THE CREATION of a READER NATION
The Creation of a Reader Nation is an initiative to dramatically and permanently improve US society by creating a new nationwide information source, which delivers quality information in tangible form to every single American at no cost, a first in American history.
The first part of this initiative is to create a 10-minute film by award-winning Free Range Studios, which created Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff films. The film will create a vision of the environmental, social and economic impact of replicating an existing, quarterly, environmentally responsible, financially self-sustaining printed news magazine, The Reader, containing investigative news from 75 non-profit, non-partisan news organizations like The Center for Public Integrity, Center for Investigative Reporting and others to reach all 308 million Americans.
Briefly, the potential environmental, social, and economic impact includes:
When only 2% of locally-owned US businesses adopt The Reader Magazine over junk mail: It reduces 1/1000 of total US green house gasses, saves 60 million trees each year, saves 56 billion gallons of water each year, and saves $12 billion which can create 300,000 new jobs each year.
When 100% of Americans gain equal access to quality information through The Reader Magazine: People keep the powerful accountable, 119 million Americans without broadband Internet are lifted up, Internet freedom and net neutrality gain an ally, and people can better monitor how government spends their taxes.
When The Reader inspires most Americans to shift an extra 5% of their spending to locally-owned businesses: an extra $20 billion is spent at locally-owned businesses monthly, government better represents the interests of all, a measure of balance is restored to America, and $390 billion recirculates in communities which was being deposited in the banks of the largest big box retailers and service providers annually.
For the last 11 years we have been perfecting an information channel, a printed news magazine which reaches 390,000 Californians by mail, free. These eleven years on the front lines with locally-owned businesses and hundreds of thousands of people in diverse communities have given us hard earned knowledge about an opportunity which if seized upon immediately may result in a fundamental restructuring of American society on multiple levels with far-reaching and potentially permanent consequences.
The opportunity is that right now it’s possible to create a nationwide, totally free news magazine that reaches every household in America with original, reporting from non-partisan, non-profit news and research organizations. The pendulum has swung so far in the direction in which media is not serving the interests of people that to tell to tell the truth to 308 million Americans has become not only a massive social and historical imperative but a massive market opportunity.
To understand more about what this opportunity is, it’s necessary to take a step back and look at where we are today and how serious of a problem we’re facing.
From 1981 to 2011, six transnational media companies–Comcast, NewsCorp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS– bought out or put out of business so many of their competitors that today they control 90% of the information that Americans consume, including 13 of the top 20 news websites. This was achieved during a period of deregulation and massive lobbying by these media companies. What did America and the world get in return?
Over the same thirty years, 90% of Americans achieved zero income growth and most of the 90% experienced negative income growth.
For others, the return was much worse. In 2003 the world got the Iraq war largely because there was no US media entity with enough independence and nationwide influence to question it or properly inform Americans of the scale of the opposition to it, including 36 million people worldwide who took to the streets in protest, which the Guinness Book of World Records would list as the largest protest in human history.
IMAGINE A BETTER FUTURE
People know that without an honest system of news and information, we can’t solve our problems because we won’t know what they are. We can live in a world closer to our ideal of what we deserve. But we have to create an information system that gets the power of truth working again in the United States.
Consider the enormity of the impact a 40-page magazine would have on a family– if it was well written– over a period of one year, five years or ten years if it brought this family precisely the kind of investigative news that has been successfully marginalized by the dominant media. Investigative news networks such as INN which comprises 74 non-profit, non-partisan news organizations such as The Center for Public Integrity, Open Secrets, NPR and others today have no chance of reaching a critical mass of the US population because they lack “the pipes”– the distribution system. What if they had one?
The Reader Magazine, which we’ve perfected over 11 years– taking meager salaries, taking sometimes no salary– has evolved into a vehicle that can in fact bring the existing reporting being done everyday by investigative news organizations to every home in America. In doing so, not only does The Reader have no conflict of interest between the source of its revenue and bringing fearless, independent journalism to a critical mass. The source of its revenue– hundreds of thousands of locally-owned businesses depending on it for local advertising and independent journalism become more loyal supporters of the publication (as hundreds of businesses have in our community) because its perspective champions economic localization, and in doing so, champions them.
Our 11 years of working with small, locally-owned businesses and sending a free publication to a community of 390,000 people from all possible backgrounds has given us the insight to know that not only is such a thing possible, given the economics of providing local advertising through this type of medium and the social dynamics in play today, it is inevitable.
HOW MUCH MONEY IS NEEDED AND WHAT IT WILL BE USED FOR
The purpose of asking for your help is to create a fund of $300,000 that can be used to cover some of our operational expenses while we create a 10-minute film by Free Range Studios that presents an inspiring vision of the impact of creating a new nationwide information source and present this film and case to the impact investment community.
The primary reason we are approaching YOU is because we want our initial funding to come from people committed to the values and goals that we have. Just as the Story of Stuff film distilled 10 years of Annie Leonard’s unsung work, the film we dream of creating through your generosity will distill the information we’ve gained over 11 years to inspire the nation to want this new channel as well as the impact investment community to want to make it happen.
Without your support, the future this plan articulates may not occur. We simply have too many responsibilities to keep our existing operations going that we must have this funding in order to leverage additional support. Your support helps put us in a position to create what we cannot now– a credible vision on film of the story of why this information source is so needed in our society. Every dollar helps us to turn the ideas and vision presented here into reality.
IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
Towards the end of his life when Albert Einstein was asked how problems that threatened the very survival of man might be solved (such as nuclear war) he replied a different way of thinking must be used than the thinking that created the problem. He declared there were really only two choices before humanity: maintain our way of thinking in which we accept that disagreements be resolved through war or renounce war through a new mentality.
If it is true that continued life on planet earth depends on this choice, it follows that we should look very closely to see if our news and information system– which is most responsible for shaping judgement– is promoting violence or peace.
When we do, what is obvious is that our entire media is structured in a way that promotes violence and encourages war. Moreover, that aspect of its structure responsible for promoting violence and encouraging war– which is the vested interest media companies have in transnational corporations which profit from war and weaponry– is accelerating.
This interest shapes the thinking of the majority of people to believe that man is incapable of renouncing violence and that weaponry is man’s only real hope for security— precisely the thinking Einstein warned would lead to no other end than man’s demise.
As such, there is nothing more important right now than your support to immediately help us create a new journalistic channel reaching every one, free of the power structures which control and perpetuate old thinking. In addition to enormous environmental, social and economic promise, this is the enormous humanistic promise of the creation of a Reader Nation.
We have a plan to take this very unique publication from where it is today and transform it into a nation wide information source that can communicate stories at a scale massive enough to create a transformative social movement to greater social justice and equality, a model powered by good old fashioned Main Street American businesses, the kind my grandfather–my Babu–started and worked at his whole life.
– Christopher Theodore, Founder of The Reader Magazine You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org