But when new management was transplanted from corporate headquarters to our journal, the salad days were over. I was told to abandon the sustainability beat and focus instead on stories about corporations in the city that by no coincidence possessed the largest advertising budgets. Staged interviews with conservative business leaders were booked on my behalf, and our reporting staff was told to hand over their Rolodexes so that our contacts could be used as sales leads. Our new publisher – by all accounts a nice man – penned an editorial in our journal proclaiming: "I don't know what the hell a sustainability industry is or why anyone would believe that such an industry would provide jobs and economic growth for our region." (So certain he was, it was worth swearing about.) We did get some good letters from the editor.
One reader wrote: "I'm quite disappointed to learn that your publisher's vision does not include the ... pieces that you write. Frankly, the fact that these issues were covered elevated the [journal] to an intellectual level that went beyond the usual revenue/advertising-driven scene of most media and really aided its credibility, which should prove more lucrative over the long term. I know that I will not be alone in this disappointment."
At about the same time, the Twin Towers were struck by terrorists, inducing a shaken populace to seek comfort. The economy was in turmoil, and we were asked by our leaders to go out and buy things to make it better. An arms race was underway in the SUV market. I lost my sense of integrity in my job, and I was considering getting out of the increasingly dirty media industry altogether. Not knowing what was next, I resigned.
I have always been supremely passionate about independent media. This got me tangled up in a few local controversies.
I had also been volunteering for independent media outlets in my free time. It was fulfilling, but it bothered me that most of the really good media were nonprofit, funded by donations and supported by nonprofit tax breaks. Donate time or money to support it – get a free tote bag.
As a business reporter I believed that sustainability had to succeed in the for-profit world in order to have real impact. Shouldn't independent media do that too? Ultimately, I collaborated with some smart and motivated minds, and Sustainable Industries was born.
Every year over 1 million businesses are launched in the United States. Nearly half fail within the first year. The statistics are much worse for media companies.