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Street Justice Newsletter: Vol 2, Edition 64 (5/10/2020)

— — — This the free, weekly edition of Street Justice. — — —

Let’s Try Everything: Building a News Business in 2020

This month, I started a Street Justice YouTube Channel and I started an Instagram page in April. I hope you’ll subscribe to the former and follow on IG. 17 months into operation, I’ve decided video and visual content is key to building a diversified media business. In short, I think I have to become a half-way decent YouTuber in order to stack up enough income to pay all of my bills.

90 percent of you are free subscribers. You receive the Sunday digest that includes a special story and excerpts from the weekday, written reports to paid subscribers. I’m extremely thankful to have attracted a large collection of both free and pledge subscribers this way. I’m even more grateful that y’all have mostly stuck with me during the financial uncertainty of coronavirus. I’m going to re-double my efforts for quality newsletters on this publishing schedule. This is working really well, but it’s not enough to earn a living wage.

The news business — media businesses generally — are suffering huge losses in revenue because the demand for advertising is so low during pandemic times. You’ve hopefully seen and been frustrated by the massive news industry layoffs — an increase from the already high pace of job loss. However, the NY Times and other publications are seeing a surge in new subscribers — making themselves somewhat whole after declined ad sales. I take that to heart because I’m two years into building a subscription-based outlet. But, I also take from that the imperative of diversifying revenue.

So, I’ve launched the Street Justice YouTube Channel to produce engaging video news coverage that can generate advertising revenue from Google/YouTube’s monetization and also from brand partners/sponsors. I’ll be replacing the weekly free written story with a weekly video story. I’m hoping it will be easier to pitch brand sponsorships for YouTube videos than it was pitching them on email newsletter sponsorships. YouTube ads may be extremely fickle as a revenue source, but that video platform as such a massive audience that it’s essential I give it a shot producing content there.

The good news is I have all the necessary equipment and basic skills for YouTube video creating. The near term goal is getting to 100 YouTube subscribers so that I can create a custom, clean URL. The medium-term goal is 1,000 subscribers, which allows me to start receiving a cut of advertising revenue from my videos. In the long-term, I’d love YouTube ad revenue to be one-third of a three-legged stool — along with monthly/annual subscriber pledges and brand sponsorships.

Please watch the Street Justice YouTube welcome video below. I’ll do my best each week to have a high-quality closed-caption/transcript.

Hi. I'm Gordon Chaffin, reporter at Stree Justice Dot News. This is Street Justice's YouTube channel. Street Justice is a news organization I started in 2018 to cover public space: transportation, infrastructure, energy, housing, development. In short, we explain why your street sucks.

Street Justice is my main source of income but I also do jobs on the side to help pay the bills. I walk dogs on the side. That's Gary. And I live in a shipping container. Street Justice covers public space; which of course means roads and sidewalks, bridges, tunnels, libraries, schools, parks -- but also includes public land. What to do? Build houses? Who knows!

It should be obvious to anyone in the age of coronavirus that public space is fraught with conflict, and that's what Street Justice covers. We cover who gets to live on tree-lined streets and why. Why it's so hard to build in the most sought-after neighborhoods. Why widening streets in the past actually meant a racial injustice that persists to this day.

Street Justice covers bike lanes, protected bike lanes, multi-use trails, painted bike lanes, buffered bike lanes. But also, why bike lanes are critical to climate change readiness and also a cultural touchpoint in terms of segregation and gentrification. And transit. Will people ride it after coronavirus; And how more people should build bigger buildings near it.

Street Justice covers housing. What gets built and why. Who that benefits and why. We cover zoning. How industrial lots near transit corridors can be turned into mixed-use, multifamily, mixed-income buildings. And why single-family home neighborhoods are almost always unaffordable. But, neighborhoods with houses like these -- quad-plexes -- are a secret to affordability. We cover litigation brought by people who want to preserve their neighborhoods but end up ruining the character of their neighborhoods with empty lots for decades. How does enforcement work in parks and streets? When you lockdown, do we enforce laws more against the black and brown?

And what about economic development? How do we make neighborhoods better without causing gentrification that leads the displacement of long time businesses, the small businesses, the locally owned businesses, the minority-owned businesses. What if all of the incentives end up only going to the big companies who can access them. And instead of local storefronts we have chains.

Will electric vehicles solve our climate problem or ignore the real problem: sprawl and car-based commuting. Does every neighborhood have a hardware store? Or, in order to fix anything, do you have to drive to Home Depot or call a contractor?

But most of these decisions get made in private or semi-private public meetings that are attended by people who are older, wealthier, and have more free time to participate in community boards, advisory neighborhood commissions, civic associations, go to City Hall at 3 p.m. on a weekday to testify. But, all of this is really important.

Because there's a great divergence in public space that's often marked by train tracks -- in Washington DC by rivers. But, there's also a great divergence in culture and perception: Whether a bike is a symbol of young athletic white privilege or a bike is $120 at Walmart and the only lifeline of a construction worker to a site where he has to arrive at work long before the trains start running. And Street Justice tries to narrate that conflict.

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Bowser’s #ReOpenDC Transportation Advisory Committee: Annotations + Campaign Donations

Monday’s Street Justice looked into the backgrounds and political donations of DC’s new #ReOpenDC Advisory Committee for Transportation and Infrastructure. According to DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson’s presentation Monday night to ANC 2E, the Mayor’s committees are set to send recommendations to her office next week or the week of May 18th at the latest. If you have thoughts, ideas, or other input into the ways DC should reopen over the next few months, Street Justice recommends that — this week — you fill out the committee-specific survey, plus the overall ReOpenDC survey.

Full #ReOpenDC Story

Washington, DC, Just Made It Easier to Ride Transit, But Will Riders Return?

This week, I wrote in NextCity about DC’s new law that forces companies offering parking benefits to also offer transit benefits or some other payments which form serious steps toward less car commuting. This movement — benefits equity — may help transit avert a total collapse in ridership when the public seems wary of shared public spaces.

Nothing in D.C.’s Transit Benefit Equity Act requires employees to ride public transit or employers to cover transit commuting. The legislation just ensures that workers having their parking paid for by work also have the option to receive farecards of equivalent value. If only 10 percent of D.C. employees were offered new transit benefits thanks to this law, that would represent 36,000 new riders to D.C. — a 5-10 percent increase in the city’s transit ridership.

Like with most speculation about our post-pandemic future, public transit isn’t surely dead but probably needs help. Kortum and other non-partisan transportation experts agree American transit systems will probably need investment from Congress beyond this month’s $25 billion. The challenge for advocates is convincing people to ride transit in even greater numbers than before. Fringe benefits for mostly high-skilled workers probably isn’t enough to generate a public transit revival.

Read the Full Story for Free

Georgetown ANC Asks for Sidewalk Widening, Endorses Mini-Roundabout

Wednesday’s Street Justice explained how the Georgetown ANC endorsed DDOT’s bike and sidewalk improvements to western Water Street NW at the Georgetown Waterfront. Also, the Commission asked DDOT for temporary sidewalk widening for COVID social distancing on Wisconsin Avenue NW from M up to R Streets and in two other spots for local businesses.

Full Georgetown Story

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