There is no American industry of such combined size and civic importance that has endured such an economically devastating decade.”
Then COVID-19 rapidly evaporated much of what was left of newspaper advertising. Some newspapers have shuttered while Michigan’s largest for-profit news operations, including MLive and the Detroit Free Press, announced more cutbacks and furloughs.
How Bridge endures
Bridge continues to expand thanks wholly to you – readers, individual donors, and philanthropists. Bridge’s daily mission: We must lay it all on the line now. Every Michigan household, it seems, needs vital news and information more than ever to navigate COVID-19’s drastic health, civic and economic disruptions.
Since launch in 2011, Bridge has grown because of Michigan’s generosity. Corporations and foundations supporting Bridge from 2016-20 are listed on our About page. They include some of the leading philanthropies in Michigan and the Midwest, like the W.K. Kellogg, Kresge, C.S. Mott, Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow, Frey, Joyce, Americana, Glassen and Grand Rapids Community foundations. And our founders (the Power family). And corporate supporters like Meijer, Amway, Masco, CMS Energy, Bosch and Facebook.
Bridge was poised for COVID-19 coverage because we launched Michigan Health Watch last year with sponsorship from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Flinn Foundation, Michigan Association of Health Plans, and Michigan Health and Hospital Association. Likewise, Bridge Business Watch is made possible by sponsorship from the DTE Energy Foundation and Delta Dental of Michigan.
The BridgeDetroit project launches in May with support from the Knight, Ford, Hudson-Webber, McGregor, and Wilson foundations and Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan - all of whom also support statewide Bridge.
Foundations and corporations are investing in the civic good of in-depth journalism. They do so with no expectation or ability to impact Bridge’s editorial independence. To fully realize its public service potential, Bridge will continue to need philanthropic support for years to come – more so than ever as our civic newsgathering obligations continue to grow.
Why every reader donation matters
Even more important, over the long term, is reader support. We offer deepest thanks to the 1,400 new individual donors who, in the past month, even during this financially perilous time, have joined our membership program. More than 5,000 readers now financially support Bridge.
Reader support directly funds the Bridge journalism you read every day. Every reader donation in any amount matters a great deal. Our philanthropic supporters rightfully expect us to increasingly rely on direct public support.
Our team is so grateful for the opportunity to inform Michigan in these difficult times. I wish every Bridge reader and funder could join Bridge’s staff conference call each morning. I wish you all could hear the passion, work ethic, experience, curiosity, analysis, diversity of perspective, teamwork and Michigan-rooted investment Bridge reporters and editors bring to work every day.
They couldn’t do it without YOU!