Confessions of an NPR pledge drive ignorer

Subscriber Only
Sign in or Subscribe Now for audio version

Dear Reader —

Forgive me, for I have sinned: I have listened to one hundred episodes of A Prairie Home Companion and never once given to an NPR pledge drive. Please don’t tell Garrison Keillor.

But on a trip to Ireland this summer, I found myself in a pub that doubled as a hardware store, listening to a young pair of local musicians playing traditional folk songs as they crouched under buzz saws and boxes of washers marked to sell. There couldn’t have been more than a dozen of us listening. I emptied my wallet into the tip jar.

What’s the difference? That question occupies me both as a would-be giver to worthy causes, and as the head of a magazine funded by the gifts of others.

The thoughts that went through my head then went something like: “They must have spent years becoming this skilled,” then “This is joyous,” then “This tradition they’re keeping alive could die at any time if they didn’t choose to keep it going,” then “It’s up to me to help.”

One of these things is missing, I suppose, when I wind up not giving. It’s not that I don’t see value, but that I don’t feel like something unique in the world might be lost — or it doesn’t seem like it’s up to me personally to help keep it going.

On the hope that you are a bit like me, I am asking you to reflect on this story as The New Atlantis announces our 20th anniversary fundraising campaign. To keep our work going for another year, from today through December 31 we need to raise $200,000 through the generosity of our readers.

It’s a significant goal. It’s far from guaranteed. Twenty years of publishing is a landmark achievement for any small journal, much more for one dedicated to a countercultural treatment of a specific topic. Plus, there’s no single big financial backer who keeps our work going. This is possible only because readers like you have chosen each year to give us another.

I could tell you what we think the value of our work is, and what the urgent stakes are for us this year. And I will later. But if you are reading this message, you already in principle value what we do.

So I’m asking you to think about how you value our work in practice, about what the stakes are for you. Do you feel that we are doing something you can’t find anywhere else? And does it feel up to you whether it keeps going?

If the answer is yes, please help us keep our work going for another year by donating today.

As always, thank you for reading.

Ari Schulman

The hardware store
Danita Delimont / Alamy
Header image: Sarah Hadley / Alamy

Delivered to your inbox:

Humane dissent from technocracy

Exhausted by science and tech debates that go nowhere?