by Mark Kohan
According to Britain’s The Independent, the future of newspapers is “unclear at best.”
Last year, The Independent gave up its print edition, and went to an online-only format. Fewer subscriptions and plummeting advertising revenues forced
Those same forces are crushing Polonia’s press. In the past decade, we have lost print editions of Polonia Today, Polish American World, and Post Eagle, to
name a few. Some, like the Post Eagle, are available in digital format only.
For years, the Polish American Journal has weathered the storm, largely thanks to the support of Polonia’s fraternal organizations, which
used the PAJ as their official newspaper. Today, only the Polish Beneficial Association, headquartered in Philadelphia, still does.
All newspapers are facing these problems. But our readership is also affected by assimilation: each generation removed from Poland takes less interest
in its roots. Yes, Easter and Christmas customs are still strong, and many still observe Dzień Zaduszny or have a bonfire on St. John’s Eve, but for the most part, the innumerable
obligations of 21st century life make keeping one’s far too difficult. (By the way, I just read a great little book that addresses this. Claire M. Anderson’s “Seasons of the Slavic
Soul: A Quest for an Authentic Polish Spirituality,” which is available from our bookstore, explores our traditions and their connections to the rhythms of the seasons. More on this later).
So what does this mean for the Polish American Journal? Simply put: we are in the same position as every other newspaper, ethnic or otherwise. To
overcome increases in printing, production, and mailing costs, reluctantly, we have to increase our subscription price.
This is a matter we considered with much gravity. We recognize that many of our subscribers are senior citizens on fixed incomes. However, the change
(from $22.00 per year to $25.00) amounts to only $.25 per month, which while an increase, is far from a “budget-buster.” This newspaper costs readers about $2.00 per month — about
as much as a cup of coffee today. Isn’t the 20+ pages of news about Polonia from across the United States and around the world worth two bucks?
To help offset that increase, subscribers can also take $2.00 off each year’s subscription by providing us with a valid email address, which will
be used for renewal reminders (thus saving us postage), special promotions, or post-printing breaking news updates. The email addresses will not be sold or used by any other party other than the PAJ
for the aforementioned purposes.
No one wants to raise prices, but, as those same seniors mentioned above will attest, costs continue to rise. Except for stipends to cover mailing and
office expenses, our writers are volunteers. We publish this paper as a labor of love, not a money-making venture: we believe in Polonia, and believe Polonia needs a paper that talks about our issues
and our concerns. And we think you share that same sentiment.
To lessen the chances of having to do this again any time soon, we taking steps to increase the public’s awareness of the PAJ. For example, to
broaden our outreach, we have established a digital edition to attract subscribers who prefer to read while online.
We realize the need for education in order for the heirs of Polish immigrants to identify themselves as Polish Americans. This is not an easy task, as
family units are not as strong as they once were. Polish American neighborhoods are dissolving, and Polish parishes are mostly being consolidated or closed altogether. To counter this unfortunate
momentum, we established a non-profit, the PAJ Foundation. Our hope is that the distribution of seed money to students and Polish organizations will yield new interest in Polonia and Poland, and
ultimately, the Polish American Journal.
As far as advertising goes, we are in a double bind. Because we are a national newspaper, we have difficulty recruiting local advertisers, who (in many
cases, justifiably) dedicate parts of their budgets to local Polonian and general newspapers. On the other hand, as an ethnic publication, we are mostly shunned by larger advertisers who want to sell
to a broader readership. Support from Polonia’s religious, for obvious reasons, has decreased from the days when the PAJ could boast four solid pages of Christmas and Easter well-wishes from
Polish American priests, churches, and religious organizations.
HOW YOU CAN HELP. Cliché as it may sound, if every subscriber signed up just one new subscriber, we
would be well into the black rather than facing a continuing drift into the red. Also:
- We need our subscribers to urge their political, religious, historical, and organizational leaders to support the paper with patron advertising
(holiday greeting ads), especially during Easter, Christmas, and Polish Heritage Month. A kind word about the PAJ at your local merchant may entice them to consider advertising with the paper.
Word of mouth is the best marketing tool for any company.
- We ask subscribers to talk to members of their organizations about becoming subscribers.
- You can also help by sharing stories and links we post on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter. To receive these updates, just
“like” our Facebook page.
- You can also make a donation to the Polish American Journal Foundation, which is a non-profit 501c3 corporation. All donations are tax deductible.
- Finally, donations made to the PAJ Press Fund are used for office expenses, which — of late — has been mostly postage. This fund also
covers printer / scanner / photocopier / computer maintenance (our two PCs are more than 15-years old — ancient by today’s standards), paper and ink, and other office supplies.
NIE PODDAWAJMY SIĘ! The roots of the Polish American Journal go back to
1911. We have no plans to go anywhere, as the saying goes: “until the last dog is hung.” Given the issues continuing to follow Polish Americans, we do not see that happening in the
foreseeable future. As the size of Polonia lessens, our mission — the promotion and continuance of Polish American culture — is more important than ever. Please help us see it through!