Pay your democracy tax: support newspapers

I delivered the Richmond Times-Dispatch to two routes in my hometown by bicycle six days a week throughout my middle school and high school years. After I added the second route my father insisted on driving me around the route in the ’63 Fairlane on Sundays and when the weather was horrible. I was up at 5:30 every morning—usually woke up a minute or so before the alarm was going to go off. I loved biking around. Could smell the bacon frying in the houses of a couple of the early risers. Orion’s Belt looked down on me. As the sun rose, the mourning doves cooed and fluttered.

At home we read the paper too. The Richmond Times-Dispatch in the morning and the Hopewell News in the evening. How may hours of my childhood were spent with the large Sunday edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch? Of course the comics. But not only that.

So I am as nostalgic as anyone else for the physical newspaper, printed on paper and delivered to your house so you can unfold it and page through it.

Now the only paper paper we get at my house in Caledonia MI is the weekly Sun & News (covering Caledonia and Middleville), together with The Reminder (covering Hastings and a lot of rural territory south of Caledonia). We pay for the Sun & News, though we don’t have to. The reporter who covers all kinds of local-government matters in my town and neighboring towns, is a man named Greg Chandler. He is an excellent reporter and writer. Not the slightest whiff of bias. I esteem him, and people like him in communities around the nation, as highly as Jake Tapper and the other big-name national-news people, or even more highly, because they work just as hard for far less acclaim and financial reward, and they are doing far more to support the fabric of our civic life across the nation, village by village and county by county. Find your local Greg Chandlers and support them by channeling your dollars into subscriptions to their news products!

In my house, we also pay for electronic subscriptions to the Grand Rapids Press, the Detroit Free Press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Oh, also Le Figaro. And The Atlantic, Time, and Mother Jones. (Not to mention Christian Century, Christianity Today, and Sojourners.) I think that’s all. Could be forgetting one. The Grand Rapids Press has good reporters who cover politics, education, and other vital matters in localities all around the metro area. This is vitally important work.

Why so many newspapers? I cannot read them all. Here’s why: I consider it a voluntary democracy-and-civilization tax. Local news is dying throughout the country, and I don’t take honest national news for granted either. We have seen that lies will expand to fill the available headspace, and so many American minds are already vacant, when it comes to factual awareness of what is going on in government and in the other vital institutions that constitute and preserve our society, that we are seriously at risk of losing it all. For me the 2016 election of a sociopathic charlatan as president was the wake-up call. The 2020 election, and in our township the 2022 election, confirmed that one of our two parties, and locally a majority of our population, are in the grip of a delusion that will head straight into full-out fascism if it is not checked and reversed.

Simple, but insistent, truth telling is the remedy. The truth tellers have to be paid. Subscribe to local newspapers. Get yourself the largest-screen tablet you can afford and use it to read the newspapers. Personally I prefer the paper-facsimile editions over the websites. But the important thing is to commit some significant percentage of your income to supporting democracy-supporting, truth-telling, and society-healing institutions. For me that includes various civic and charitable orgs, including educational institutions and charities that promote social justice and works of mercy. For my wife and me, church gets the biggest tranche, but giving only to church—I will confess, my habit for years—is not sufficient if you want to be a citizen. It has to be more. And it has to include the newspapers. (And the church cannot be one of the many that sold out to Christian-nationalism idolatry, but that’s another matter.)

The amounts that we give to many orgs is small. Some of you would be able to give less than we, and some could give a lot more. The important thing is to give. Check what percentage you are giving, and try to increase it.

But don’t only give. Also spend. In my YNAB setup, I have a categories for tax-deductible and non-tax-deductible giving, but also for charitable spending (e.g., buying products of majority-world micro-industries), and for political giving—and for journalism: newspapers and magazines that support the survival of constitutional democracy by finding and telling the truth about all kinds of matters of public concern from the local level to the global level.

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