A first-ring suburb like West St. Paul, Minnesota, rarely makes the news. And when it does, there aren't always clear answers. It's hard to know what's going on in our community.
- Will we ever get a sidewalk on that street?
- When is that new restaurant opening?
- Why are medians a good idea?
I'm a professional writer and in my spare time I've been writing about West St. Paul. I've been answering questions:
- New trails go in on Marie Ave. east of Robert Street this summer.
- The FoodSmith hopes to open by September or October at the earliest.
- Medians on Robert Street are safer and saved us money.
I want to continue informing and helping folks in West St. Paul, so I'm launching a new blog: The West St. Paul Reader.
Will you help make it happen?
Here's the Plan
Let's be real: People don't pay for local news. The result is that we're less informed and less engaged. Voter turnout slips and there's less competition in local elections (which can mean stagnation and even corruption).
Local news can literally safeguard our democracy.
If we can keep people informed, they'll be more engaged, and they'll feel connected to the community.
That's the goal for West St. Paul Reader—to help people feel like they belong.
West St. Paul Reader can answer questions, keep people informed, and share good stories. But only if it has support.
I've written about West St. Paul on my personal blog, but if it's a stand-alone site I can:
- Bring in new voices with guest columnists.
- Share positive stories we might not otherwise hear (like this interview with Garlough teacher Rodrigo Sanchez).
- Build community around the site and generate ongoing support.
Join the Effort
Back this Kickstarter campaign and help keep West St. Paul informed. Help engage the community. Help connect people to their community.
When you join the team that makes this happen, you'll get rewards:
- Founders' Wall - First up, anybody who backs the project at any level will be listed on our 'Founders' Wall,' a page on the site that will list all supporters. It will be a permanent thank you to the folks who got this thing started. (Subject to approval, Mr. I.P. Freely.)
- $5 - Postcard - Local West St. Paul artist Carolyn Swiszcz has graciously allowed us to use her artwork on a thank you postcard that will be mailed to all backers at this level.
- $10 - Button - Get an exclusive supporter button, created by Button Works right here in West St. Paul.
- $25 - Coupon Book - We've brought together 16 local businesses to offer this coupon book with a value of over $350. Support local businesses, support a good cause, and get a deal too! (See the full list of participating businesses and deals.)
- $50 - Skate With Council Member Eng-Sarne - You and a friend get to spend an hour on roller skates with Lisa Eng-Sarne, a West St. Paul Council member and recently retired Minnesota RollerGirl. She'll teach some fancy moves in a local park. Bring your own gear. This reward is limited to three people.
- $75 - Mayor Meetup - Boost your West St. Paul pride by hanging out with the mayor. We'll gather with a limited group in the back room at Amore to connect with Mayor Dave Napier. Ask questions, have some snacks, learn what's going on in West St. Paul. This reward is limited to 10 people.
- $200 - Lunch & Tour With the Editor - Join the editor for lunch at a West St. Paul establishment of your choice and we'll talk content ideas, potential projects, and all things West St. Paul. We'll also take a tour of West St. Paul, visiting some of the highlights—including historical sites, oddities, and overlooked treasures. As a bonus, we'll throw in a subscription to Zebra Cat Zebra, the bi-monthly zine by local artist Carolyn Swiszcz. This reward is limited to six people.
- $300 - Sponsor the Blog - For businesses and organizations we're offering a sponsorship opportunity—banner ads and a sponsored blog post.
- $500 - Carolyn Swiszcz Painting - Own a piece of West St. Paul with local artist Carolyn Swiszcz's brand new, original painting of Granny Donuts. Plus, get a $100 gift certificate toward framing from Picture Perfect Art & Frame. This reward can only go to one lucky person, so don't hesitate. (And it's gone. Sorry.)
(For most of the rewards, you'll get the lower tier rewards as well. So if you back at the Coupon Book level, you'll also get the button and postcard. For each reward listing I've noted which things you get. Due to the limited nature of the Mayor Meetup, not all higher level tiers will get access to that.)
The initial goal is $1,000 (DONE!) and I'll launch the site when we hit that goal, but if we can hit these stretch goals we can unlock some extras:
- DONE $1,500 - Logo Design: I'll hire a local designer to create a professional logo for the site.
- DONE $2,000 - Email Newsletter: I'll commit to a monthly email newsletter for the site.
- $3,000 - Guest Columnists: I want to include other local voices on the site, but I also think it's important to pay them. If we hit this level, I can hire local folks to write guest posts every other month. Those guest columnists will include local writer Katie Dohman (she's written for Teen Vogue, Minnesota Parent, Minnesota Monthly, and more) and local artist Carolyn Swiszcz.
- $4,000 - Weekly Content: I haven't made any commitments to a publishing schedule, but if we hit this goal I'll commit to posting at least something every week.
- $7,500 - Custom Web Design: I can pay for some custom features and design improvements.
- $10,000 - Launch Party: We'll throw a launch party for all our backers.
I have a lot of ideas for more things we can do, but honestly, I don't know what kind of support is out there. If we get some traction, I'll consider adding more. I reserve the right to add/remove/tweak the stretch goals before we hit them—but once we hit one of these goals, I'll commit to it.
If We're Successful
If we can meet the goal we'll have a dedicated source of info for what's happening in West St. Paul. You'll have a place that can help explain complicated issues, explore stats and trends, bring interesting history to light, celebrate our community, and more—all in a sustainable, community-empowered way.
You'll know what's happening in your community and feel like you belong. (Can you feel the West St. Paul pride?)
Where the Money Goes
- Kickstarter keeps about 10% (they keep 5% and about another 5% goes to credit card processing fees).
- The government will keep another chunk (death and taxes, right?).
- A number of the rewards have sunk costs, so if we meet the initial goal and nothing more, most of the money will go to paying for the rewards.
- Whatever's left will pay for hosting and domain fees, subscriptions, other expenses, and my time.
- As we hit stretch goals, a chunk of the money will go toward doing those things (paying designers, writers, coders)—however, more of the money will go to me and allow me to justify spending more time writing for the site.
- This is a one-time effort, but it will help me figure out what works and plan for future sustainability, which might include membership programs like Patreon.
Are You Just Cashing In?
Even if this Kickstarter campaign is wildly successful, a big chunk of the income will go to taxes, rewards, and stretch goals. This is also a one-time funding effort, and I hope to continue this site for many years to come. So do the math—I won't be quitting my day job.
If getting rich were the goal, I wouldn't spend my time on a project like this.
My goal is to be able to justify the time I put into writing about West St. Paul. I hope to get some measure of compensation for the hours and hours of time I put into it. I hope to make that effort a little more worthwhile.
Aren't You Biased?
Local political coverage is a big part of the value I offer. It's hard to make sense of what happens at city council. Covering those stories brings up issues of bias. While it's not the primary thing I'll cover, I think it's important to be honest about how I'll cover local politics.
West St. Paul Reader will not be a non-biased, journalistic site. Just like my personal blog, West St. Paul Reader will have its own perspective.
However, I always strive to be fair and honest. In the past I have defended people I disagree with and when critics pointed out errors, I corrected them and acknowledged the mistake.
While people may not always agree with my opinions, I work to lay out the facts and allow people to make up their own minds.
Please join the project, and you can help busy people know what’s going on in West St. Paul.
Risks and challenges
This whole project is an experiment. Let's see what works.
I've been blogging about West St. Paul since 2014, so there's not a lot of risk of me not being up to the challenge. The bigger issue will be if I can increase and maintain my output. Making this an official site instead of just a personal hobby and raising a community of support will serve to keep me accountable.
I'm also attempting to be realistic. I'm not promising daily blog posts. I'm actually not promising any publishing schedule (unless we hit one of the stretch goals). I'll do what I can and try to keep it consistent.
There are minor risks of an act of God, my work situation changing, or being forced to move out of West St. Paul and losing all connection to the project. Those scenarios would all be completely outside my control, so there's not much I can do about them—but let's be honest, they could happen.
The rewards themselves shouldn't be hard to assemble. I've already lined up most of the rewards, including contacting over 75 West St. Paul businesses for the coupon book. Fulfilling rewards should happen by late summer.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)