Why I Started The Ledger

Good morning! Today is Tuesday, March 10, 2020. We are coming to you with a SPECIAL LEDGER STATUS UPDATE.

The Ledger makes a bold move tomorrow. Here’s the backstory of who I am and what I believe.

Tomorrow, The Ledger takes a big step. It will publish the first issue that will be available only to paying subscribers.

For the last couple weeks, I have been letting you know some of the details, like the price, how it works and the case for subscribing.

But today, I want to take a step back and tell you a little bit about the “why” — not just what I’m doing with this e-newsletter, but why I’m doing it.

To understand that, you have to know a little about me.

I went into journalism because I’m naturally curious. I like knowing things. I like learning. Plus, I believe that access to information helps people make better decisions about their lives, their families and their communities. Maybe that’s an old-fashioned idea, but I still believe it.

My wife and I moved to Charlotte in 1998, and I started with The Charlotte Observer as a reporter in its Gastonia bureau. We tried to give readers the information they wanted and needed — and stories that were just plain interesting. In 2001, I moved onto The Observer’s business desk. In writing about business, the challenge is to take dense and complex topics and explain them in plain, human language. That’s how you connect with readers. That’s what we did.

Moving on: After a stint as deputy business editor, I chose to leave The Observer at the end of 2009, in one of the early rounds of newsroom-wide buyouts. It was becoming clear that the future of newspapers was dimming.

I wrote on a freelance basis for a number of publications and websites while juggling the ordinary but important stuff parents do at home when they have young children. In 2017, I got hired to write business articles for a magazine in Washington. When it shut down, I first thought I would return to freelancing.

Changing landscape: But as I looked around at local news in Charlotte, I saw that it had changed. Sources of reliable, original and trustworthy information about Charlotte were dwindling. In their place were social media echo chambers and marketing messages assaulting us from every direction. There were still talented and hard-working reporters in Charlotte, but too often, their smart stories were overshadowed by superficial articles with click-friendly headlines, served up on annoying websites. Local journalism had moved away from everything I had learned starting back in Gastonia: Serve your readers.

I thought, what if I started producing a newsletter with original information about Charlotte and told people what they need to know in an engaging way? Nationally, there are some examples of e-newsletters that are successful. Why not locally?

That’s why I started The Ledger. It’s not about money. It’s about the mission. (Career tip: If you’re looking for riches in Charlotte, I would advise against starting a new media company focused on responsible local journalism.)

Meeting the needs: My goal for The Ledger is to fill the information void that has emerged in Charlotte’s media landscape, to plug the gap between a dynamic, growing city and the people who live here and want to understand how their community is evolving and changing.

In the last year, The Ledger has done a lot of notable work breaking news, analyzing trends and calling attention to topics that other local media mostly ignore. I have written a lot of those stories, but they don’t happen without the dozens of people who pass along tips and offer words of encouragement and advice. A lot of people are lining up behind this idea of what I’m trying to build. They see that it’s needed in our city.

Business plan: Despite the doom and gloom you hear about local media, the business case for The Ledger is straightforward and maybe even encouraging. In a metro area of 2.5 million, there should be enough people who care about receiving vital information about where they live to sustain a business. With low costs and the ease of technology, you don’t need 200,000+ subscribers, as the Observer had in its heyday. You need only a small fraction of that number.

This is where you come in. The proposition The Ledger offers is one that exists in almost every other part of life: If you find value in something, you pay for it. For just $9 a month, you can help support an innovative, forward-looking, Charlotte-focused media company. If you believe Charlotte benefits from another source of original, local information, your support would enable The Ledger to grow. We can do more. We can do it better.

I want to tell you what you need to know, nourish your brain and make you laugh. There are also some serious things going on in the world right now. I want to explain to you what they mean for Charlotte.

Charlotte is my home. I’m not going anywhere. Those of us who live here have a responsibility to make our city better, and I want to build something that’s positive for Charlotte. But I can’t do it by myself.

Last week, I let go of one of my few remaining freelance gigs. I’m going all in on The Ledger. Join me.

— Tony Mecia, editor, The Charlotte Ledger

Subscription information

For all the details, see this post. Here are the highlights:

Free – you do nothing

  • Monday Ledger

  • Saturday end of week round-up

  • Breaking news alerts

$9/month plan

  • Full access to all Ledger content, including Wednesday and Friday editions

  • No ads/sponsorships in Wednesday and Friday editions

  • Includes monthly list of rezoning petitions, usually before they hit the city’s main site

  • Ability to comment on online posts

  • Access to a secret Ledger email address to submit comments/questions

  • Subscription for 1 email address

$99/year plan

  • Same as $9/month, but comes with subscription for 2 email addresses (in same household; additional email collected after payment)

Ledger Premium: $379/year

  • Same as $9/month plan, but comes with subscription for 6 email addresses (designed for companies; additional emails collected after payment)

  • Company/individual thanked monthly in the free Ledger as a Ledger Premium supporter (if desired)

  • Invitation to account holder for exclusive Ledger inner circle events 1-2x/year

Related articles:

Help build better local news in Charlotte” (Ledger, Feb. 25)

Email newsletters a booming business” (NC Local, Feb. 26)

The Ledger hits 2,000 subscribers. Here’s what’s next” (Ledger, Nov. 9, 2019)

The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, except holidays and as noted. Wednesday and Friday editions are for paying subscribers only.

We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.