A second payment of $1,000 was wired yesterday from the Gambit Relief Fund to the employees of Gambit Weekly, the New Orleans alternative newspaper that was knocked out of commission by Hurricane Katrina. The fund was established last month by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies to provide relief for the paper’s staff members, who were evacuated from their homes and left without jobs or income after Katrina struck.
AAN has collected over $106,000 in charitable contributions since the fund was announced on Sept. 2. The first payment was initiated on Sept. 12 and was distributed in equal $1,000 allotments to Gambit Weekly’s 49 employees. Yesterday’s disbursement was direct-deposited into the bank accounts of 45 employees, and $1,000 checks were mailed to the three remaining staffers. (A staff member who had given notice prior to Katrina received the first payment because it was distributed before her employment at the paper was scheduled to end.)
Most of the money raised has come from AAN-member papers and their employees, although contributions began to trickle in last week from readers as well. So far, 34 organizations have contributed a total of $80,219, while 249 individuals have given a total of $25,901, in amounts ranging from $5 to $1,000.
The two largest AAN-member companies — New Times Media LLC and Village Voice Media — made the two largest contributions, of $15,000 each. Both companies also pledged to match up to $15,000 in donations from their employees and aggressively promoted the matching-funds program internally. New Times announced last week that its employees have already passed the $15,000 mark, triggering an additional $15,000 gift from the 11-paper chain based in Phoenix.
Other major contributions from AAN-member companies came from the Alternative Weekly Network ($5,000), Chicago Reader ($5,000), Georgia Straight ($5,000) and the Washington City Paper ($3,000). The Reader and City Paper are both owned by Chicago Reader, Inc.
Most of the 249 individuals who have contributed come from 33 different organizations, including 29 AAN-member papers. Several of those papers — including Creative Loafing (Atlanta), Isthmus, The Memphis Flyer, Style Weekly and The Stranger — spearheaded their own matching-funds programs that resulted in donations from multiple employees. One non-member paper — The Stranger’s sister paper, Portland Mercury — also launched a matching-funds program that spurred contributions from over a half-dozen employees.
In the last several days, AAN has received more than a half-dozen contributions from alt-weekly readers presumably responding to ads promoting the fund that AAN made available to its member papers two weeks ago. Several included touching notes with their gifts, including the anonymous donor from Jacksonville, Fla., who sent a $10 money order and wrote, “I don’t have much myself. But I am bless [sic] to see another day.”
Next week, AAN will release a list of companies and individuals who have contributed to the Gambit Relief Fund, although the size of each donation will remain confidential.
The Gambit Relief Fund was established by AAN within its Alternative Newsweekly Foundation to accept tax-deductible charitable donations. Please visit this page for more information on how to make a contribution to the fund.