It wasn't much of a birthday present, but over the last two weeks, the Johnston Insider, which has been looking forward to growing and expanding its services in Johnston, and the people dedicated to making it all happen, were dealt some unexpected, stunning blows.
First, we received a letter from the IRS telling us that if we wanted to be approved for our long-awaited 501(c)3 designation, we would have to completely remake ourselves to fit the IRS's definition of "educational": "similar to the content found on the first page of most major newspapers."
They continue: "While most of your articles may be of interest to individuals residing in your community, they are not educational ..."
They also demanded that we sign a pledge that we would not publish or distribute any statements for or against any political candidate. They pointedly did not exempt letters to the editor.
Following this, nearly every member of the Insider staff suffered major medical crises in their families. Since we are a small organization, we do not have extra staff to whom to shift the responsibilities; in one week, our entire operational staff was wiped out by catastrophes.
People talk about "the perfect storm" – we are drowning in it.
Because we cannot continue to publish a weekly newspaper without available staff, and because we cannot simultaneously fulfill our pledge to the people of Johnston and hope to succeed in battle with the IRS, on Monday we made the painful decision to indefinitely suspend publication of the print Insider.
We will continue to maintain our website, which we will update as often as we can.
We hope, in the future, to resume publication of the print Insider, but the dual problem of employee health and the IRS's unprecedented decision to make nonprofit status dependent on our willingness to waive our First Amendment rights (and refuse to serve the community we are already a part of) makes it hard to estimate when a resolution might be reached.
Everyone at the Insider would like to express our deep gratitude to everyone who has supported us through these two tumultuous and rewarding years. A special thank-you goes to the businesses and advertisers who did so much to make our dream of community news and community service a reality.
-- Elizabeth Wayland-Seal