In the last couple of months, I’ve reflected about some of the Bay Journal’s accomplishments over the past quarter century as well as the ongoing internal review of our nonprofit organization, which is intended to improve our overall operations.
But what about the Bay Journal’s future? It has been around for 25 years, but what will it look like years from now? That’s something that will get a harder look in the next few months as we develop a plan to guide our overall activities in coming years.
The details of what we need to do are yet to be refined. But conversations during our organizational review in the last year, and among staff and board members reveal a pretty clear framework.
For starters, we’re pretty obviously understaffed to perform our mission of informing the public about the important environmental issues affecting the Bay and the region.
While we’re doing a better job, there are still many issues — and a growing number of emerging topics — that we need to pay more attention to. This is especially important as environmental coverage gets less attention in other media. If we don’t cover these issues, there’s a growing chance no one else will.
But we also need to expand our audience. We clearly need to put more emphasis on marketing. A reader survey a few years ago found that most people hear about us from a friend, relative or co-worker. While word-of-mouth endorsements are important, we need to do a better job of getting the Bay Journal to new readers and increasing our overall readership. And that basically goes for all of our products — print, web, social media and our syndicated news service.
In addition, we want to improve our website to make sure it is the go-to place for environmental news related to the Chesapeake and its watershed. Our website already features a fair amount of breaking news and exclusive online content, but that should increase even more over time.
Eventually, we hope to be able to update our online content several times a day
As we grow, we want to reach more decision makers, particularly local government officials, who are making important on-the-ground decisions affecting the Bay every day.
And we want to reach the leaders of tomorrow by increasing the use of Bay Journal in classrooms.
To do all that, we need to strengthen and broaden our funding support among foundations and readers. A more stable donor base is an essential element to achieving all of our other goals.
Eventually, to better secure our future against economic ups and downs, we hope to establish an endowment.
In the coming months, we’ll be firming up these plans, adding more details and setting specific goals and timetables.
It isn’t so much about changing what we do, but improving what we do.
Inspired by our role in sponsoring the well-received documentary film, Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, we’ll also be at developing other new products — videos, books, podcasts — even new publications. We have in the past, and will continue in the future, to explore partnerships with other media to reach new audiences.
It’s quite a to-do list, on top of the need for some organizational reforms highlighted by our internal review.
But the decisions we make in the next few months will more clearly define what our organization, and the Bay Journal, will be like a quarter a century from now — and perhaps whether it is around at all.