How does the co-op work? A primer:
The Devil Strip is becoming a cooperatively owned news organization, a publication owned and operated by the people of Akron for the benefit of the people of Akron.
That means we will be locally owned in the truest sense: Readers can become shareholders in The Devil Strip. Being a shareholder means you get a say in the strategic future of our publication. (That is, as long as you have an Ohio address — we cannot yet offer shares out of state for legal reasons, but we welcome donations from our friends everywhere!)
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 all of you have a vested interest — literally — in The Devil Strip, we believe our journalism will be closer and more vital to the community than ever.
Readers can become shareholders for as little as $1 per month. Once you’ve invested $330, your share is fully vested and you are a shareholder for life. Shareholders will meet annually to vote on new board members, broad budget and programming questions and to select editorial projects for our journalists to prioritize.
We welcome additional donations, of course, which is why we’ve created membership tiers for readers who wish to support us in larger amounts.
We’re launching our campaign on Nov. 1 to take advantage of NewsMatch, a project of the Institute for Nonprofit News that allows us to double the donation amounts we receive during November and December. If we raise $20,000 from our founding membership drive, NewsMatch will donate an additional $20,000 — allowing us to invest more than ever in information sharing and community building.
CO-OP STRUCTURE AND GOVERNANCE
What is a co-op?
A co-op is a company that is owned by a group of shareholders. Ownership is cooperative, meaning shareholders meet regularly to make broad strategic decisions for the organizations. Shareholders also elect a board, which provides more day-to-day guidance to the staff.
Who can become a shareholder?
Anyone who lives in the state of Ohio is eligible to become a shareholder. If you live out of state, we’d welcome your donation, but you cannot become a shareholder.
How much does a share cost?
Because we want The Devil Strip to be owned by the widest possible variety of Akronites, you can become a shareholder for just $1 per month. Once you invest a total of $330, your share vests, and you will remain a shareholder for life.
Can I buy multiple shares?
No. One person, one share, one vote, regardless of how much you choose to donate. This keeps our process as democratic as possible.
What kind of decisions will shareholders get to make?
This is a difficult question to answer specifically, since we don’t yet have shareholders. However, some of the questions we hope shareholders can help us answer in our first two years include:
Should The Devil Strip add a home delivery option? The staff and board will research costs and potential benefits and bring what we learn to shareholders for a vote.
Should shareholders be able to pass their shares to loved ones? If so, how? The board will solicit proposals and bring them to shareholders for a vote.
If The Devil Strip were to finish 2020 with a surplus, how should we spend that money? The staff will offer proposals and the board will solicit ideas from shareholders, and shareholders can vote on which idea we should execute.
What will the elected board do?
All shareholders 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.
HOW THIS AFFECTS OUR JOURNALISM
What say do shareholders have in editorial decisions?
Before each annual meeting, the editorial staff will create project proposals for investigations or deep dives we’d like to undertake in the coming year. The board will also solicit proposals from shareholders. At the annual meeting, shareholders will be able to rank those ideas in order, from what intrigues them most to what intrigues them least. The staff will pursue those projects in that order.
Do shareholders get special access to editors or reporters?
No. 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.
Will I get a story written about me or my cause?
Not simply because you are a shareholder, no. Currently, a wide variety of people send story ideas to The Devil Strip. Shareholders are more than welcome to send ideas, but will not receive special attention because they are shareholders.
MEMBERSHIP TIERS FOR DONORS
Wait. What’s the difference between shareholders and members?
This is a bit of a rectangle-square question. “Members” are people who are actively supporting The Devil Strip. Shareholders are all those who can vote in co-op decisions. The vast majority of members will also be shareholders and vice versa.
The Devil Strip’s shareholders will meet each year to vote on broad directional questions about our organization and its future. Shareholders must live in the state of Ohio.
The Devil Strip’s members are those who are actively contributing to The Devil Strip. Members get perks based on how much they donate each year. Because they are supporting The Devil Strip with at least $1 per month, all members are shareholders, as long as they live in Ohio.
Once members have contributed $330 in total — however long that takes — their share is vested and they become shareholders for life. If they stop making regular contributions, their membership perks will lapse, but they can continue to vote at the annual shareholders meeting.
If members stop contributing before they reach $330 in total donations, they will not be able to continue to vote at the annual shareholders meeting, because their share did not vest before they stopped contributing. They can resume their contributions at any time and continue working toward vestiture.
How much does it cost to be a member?
Click here for details on the perks that come with each donation level. Memberships begin at $12/year and go up from there with additional perks at each level of donation.
What other questions do you have? Comment and we’ll answer them ASAP.