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Opinion

Still need to hear from you

A week ago, I asked readers to let me know what they really, really like about this news service and which features they could live without. I also said we need to start bringing in more revenue. I've heard from six people so far. As one procrastinator to another, it's time to write in!

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Non-profit news services are popping up everywhere these days in response to the continuing shrinkage of high-quality original reporting in "legacy media," as newspapers and TV are now called. I spent a day listening to other editors and publishers discuss how to survive, and they were unanimous: Don't give your work away for free.

Reporting and editing -- especially on topics that are complex, such as health policy -- cost a lot of money. It's ridiculous to pretend they don't. And advertising has not kept pace with that cost.

In the past month, newspapers in the state have laid off many more editors and reporters, even though the staffs had already been cut to the bone. The combination of a changing news model and lingering recession have had a crippling effect on our state's newspapers.

Health News Florida has brought edited summaries of the day's news to Floridians for free for more than four years and has offered original, top-quality reporting for the past three.

HNF was able to do this through the generosity of a number of foundations. Three have stuck with us since the beginning: Health Foundation of South Florida in Miami, Winter Park Health Foundation and Palm Healthcare Foundation.

Several others have loyally funded us for at least the past three years, including Jessie Ball duPont Fund in Jacksonville and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice.

And then there's the Knight Foundation, which made a two-year grant that matched the contributions of all those smaller foundations.

Grants don't last forever, and ours will likely end in six to nine months. We have to stand on our own feet if we are to go on.

We are looking at various options, including charging for the edited eAlert service or for access to original stories or archives. We're also considering going the membership route, seeking voluntary contributions from readers as public broadcasting does.

I will make recommendations to our board in a few weeks. Between now and then, please tell me whether you think Health News Florida is important to you, and if so, which parts of our service -- eAlerts, original reporting, edited summaries of news, features, opinions, etc. published on our site -- you could live without.

And if you want any of these services to continue, please offer ideas for raising revenue.

Thank you.

--Carol Gentry, Editor, can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.