Photo by Ashley Kouri

We are Akron’s community-owned local news publication!

No other news organization has given its readers and workers the ability to get this involved or the power to hold them this accountable. So it makes sense you have questions. Well, we’ve listed answers to the ones we hear most often, but if you have more, contact Jessica Goldbourn, our Director of Membership, at jessica@thedevilstrip.com


If you’re ready to join this community of people committed to making Akron a better place to live, click here to become a member!


Woohoo! The Devil Strip is the nation’s first local news co-op!

Cool! …but what does that mean? Great question!

Simply put, a growing number of our readers and workers own The Devil Strip, which means we are locally owned in the truest sense: YOU can become a co-owner of The Devil Strip to keep Akron’s story in the hands of Akronites for the benefit of the greater Akron area.

These passionate Akronites who started the co-op with us at our inaugural Shareholders Meeting! (photo: Ashley Kouri)

Being a co-owner means you have a voice, and we’re listening to you. It means we need you to help shape our future. You can get really involved by joining a committee or our Board of Directors, or you can just enjoy our work while your support our mission. There’s a role for you!

Why are we doing this?

Because we believe that community news is best equipped to serve readers when it is owned by the community. When you have a vested interest — literally — in The Devil Strip, we believe our journalism and community engagement will better serve our area and everyone who lives in it. 

For as little as $1 per month, for as long as you’re active, you get a binding vote on important issues and the opportunity to get involved as a board or committee member, though it isn’t required. That’s in addition to your member perks.

Once you’ve invested $330, your share is fully vested and you are a shareholder for life. Co-owners meet annually to vote on new board members to represent your interests, discuss budget and programming questions and to select editorial priorities. 

F.A.Q. – The Devil Strip Local News Cooperative

CO-OP STRUCTURE AND GOVERNANCE

What is a co-op?

Cooperatives may seem strange (and can be!), but it’s pretty simple. Instead of being owned by one person, one family or, say, a hedge fund, The Devil Strip co-op is a not-for-profit company collectively owned by two groups of shareholders: readers and workers. Think of a co-op as a hybrid of a non-profit, which is organized to produce social good, and a for-profit, which is organized to create wealth for its owners.

Our co-op is built to create social capital for our whole community instead of wealth for a handful of people, and unlike most non-profits, you can access (or even join, if you live in Summit County) our Board of Directors.

Basically, it’s a legal structure that keeps our interests aligned with yours so we can keep our community first.

Our inaugural shareholder’s meeting at the Civic (photo: Shane Wynn)

Who can become a shareholder?

Anyone who is 18 or older and lives in the state of Ohio is eligible to be a shareholder. If you live out of state but want to support our work, we welcome you to be a member or make a donation, but you cannot become a co-owner because we can’t sell shares across state lines without getting the feds at the SEC involved.

How much does a share cost?

A fully vested, lifetime share costs $330 total, but we want The Devil Strip to be owned by the widest possible variety of Akronites so you can be a “developing member” starting at $1 per month. That gives you the right to vote or serve on a committee or our Board of Directors, and it accrues so once you’ve paid a total of $330, you’re vested for life. In other words, if you pay $12/mo. for 28 months, you’ll have a lifetime share.

Do I get member benefits for life if I’m a vested member?

Once you’re a vested member, you can vote or join a committee or our Board of Directors without ever paying us another dime. However, only active, paying members get the additional benefits of membership. While the pandemic disrupted many of our plans for member benefits — because so many were designed to bring people together in person — more of these perks will be available soon. If you don’t want those, no worries! You still keep your co-ownership rights.

Can I buy multiple shares?

No. This is one way a co-op is different that other business structures. We follow the “one person, one share, one vote” principle regardless of how much someone spends with us. This keeps our process as democratic and accessible as possible. 

What kind of decisions will shareholders get to make?

Every year, our co-owners will be invited to attend our annual meeting where they get to vote on a new slate of board directors who represent the interests of our co-owners. That will always happen.

As the co-op matures, there are other questions that will come before our co-owners for a vote. For example, if we want to amend our bylaws or increase the number of seats on our Board of Directors, the co-owners get the final say.

If The Devil Strip has a significant financial surplus at the end of the year, the Board would put forward a vote to all members to decide whether to split it among the vested members or reinvest it in the organization.

Similarly, the Board of Directors cannot sell The Devil Strip to another company without a super-majority of all members, which we added to the bylaws to keep the organization in local hands.

However, there are “non-binding” questions we’d like to put to a vote of our members too, like, if we add a new full-time reporter, should they cover public education or city government or arts and culture? (There’s more on the impact of co-owners on our journalism below.)

What will the elected board do? 

All shareholders living within Summit County can run for seats on The Devil Strip’s governing board, and all shareholders can vote in board elections. Again, because this does not yet exist, we don’t quite know what questions the board will address. But we expect it to operate much like a traditional non-profit board — the board will meet regularly, offer advice based on each member’s expertise, and offer input to the staff as day-to-day questions arise. 

What happens to my share if I die?

If you are a lifetime vested member of The Devil Strip co-op, your share can go to certain family members or a trust as stipulated in Article II, Section 7 of our bylaws

HOW THE CO-OP AFFECTS OUR JOURNALISM

What say do shareholders have in editorial decisions?

To keep our journalism independent and free of undue influence, all editorial decisions are made by The Devil Strip’s editor-in-chief and/or president. However, we formed the co-op to create stronger relationships with people in our community, so we are always listening to our members.

One example of that is, before our inaugural shareholders meeting, we solicited ideas and proposals from our members then had them rank what intrigued them most and which intrigued them the least. The top topics were public health and economic development, which led to hiring two full-time reporters, through Report for America, to cover those beats. We also heard a lot about affordable housing in Akron, which led to our Home in Akron collaboration with other local, state and national news organizations.

Do shareholders get special access to editors or reporters?

Not exactly. Currently, our editorial staff’s emails are public, and all readers are welcome to ask questions, give feedback and share their ideas. We will continue to respond to all of those inquiries equally, regardless of whether the sender is a shareholder or not. That said, we do host members-only meet-ups and events where our editorial team is often present. Plus, as mentioned above, we solicit our members for feedback our coverage that we don’t ask our general readership.

Will I get a story written about me or my cause?

Not simply because you are a shareholder, no. A wide variety of people send story ideas to The Devil Strip, and we treat ideas from our co-owners the same way: If it’s interesting, we’ll do our best to cover it, but you will not receive special attention because you’re a co-owner. 

MEMBERSHIP TIERS FOR DONORS

What’s the difference between co-owners and members? 

This is a bit of a rectangle-square question. They can be the same or separate.

Members are actively paying their monthly or annual dues to support The Devil Strip’s work. They can live anywhere in the world and enjoy the benefits outlined in their tier. For example, City Champs get the magazine delivered to their home, whether it’s in Cuyahoga Falls, Cuyahoga County or Contra Costa, California.

Co-owners must be at least 18 years old, living in the state of Ohio and either fully vested with a minimum total of $330 paid or actively paying dues. They get the right to vote, can join a committee and, for those living in Summit County, can serve on our Board of Directors.

So, in other words, if you’ve given us $500 but you’re 10 and live in Maine, you’re “only” a member — but a remarkable one because like where does a 14-year-old get that kind of scratch? — and, if you’re 45, live in Barberton and pay $12 a year, you’re both a member *and* a co-owner.

How much does it cost to be a member?

Memberships begin at $12/year and go up from there with additional perks at each level of donation.

Do I start over if my membership lapsed and I rejoin?

Nope! We save the amount you’ve paid in so if you rejoin, you’re adding to the total you already invested. So, if you were sitting at $329 total when you stopped then you sign up at $1 a month, after that first month, you’ll reach $330 and be a vested member for life.

What other questions do you have? Comment and we’ll answer them ASAP.