What does it take to make a LampLighter?

By Leslie Thompson

At the beginning of every month, Cooper-Young’s newspaper finds its way to our front porches and neighborhood businesses. Maybe you see it at your door as you’re coming home for the day, or perhaps you’re out working in the yard as a kind stranger delivers it right to you. Either way, if anything is certain when living in this neighborhood, it is that a LampLighter will pass through your hands 11 times a year, as it has for the past two decades.
We all have our favorite sections. You might go straight to the book review or the society page, while others look forward to the crime map. But as you’re turning those pages, do you ever wonder how it came to be? Who made this free newspaper and how?

More than 230 hours are spent creating the LampLighter every month. By the time you receive this issue, our editor Barb Elder will have spent approximately 60 hours on this one volume, and that doesn’t account for the 40+ hours volunteers have spent writing the articles for this very same issue. The advertisements that border the articles create additional work. Kristan Huntley, our ad manager, spends over 50 hours a month procuring and coordinating those advertisements. Even the billing and collections for the ads that are sold take time. Chris McHaney spends about 12 hours doing that every month. Once all the content has been edited and the ads have been sold and created, an additional 30 hours are spent on the layout, production, and coordination of it all. After that, the LampLighter is delivered from the press to our neighborhood and its businesses, which takes more than 13 hours after each publication. Then even more time is spent by volunteers who deliver the paper door-to-door to our residents, which takes 32 people an average of 35 minutes each, approximately 19 hours in total. This figure does not even include the hours volunteers spend formatting the online edition of the paper.

The amount of time it takes to create each LampLighter might not seem so astonishing to you. Of course, behind every periodical is a staff that works hard and long to create such a thing, but when you consider that most of the hours spent to make the LampLighter are by volunteers, the time can begin to seem overwhelming, even more so when you realize that the people who actually are paid to produce this are not paid much at all. For such an important job as editing the LampLighter, Barb receives only $600 for her 60+ hours each month. And for all her time spent, Kristan receives only 20% of the revenue raised from the ads she has sold. An additional $300 is spent on layout, and the billing manager and distribution manager each receive $250 for their month’s work. The only other funds spent on each issue goes to the printing, and that costs $1,100 each issue.

Despite its seemingly low cost and free help from countless volunteers every month, the LampLighter has been losing money the last few years. And with the CYCA’s recent purchase of its building at 2298 Young, the Community Association is watching its budget and finances more closely than ever. Although the LampLighter is not at risk of going under anytime soon, now might be a good time to consider what you receive from this free publication. How would you feel if it were to disappear from your porch? Where would you go to gather news and current information about the happenings of this exciting and vibrant neighborhood? Would you be prepared to make a donation to contribute to the ongoing progress of the LampLighter? For the small business owners out there, have you ever considered advertising your business or service in this paper? If you’re not capable of making a monetary donation, could you spare some of your time to write an article or deliver a paper? Ask yourself these questions, and then ask yourself, “Where else besides Cooper-Young can I receive a free, monthly neighborhood newspaper, one that holds a 20-year-old tradition?”


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