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My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch

CounterPunch Business Staff, From Left to Right: Nichole Stephens, Becky Grant, Deva Wheeler.

Dear Readers and Supports,

As you’ve likely seen on our homepage, in our magazine and in our weekly news updates, CounterPunch is 25 this year. Keeping a tiny non-profit alive and kicking for 25 years is no small feat and we are indeed grateful to all of you who value CounterPunch enough to keep it going. Some of our charter members will remember CounterPunch’s humble beginning as a six page, photocopied newsletter. In 2012, we released our current magazine format, now 6 times larger than our original newsletter, but still virtually ad free. When most of us still didn’t use computers for reading news, Jeffrey St. Clair boldly dove headfirst into the world of website building. This was a nightmarish task in mid-90s, when dial-up internet was slow, and it would take hours just to upload the articles. Now, in the amount of time he spent painstakingly posted a half dozen articles, he and Managing Editor Joshua easily post 2-3 times that a day, each weekend.

I started working for Alexander Cockburn 21 years ago. I was hired to convert his hunt-and-pecked type-written articles into a digital format. It was a complicated exchange involving a range of technologies, as archaic as a fountain pen, lots of whiteout and typing paper and a vintage Mac – a suit-cased sized beast that could send emails and upload to servers. Occasionally, the articles were for CounterPunch, so when he told me he was moving the office to Petrolia and asked me to be his bookkeeper about a year after I started working for him, I was familiar with the newsletter he and Ken Silverstein started a few years earlier. Before long, I was working 20 hours a week in an office we shared in his library. It was there that I introduced him to the then-new lime lollipop colored iMac and Microsoft Word, and got him set up with his first email account. He was a quick study, and before long, he was teaching me the quick-keys. Now, he is missed as much as ever, especially at fund drive time, when he was always wild with the excitement of hearing from our “jolly” and “feisty” readers as he called all of you. When he answered the phone for an incoming donation, and somebody would say, put me down for $10, he’d say “don’t be a chiseler” and get them to pony up another $5. Early on, Alex said to me that the main point of CounterPunch was to have fun. His idea of fun was punching out scathing and smart pieces on the evils of Washington and beyond, rallying like minds to a purpose, and impromptu board meetings where the wine flowed freely and he and his cohorts would exchange ideas and formulate editorial tactics that were far above my head. Those nights felt more like a turn-of-the-century (20th that is!) salon you could have expected Gertrude and Hem to walk in at any moment.

While we’ve made it all these years through some rough seas and eerie doldrums when nary a dime seemed to roll through the door, our tiny ship still cannot survive without the support and generosity of our readers. Unfortunately, less than a half percent of our readers donate. Most non-profits have staff just for grant farming – not CounterPunch. We refuse to have foundations, funded by the 1% and big corporations, telling us how to operate. With our readership as large as it is, we could be funding our efforts with interest-based advertising, and every time you visit the CounterPunch site, you’d be stalked by creepy advertisements selling products that Siri overheard you need, and your browsing history, shoe-size and face-print would be usurped by the sinister info stealers that hover in the background of many news sites. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. We prefer to use our “white space” to let you know about the books we’ve published and those by the writers that are featured on our site every week.

DONATE TODAY!

The reality is, the cost of putting a website has increased thousands of times since the CounterPunch homepage first went online in 1997! We first purchased our URL (counterpunch.org) for $9.99 and, besides Jeffrey’s endless labor, that was the cost of putting up the site. Now, to make the user experience on our website accommodating, we have to purchase endless new plug-ins, pay monthly fees for licenses and memberships and annual fees for every little bell and whistle and have constant oversight and maintenance to make sure it’s working for all the various devices that people now use. Plus, all our readers take up loads of bandwidth. It even costs to make sure we’re up-to-date enough that we’re allowed in search engines at all.

This is the time of the year that we put out our begging bowl and ask everybody to contribute what they can, in the form of the box at the top of our home page and what some have called “rude, ugly, obtrusive, lame, f*d up.” But, we can’t take it down until we’ve raised the funds to cover another year of operations. Please chip in as soon as you can and hopefully, we’ll all be back to business as usual before the end of the month. Once you’ve made your donation, if you like, we can tell you a nifty trick to read articles without the stalker box (just email me: becky.counterpunch@icloud.com).

CounterPunch survives on a bare-bones budget with a small, intensely dedicated staff. We don’t have retirement plans or paid vacations or six-figure salaries. Jeff and Josh work tirelessly to put up the vast array of articles you read every day. Josh puts together our free News Updates, where you get a quick view of what’s new on our site a few times a week. Nat disseminates our stories across social media, informing a new generation of readers that CounterPunch is where they can turn to read what the mainstream media won’t touch. Here in the business office, Deva, Nichole and I are making sure your orders are fulfilled, your receipts mailed, the phone is answered by a real person, the bills are paid and that we’ve satisfied the state and federal bureaucracies. We hope to continue to produce the magazine and publish new books that few other publishers will even consider printing. We hope to continue publishing dozens of original articles daily on our website for millions around the globe for another year, but unless we reach our fundraising goals we simply won’t be able to stay afloat.

Sincerely,
Becky Grant
If you don’t like to donate online, please call our business office or mail in your donation today!
(707) 629-3683
PO Box 228
Petrolia, CA 95558
Thank you,
Becky Grant
Administrative Director

Please donate today through our store, or through PayPal at checkout.

More articles by:

Becky Grant is CounterPunch’s longtime business manager.

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