Dear Supporters –
It should go without saying but….
Without you, the Lexington Observer would not exist.
Thanks to you, I have the pleasure of sharing a summary of what the Observer accomplished in 2022 and what we’ve been up to (so far) in 2023. Over the course of 2022, the Lexington Observer:
- Published more than 170 originally reported stories.
- Published more than 114 community announcements.
- Doubled the size of our email list.
- Increased unique visitors to our website by almost 10x.
- Had more than 200 comments on our articles from Lexingtonians.
- Raised $68,976.09 from 506 donors – almost every single one of them Lexington residents – with an average gift of $135. This covered our operating expenses of $65,500.
- Built LexBudget.org to help residents understand and navigate the town budget (thanks to a grant from the Community Endowment of Lexington!).
It was only two short years ago that I started talking with some of my neighbors about our collective frustration with the lack of useful community news in Lexington. We all agreed that there was a need for something more – more informative, more reliable, more-in-depth that could keep residents more connected and engaged. A small group of us gathered together, including some professional journalists with national reputations, to determine whether we could fill that ill-defined void.
More than fifty one-on-one conversations and two zoom “town halls” later (greatly helped by the legendary Harry Forsdick; Lexington is lucky to have him), we put together a plan for the Lexington Observer. A handful of Lexington High School students pitched in as well, helping to choose the name and logo design. We were also lucky enough to stumble upon a talented young reporter, Sophie Culpepper, fresh out of Brown University. We offered her a job – she signed on – even though we had no idea how we were going to pay her.
A few other building blocks came into place soon after:
- We registered for a fiscal sponsorship and cobbled together initial funding;
- We chose a format for weekly email newsletter and used early editions to launch a crowd-funding campaign;
- And most importantly, you stepped up.
More than 160 Lexingtonians joined you in donating to the paper back in the fall of 2021, bringing in an impressive $40,000 to cover the costs of our operations for the first half of 2022. This gave us the runway to do even more:
- Apply for and receive 501c3 status in May of 2022;
- Apply for and receive our first two Foundation grants from the Community Endowment of Lexington and the Local Independent Online News Association;
- Build a new website and a better contribution system using Newspack.
The additional funding, along with our June 2022 summer fundraiser, enabled us to hire Erin Sandler-Rathe as managing editor. She, in turn, got to work launching several new features:
- Letters to the editor
- Community submissions
- Police blotter
- Holiday retail guide
Your continued support has allowed us to continue to grow and serve the community in increasingly different ways. Our top stories in 2022 included:
- Reflections on student stress at Lexington High
- Possible closure of the Lexington Venue movie theater
- Hiring of the new police chief
- Lexington’s participatory budgeting process
- Police shooting at Hancock Street
- Ongoing coverage on the gas-powered leaf blower referendum
- Ongoing reporting about the trial of Haoyang Yu
The results have been more than encouraging with reader comments like these:
“By far our best shot at the kind of journalism that is the glue to democracy and to community.”
“Consistently the highest quality news source in Lexington”
“Taking on the issues that matter most to residents.”
“Cutting edge, succinct, honest.”
The only real complaint readers registered came in this repeated line: “If only you had the resources to do more!”
We wholeheartedly agree.
Our readers have told us what we already knew: there are so many more stories we should cover, and so much more actionable information we should share to our residents.
With your support we can.
In the next two years, we want to branch out and to dig even deeper, capturing a broader array of voices, subjects, and perspectives. Sometimes we will act on our own, sometimes in partnership with larger news organizations when stories are rooted in Lexington but of interest beyond —like developments in science and medicine by local biotech companies, or questions about diversity in higher education that could impact our sizable academic community and aspiring youth. We are planning robust coverage of the 2024 elections from a local perspective.
We also hope to:
- continue our live discussion series with the Lexington Forum;
- launch a free reporting workshop for anyone interested in contributing to LexObserver;
- host other events to help strengthen civic life here in Lexington.
We want to do all of this while still maintaining our focus on the fundamentals we’ve become known for covering, like education, housing, environment, and local governance.
Please consider making a donation today – you can give online here. All of your contributions are tax-deductible, and your support directly sustains our credible, community-based, public-service journalism for Lexington, Massachusetts.
In the first half of 2023, we’ve reported on dozens of stories that matter to our community in subjects ranging from local government, to education, housing, the transition to green energy, plus our popular weekly police blotter, nature column, and soon to be launched real estate deals section. These are just a few of the recent stories we’re proud of bringing to you:
- Understanding what’s at stake in the debate over the Tracer Lane Solar Project
- Regular updates on the case of a Lexington resident convicted of stealing trade secrets in a case marred by racial bias
- Extensive coverage of Town Meeting, including in-depth reporting on the multi-family housing plan, a solar canopy for the new police station, the synthetic turf renovation for Lincoln Field, and more
- Feel-good stories that help us get to know our community, like this story about Omar Masood, owner of Omar’s World of Comics, or this interview with Salvador Jaramillo, the youngest member of Town Meeting
Your support today means we can continue to report on what’s happening in Lexington – and continue to build a stronger, more informed community.