I wanted to write a note to update readers about Planet Princeton’s efforts to cover COVID-19 and other community news in these difficult times.
First, I am so grateful to all the readers who have become voluntary subscribers to Planet Princeton since the crisis began. I have not been able to write personal notes to you yet given the current circumstances, but I wanted you to know how helpful your support has been. More than 125 readers have signed up to be voluntary subscribers since the middle of March. These new subscriptions, combined with the loyal support of regular subscribers prior to the pandemic, have made it possible for me to continue operating Planet Princeton without stressing about how I would pay for increased technology costs, which had been a great source of anxiety for me. Last month, technology costs to operate the website rose to about $1,200 a month because of the high volume of website traffic. I upgraded Planet Princeton’s serve plan not one level but four levels, and we now have a business enterprise account to handle more than 1 million website visits per month. I will also be implementing some security upgrades and other features to speed up the website’s performance.
I also owe a big thank you to the journalists who have stepped forward to help me with stories, including veteran writer and editor Susan Sprague Yeske and Princeton resident Marc Monseau. Their contributions have enabled me to cover more ground and have taken some pressure off of me.
Next week, I will be launching our Spanish-language news tab, thanks to a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project. Certain stories will be translated into Spanish and we will also post Spanish-language stories from other news partners. Another goal is to cover what is happening in the Latino community in Princeton.
I have also launched a program called Princeton Cares that matches volunteers with local residents who are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19 such as seniors and residents with chronic diseases who need help with food shopping or other errands. At first, I had many people sign up to volunteer, but no residents who said they needed help. But then it became more difficult to get grocery deliveries from Whole Foods and Instacart. This past weekend I started receiving messages from seniors who were having trouble getting deliveries. A few residents who had volunteered jumped into action and picked up items for them at local grocery stores. Students will be helping me manage this program, thanks to the funding from the Facebook Journalism Project.
I am also hoping to hire a few interns to help with news coverage throughout the summer, and I have already selected one who is home from college and reached out to me.
I am leaving no stone unturned when it comes to applying for grants and other funding to support our journalism and strengthen our service to the Princeton area community. Thank you to all the readers who have sent me ideas, links, and suggestions on this front.
In addition to our voluntary subscriber program, I will be launching a program where corporate sponsors, foundations, and individuals who still itemize tax deductions can support Planet Princeton by making a donation through a large media foundation. (I ask that individuals who don’t itemize directly support us through our voluntary subscription program instead.). I will be posting information about the foundation program in the coming days.
As always, please reach out to editor @ planetprinceton.com with news tips, story ideas, questions, suggestions, and photos, and add your virtual events to the Planet Princeton community calendar by selecting add event from our website menu. I will follow up on story ideas and submissions as I am able. I ask for your patience if I don’t respond right away. I will continue to cover events as they unfold. I am also committed to covering the pandemic, its aftermath, and its impact on our local businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions for the long haul as everyone works to put the pieces of our community back together.
Thank you again for all your support,