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Display Graphic linking to the Greylock Glass COVID-19 Local News Fund page.

Community storytelling as an antidote to the onslaught of alarming information

Longtime readers and listeners know that the Greylock Glass gets its name, primarily, from the phrase “looking glass,” which was another word for “mirror” at least as recently as the day a little girl fell through one and landed in Wonderland. I suppose I could have been sane and just named our online newsthing the Berkshire Mirror, but I don’t really do sanity. Longtime readers know that, too. Mad as a box of frogs.

But whatever you think of the name, you can’t help but browse through our reportage and realize that what we do best is reflect. I have always wanted our audience to see themselves and their community represented accurately, with a richness and depth only attainable through superior craftsmanship and regular, reverent polishing.

Robin Catalano kicked off our series “The Local Lens” with an interview with Jess Rufo, owner of Dottie’s Coffee Lounge in Pittsfield. The Local Lens will investigate the impact of national and global issues on our own home towns. COVID-19 was the obvious frontrunner topic. Jess talked to the Glass about how Dottie’s was trying to survive the crisis in terms that were so authentic and personal, you’d have a good feel for her even if you’d never met the woman. The minute Robin filed the story, I knew it was a perfect example of the kind of quality reflection we strive to present. Throughout the day, I’ve hit “refresh” now and again and watched the numbers of story views go up and up and up. When it blew past 500 hits in just a few hours, I realized just how much this story mattered to you.

Dottie’s is part of your life, and amid the more immediate fears unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic are nagging anxieties like, “Normal is getting a latte and a breakfast sandwich at Dottie’s on Thursday mornings. Normal is sitting in the upper deck by the window and watching the world go by, hoping a friend will walk past and make me smile. Normal is saying hi to Jess, maybe with her baby boy on her hip, and knowing that when she asks how I’ve been, she actually, honest to goodness wants to know. Fer reals.”

Display Graphic linking to the Greylock Glass COVID-19 Local News Fund page.

And then you realize just how far all of us have drifted from that coffee and sandwich and seat by the window and a tear slides down your check and you ask yourself, “When the fuck is normal coming back? Can’t anybody tell me? Please?” And because I know my audience, I can just about guarantee that you also thought about Jess and her family with a compassion and concern you can only feel for the folks who help you understand who you are by letting you connect with the honest version of who they are.

We’re going to continue telling these stories, though they take a bit of an emotional toll in the telling. Those of you who’ve been with us a while know that the editor of this rag has a jelly center underneath his gnarled crust of an exterior. Spending a tear or two on a piece that gives us a little hope, elevates our humanity a little, is worth it. The stories cost in other ways, too, of course.

I remember a conversation I had a couple years back with Tony, a producer from WGBY. He commented something along the lines of, “I can’t believe your investors let you get away with some of the content you’ve published at the Greylock Glass.” I laughed. “Well, I can get away with it because, with the exception of my darling, long-suffering wife, I don’t have any investors.”

You’d have thought I’d just pointed out a second moon in the sky he’d never noticed. “Wait…what? You’ve got…you’ve produced hundreds of articles and podcasts…How the hell are you doing it?”

My answer was then as it remains to this day: the generosity of volunteer journalists. The generosity of a couple dozen donors who give, on average, $5 per month. And the occasional institutional sponsor sent by heaven above right about the time an unavoidable, pulse-quickening expense or bill threatens to destabilize my finances.

No investors. No endowment. No Daddy Warbucks. Mostly just willpower and a naïve faith in the power of local journalism to help make our community a more vibrant, livable home.

But the Greylock Glass HAS had allies, I’m grateful to say. Very early on, the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers took the Glass under their wing. Their constant faith in our mission, mentoring, guidance, and assistance in applying for grants has been unwavering. More recently we became one of the first newsrooms accepted into the CIVIL Media network of trusted journalism organizations. They, too, have gone above and beyond, attempting to help us find a path to financial sustainability.

Display Graphic linking to the Greylock Glass COVID-19 Local News Fund page.

Now, just this week, I’m excited to announce the introduction of our Greylock Glass – COVID-19 Local News Fund. We’ve partnered with a wonderful nonprofit, the Local Media Foundation, a Section 501(c)(3) organization, to allow you the opportunity to support our mission while also receiving the TAX BENEFIT* of contributing to a charity.

You read that right: You can make TAX-DEDUCTIBLE*, charitable donations to our cause. 

This is really huge. While the Glass isn’t a non-profit, the Local Media Foundation acts as our sponsor, channeling your gifts to us in ways that may* help you out at tax time. We have some neighbor newspapers taking part in this very cool arrangement, too, so if your regular source of news is the Greenfield Recorder, for example, you can choose to support them in addition to or in place of us — no hard feelings on our end. 

This program is NOT intended to last forever, however. It may terminate before summer gets here. Also, the funding opportunity is only meant to assist local news organizations in their reporting on the local impact of COVID-19. I want to be very clear that this a chance for you to support our work above and beyond any membership rates or contributions you already send our way (or might in the future!).

So, think about about what our intimate, up-close-and-personal journalism has meant to you these last five years. Our podcast interviews with local personalities and visiting celebs. The in-depth reporting on issues and the entertaining episodes featuring new music you won’t hear almost anywhere else. Our willingness to do unbiased election coverage as well as to hold the powerful to account. 

And please — understand that we can do so much more. Right now, there are three writers who have expressed interest in writing for the Glass who could really use the work. The whole point of this program is to generate the revenue to KEEP WRITERS WRITING! Maybe they’ll have found other gainful employ by the time I e-mail them with the good news that I can pay them living rates. Maybe I’ll hear from other journalists in the meantime. The point is that they, and I, believe that you and this community are worth working for.

Right now, during our most desperate collective hour, I’m asking you to help us tell the stories of Jess Rufo and the dozens of other neighbors you’ve come to depend on over the years. I’ve always offered some way for you to support us with a couple of bucks. Now I’m asking you to think about the kind of local journalism you deserve in these fraught times, and make a tax-deductible contribution to help make it happen.

Respectfully, 

Jason Velázquez,
Editor, The Greylock Glass

Display Graphic linking to the Greylock Glass COVID-19 Local News Fund page.

* Note: Talk to your financial advisor or tax consultant to be sure that this donation is tax deductible in your own particular circumstances.

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