For-Profit Company Paying CEO $4.5 Million Seeks Donations

Was I the only one who had to pinch himself and squeal to know it was for real when reading that the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle was seeking donations to support its local reporting (Dec. 13)? 

Hey, I’m sympathetic. Digitalization has been a tough transition for traditional newspapers. They are losing revenue. Reporters are losing their jobs. And especially in this era when lies masquerade as truth at the highest levels of government, we need good reporting—like this story about our mayor in today’s paper. 

If the D&C needs new ways to generate revenue, well, the donation model has worked for the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio. But it’s a tough transition for the commercial, for-profit media to make. For one thing, PBS and NPR already own that lane. Is it wide enough to support others? More to the point, who will give to a for-profit company that’s based out of town (in this case, the McLean, Va.-based Gannett Co., Inc.), has a reputation for taking sometimes ruthless leadership cues from the finance team, and last year reportedly presented its CEO with a $4.5 million annual compensation package?

Prospective donors might wonder, have they asked their CEO to give? Subscribers might ask why they now face the double jeopardy of also making donations. Readers might ask whether or not they can trust the D&C to actually turnaround its decades long trend of cutting back on local reporting, donations or no donations. 

What it comes down to is that the D&C needs more than what it gets from subscriptions, advertising, obituary listing fees—and donations from its CEO. That costs are rising has been evident for years as I watched my subscription price grow from $174.20 in 1999 to a proposed $500-plus in 2018. That proposal spurred me to discover that the annual subscription price quoted on the D&C web site was less than what they asked of me, a loyal subscriber of many years. 

It was as if they viewed me as a sucker. 

I still value the D&C, but there are a lot of good reasons to not donate to them. I’d be more inclined to donate to local reporters who are managed locally with limited overhead and a knack for matching the budget with local reporting needs. 

But with Trump still soliciting (and getting!) campaign donations more than a month after the election ended, perhaps the timing is right for dubious donation pleas. So if you’d like to help out a for-profit company that pays its CEO $4.5 million a year, here’s the donation link: https://bit.ly/37e6iG9.

On the other hand, if you really want to do something good for the local community, you could give that money instead to Foodlink, which applies 96 cents of every dollar donated directly to food-related programs supporting the area’s hungry. Or if you are itching to support local reporters who are managed locally, you could give to WXXI, our local PBS and NPR affiliate. (Full disclosure: I have relatives who work there.) 

Really, if you’ve got money to donate, there are a lot of good alternatives.

The photo at the top of the page is by FOTO:FORTEPAN / Magyar Hírek folyóirat, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51007835