We are grateful for engagement with readers. It primarily comes from email, but for me engagement also happens while I’m shopping or at community events. It’s almost always positive.
The compliments often end with one thought: “I appreciate what you write, but I wish it was read by more people.” I chuckle at this because we are—by miles—the widest read print publication in the city and county.
Each month we print 83,000 copies of Inside Sacramento. More than 80,000 are mailed to homes in our readership area. The rest are distributed through newsstands.
A few months ago, I came across a ranking of the top 25 newspapers in the county by print circulation. No. 1 was The Wall Street Journal with 697,493 print copies. In second was The New York Times at 329,781. The Washington Post ranked fourth with 159,040 and Los Angeles Times sixth at 142,382.
As a free monthly, Inside Sacramento wasn’t included. But our 83,000 printed copies would have put us at No. 12 nationally, ahead of The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Chicago Sun-Times. The Bee, with a reported 37,454 print circulation, didn’t make the list.
So our fans need not worry about Inside Sacramento being widely read! Obviously, we don’t depend on paid print subscribers to fund our business. Most major newspapers survive on a combination of paid advertising and subscriptions. Both categories have plunged in the last decade, decimating print journalism.
We rely on small businesses to advertise in our pages to reach their best local audiences. They report there’s no better, cost-effective way to attract customers.
The pandemic threw a wrench into our business. As small businesses suffered from the uncertainty of extended lockdowns, so did Inside. Paper costs skyrocketed. We have to work smarter and look for cost savings just like every other small business.
As we celebrate our 27th year in print, I’m beyond proud of how we grew into this leadership position.
I started off humbly in 1996 with one neighborhood publication in East Sacramento and a print circulation of about 10,000. As our advertising dollars grew, we expanded circulation and mailing. We added editions in Land Park/Grid, Arden/Carmichael and Pocket/Greenhaven. While we expanded, The Bee lost readers, advertisers and staff, and went bankrupt.
We get our share of criticism. Occasionally I get emails from readers who disagree with some of our more hard-hitting articles. I appreciate feedback, positive and negative. I ask people to keep it reasonable, constructive or analytical.
Over the years we’ve had interesting relationships with local politicians. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many. Some are honorable, excellent public servants. Sadly, many more are self-centered, vindictive and partisan. And more interested in scoring political points than creating long-term solutions.
I can count numerous times local politicians told me our columns left out facts or didn’t report the whole story. My answer is always the same: Send us the facts and the other side of the story. How often do they follow through? Once that I can recall. His response was a statement of opinion with no new information to challenge what we published.
Many local politicians underestimate our ability to reach voters in our readership areas. And, some at their own peril.
Given the huge numbers we reach locally, we take our journalism seriously. We vet what we publish. Opinion pieces are fact-based and researched with credible sources. Our goal is to bring readers reasonable viewpoints based upon sound analysis. Some may disagree, which is fine.
What has changed in recent years is our focus on local problems, including criminality, homelessness and drug addiction, government waste and corruption, and the demise of local businesses.
Five years ago we only occasionally covered these issues. But as the quality of life in our neighborhoods declined, so did local media. We stepped up to provide readers with independent coverage and analysis not available elsewhere.
Some critics say we fear-monger and focus on the negative. But when a man is murdered while walking to a tennis club, we can’t pretend it didn’t happen.
One reader suggested we stop criticizing local elected officials and instead give them awards. That’s not our job. Part of our mission is to hold politicians responsible for their actions. With our quality of life in decline, the vast majority of readers expect and support our efforts to bring accountability to the City Council and County Board of Supervisors.
Inside isn’t all about political failures and tragic outcomes. Our pages are balanced with celebrations of the best of our community. Every issue profiles volunteers, interesting neighbors and small business success stories. Not to mention our coverage of Sacramento’s farm-to-fork movement, and arts and cultural scene.
Celebrating the good while also calling out misguided civic leadership is a model that serves our readers well. Please join us on this path and welcome the new year with Inside!
Here’s how you can support Inside’s mission. Visit insidesacramento.com/shop and sign up for our weekly newsletter. Also consider a paid membership starting at $19.95 a year. Every little bit helps us serve our community.
Cecily Hastings can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.