If I had stayed in Washington, I’m not sure if I would still have a job this Christmas. 

CNN, like more and more newsrooms we keep hearing about, announced a series of layoffs after Election Day and before the holidays.

I feel horrible for my former colleagues and others like them at places like The Washington Post, who are facing down weeks of holiday celebrations with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads and Jan. 1 bills they may not know how they’re going to pay.

Across the country and even in the state of Texas, hardworking news staffs have gone on strike to convince their owners to pay them a living wage in the ever-more-expensive cities they’re tasked with covering. This industry — long made up of for-profit ventures enriching magnates at the top of major media companies at the expense of reporters, producers and unpaid interns — is facing a reckoning for what feels like about the twentieth time.

Closer to home, far too many San Antonians are drowning in debt or living paycheck-to-paycheck just to raise their families. Heading into 2023, we face a potential recession as well as historic inflation, and growing cost-of-living challenges have reached even the traditionally most affordable U.S. cities.

This is a moment in which we need journalists.

Why? Because as a community, the stories we tell each other matter. A “Where I Live” about a woman who moved into her grandparents’ former home in Denver Heights. Dueling commentaries for and against San Antonio’s horse-drawn carriage industry. A news story by senior arts and culture reporter Nicholas Frank on the county funding that unexpectedly came through for the fledgling San Antonio Philharmonic. A look by senior social issues reporter Iris Dimmick at a devastatingly large increase in homeless deaths this year — and experts’ explanations for why, and how we can work together to turn the tide.

For our nonprofit newsroom to tell these stories well and make them available for everyone in our community to read is not just our job — it is our responsibility.

This month, we finished a listening tour that took us to areas of our community we don’t currently reach well enough on the East Side, West Side and South Side of town, as well as the areas where San Antonio’s sprawl has reached the edge of the Hill Country.

What we heard loud and clear from our community is that they are desperate for reliable, well-done news coverage. They hear enough about crime and tragedy. They’re sick of news outlets repeating stereotypes about communities of color. In the absence of local news about their specific neighborhoods, they turn to social media or NextDoor to find out what’s going on. Sometimes they’re not sure who to trust. 

What they want more of is hope. Stories about entrepreneurs solving problems in their communities, small businesses that do things differently and large companies that focus on giving back. They also value the watchdog function of news, holding our governments, businesses and leaders to account. 

The barriers that stand against information equity are formidable: A household decision-maker who is working two jobs to pay the bills doesn’t always have time to read about what’s happening in their local school district, or they don’t always know where to look. And if they miss a story on something relevant to their life on Tuesday, will they be able to find it on Thursday? By the time they read about an educational opportunity in STEM or marching band for their student, will the deadline to sign up already have passed?

This is where the San Antonio Report comes in. In the years to come, we are going to work harder than ever to earn your time and trust, providing news coverage and perspectives you won’t find anywhere else in a way that is *useful* for this community. And I consider it my job, along with our newsroom and business team, to more intentionally and equitably reach audiences in our community that reflect the demographic makeup of the city.

It’s not good enough for us to put a story up on our website, then say, “Well, we wrote about it, why didn’t you see it?” It is the role of local news outlets — and especially nonprofit newsrooms like ours — to connect our daily coverage with the readers who most need to hear about it. 

That’s a tall order. But we are dedicated to getting it right.

From a staffing perspective, it’s nothing less than a miracle that our small nonprofit newsroom employs 21 journalists and nonprofit professionals while the industry hemorrhages workers whose only crime was being in the wrong newsroom at the wrong time. 

Journalism is in desperate need of a business model that works, and I’m more convinced than ever that nonprofit news is the future. Local news is the future. We exist to serve you, the community, by bringing our very best selves to this work every day.

And we can’t do that without your buy-in.

As you’ve probably noticed, we’re in the midst of our end-of-year fundraising campaign. All the money raised goes directly to support our newsroom’s work, which is what makes us different than for-profit companies desperately trying to make an outdated business model work, no matter the human cost. 

If you’re already a member of the San Antonio Report, thank you. Your donation helps us continue to provide quality journalism for the San Antonio community.

We understand that not everyone can afford to become a member of the San Antonio Report right now. If you can’t, keep reading. Keep sharing stories with your neighbors, family and friends. We’re glad to have you. 

But this holiday season, if you can afford to give and you believe me when I say we will earn it, consider giving a monthly gift for 2023. Maybe that looks like $100, $50 or even $10 a month. (If you can pay for Netflix, you can pay for news!) These monthly gifts are crucial for our ability to plan and budget, so they’re the most valuable type of gift an individual member can give.

Then, tell me how we’re doing. In the year and a month I’ve been in San Antonio, I’ve heard lots of feedback: Most good, some bad and some incredibly helpful. And I’m listening. If you decide to become a member this holiday season, send me an email at leigh@sareport.org — I want to thank you personally. 

My holidays this year could have looked very different, and believe me, I am aware just how lucky I am to be here. So thank you, San Antonio, for a first year I’ll never forget. Thank you for being the soft place to land I didn’t know I needed.

Thank you for being even better than I expected. Cheers to 2023.