Gulfport, FL: At the end of March, residents in this artists enclave on Boca Ciega Bay awoke to their first Thursday morning since 1968 without one of the region’s enduring institutions – the Gabber, the longest-running weekly independent newspaper in Florida , had officially shut its doors due to financial restraints placed on the paper due to COVID-19. Now, in a fashion you’d expect from a town known for its creativity and outside-the-box thinking, the community and a group of journalists have nearly accomplished what many here thought improbable just two months ago – saving the Gabber.
The Gabber is a vital resource for clubs and organizations throughout the community and it’s the community that’s led the way towards the paper’s survival. The town’s unique size and charm foster a personal relationship between the local businesses that operate here and their customers, so it surprised few when citizens took immediate advantage of the opportunities the Gabber made available that will help both the businesses and the paper survive.
Last month, a group of veteran journalists joined the current owners of the paper to launch an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds to do just that – transfer ownership and help the paper survive. While creative swag like t-shirts, bumper stickers and vintage history books sold quickly, the paper looked to engage the public and business owners in a community-wide attempt to save the paper.
By selling discounted advertising directly to residents in support of their favorite local business and by accepting low-interest loans from community members, the paper reached out directly to the public it has served since 1968. And the Gulfport community has responded favorably.
“Our businesses, non-profits and artists all rely on the Gabber to keep the community up to date on their various activities,” said Barbara Banno, President of the Gulfport Merchants Chamber. ”We rely on the paper not only for their reporting, but also to advertise our new businesses and upcoming events. In a community our size, it’s the perfect paper and I’m glad to see so many of our residents and businesses coming together to keep the paper going,” said Banno.
In a time when our small businesses need community support in ways unimagined a few months ago, the paper’s new advertising options give residents a direct means of supporting local businesses and residents who want to support local businesses have a few advertising options available to them.
“When we decided to sell pre-paid advertising gift cards to businesses, we thought we’d see a few businesses support us by buying gift cards for themselves,” Cathy Salustri, who is scheduled to close on the sale of the paper in mid-June, said. “But Gulfport being Gulfport showed us something better: people started buying the advertising on behalf of local businesses.”
In two weeks, Gulfportians prepaid for almost $4,000 in advertising on behalf of local businesses. While that’s a drop in the bucket for what the paper needs to stay afloat in the coming months, Salustri said the pre-sales reinforced her belief that, for this community, keeping the Gabber Newspaper alive is the right thing to do.
“For many of the people buying the gift cards,” she said, “it’s an utter display of faith in our community. These people are buying $20, $50, $100 gift cards and sending them to places like The Tiki and the Gulfport Beach Bazaar. It’s not like we’re seeing them do this in a bustling economy. They know our restaurants are struggling, that our small businesses need them, and everyone’s giving what they can.”
The gift cards help two businesses: The Gabber Newspaper and a host of Gulfport’s family-owned businesses struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to revitalized online and mobile platforms, including online classifieds, the Gabber will begin distributing an online newsletter in early June as well. The paper has also expanded its online advertising options beyond the classifieds, to include enriched content and video.
For more information and to help ‘Save the Gabber,’ please visit us online and on our social media outlets: