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The Batavian continues to bring more local news to Genesee County residents

By Howard B. Owens

The Batavian continues to bring Genesee County more local news than any other news source, often reporting stories first and often exclusively.  

To help us continue to be your best source for local news, we're asking for your support.  Please sign up for Early Access Pass today.

Here are the stories in the past week reported by The Batavian before the competition.

  Please sign up for Early Access Pass today.

Readers are praising The Batavian as they sign up for Early Access Pass

By Howard B. Owens

We are pleased with the reception Early Access Pass has received from regular readers of The Batavian.  New people sign up for the service every day.  We asked a group of these new members to provide a few words about why they support The Batavian.  Here is what they have to say.

To sign up for Early Access Pass and support local news gathering, click here.

The Batavian has been my go-to source for local news.  I can find up-to-the-minute news and find it quite helpful. Even my out-of-state children use it to keep up with what is going on. This is a great spot for what's happening around town.
-- Jeanne Penepent

Our local community matters. While people get excited about national news stories, the truth is we have very little impact on the national stage. What’s more valuable is to know what’s happening here in Genesee County, where we have a real impact, but the first step is staying informed. That’s why I’m proud to support the exceptional reporting of The Batavian with a yearly Early Access subscription.  
-- Sarah Kohl

I have always loved reading The Batavian and appreciate that the site is timely and keeps us up-to-date, particularly during the blizzard this past December. The photography is exceptional, and I especially love seeing school and arts events showcased. Upon returning home from my colleague’s retirement concert Tuesday night, I was excited to see a photo and story already posted! I am enjoying my Early Access Pass to local news and events.  
-- Melzie Case 

For years, I have read the Batavian every morning.  It has allowed me to keep up with local events and happenings.  The new charge is minimal for unbiased reporting, which is difficult to find in this day of polarization.  Thank you, Howard, for all you do and best wishes for continued success.  
-- Lorri Goergen

We especially loved the handwritten card and note we received from Kay Lennon:

Dear Howard & Team: Thank you for The Batavian "tote."  It is "super!" I will be waiting to see who is the first person to ask, "Where did you get The Batavian Tote!"  You can be sure I will smile.

To get your free reusable tote from The Batavian and join your friends and neighbors who are signing up daily to support The Batavian, click here.

FAQ: What is Early Access Pass and more

By Howard B. Owens

Since we launched Early Access Pass, a lot of people have asked questions. Some people have made statements worth addressing. And some people have expressed misperceptions about the program.  This FAQ is intended to address those issues.

What is Early Access Pass?
Early Access Pass is an innovative program asking readers to help provide financial support for the gathering and reporting of local news. Rather than wall off everything, The Batavian publishes select stories that are initially available only to those who have joined Early Access Pass.  For the first four hours after a story is published, only readers who have joined Early Access Pass will have access to those select stories.  Readers who join Early Access will get instant access to originally reported, bylined stories by The Batavian. Those who don’t join will need to wait four hours after publication to read those stories.

What do I get if I sign up for Early Access Pass?
You get instant access to all of the original, by-lined reporting of The Batavian while everybody waits to join will wait to get all of the news. And, currently, we’ll send you a free reusable tote bag.

What do I get if I DON'T sign up for Early Access Pass?
You can still read all of the press releases we post as soon as they're published.  Scanner reports will not require a pass.  Community events we cover as primarily photo coverage will most likely not require a pass.  There will be the other certain news items -- ones that didn't require a lot of reporting time -- that will not require a pass. And, of course, every story that did require a pass will no longer require a pass four hours after publication.  In other words, you still get everything we publish for free, though on a few items, you will need to wait to access it.

I think news should be free!
Actually, news still is free on The Batavian.  We’re offering you a choice: Join Early Access and get instant access or wait to join and then wait to read important news about the community for free later.  All stories are still free to read, but some will require an Early Access Pass to read immediately. 

Why are you asking me to pay you to read the news?
As stated above, we're not asking you to pay for news. We’re offering you a choice -- pay for instant access or wait and read it for free later. That said, gathering and reporting news is time-consuming, and time equals money, which means hiring reporters, which is expensive. For most of the first 15 years of The Batavian, Howard Owens gathered and wrote nearly all the news on the site. That required him to work 10, 12, 14, 16 hours a day.  Often, he still works those long hours.  It’s taken a toll on his health and given him very little free time.  He can no longer keep working at that pace.  The Batavian is asking readers to support The Batavian so its news staff can be expanded.

Isn’t this just a cash grab, pure greed?
As stated above, the founder and owner of The Batavian has been working 10 to 16 hours a day for most of the past 15 years.  He can’t continue at that pace.  This isn’t about generating more profit. It’s about asking the readers for help so The Batavian can hire more staff writers. 

Why should I pay The Batavian when I get my news elsewhere for free?
You can’t get most of what The Batavian reports elsewhere.  There are only two news organizations covering Genesee County that do any sort of in-depth reporting, and both now ask for readers to financially support their news-gathering efforts.  And that other publication doesn’t report nearly as much news about Genesee County as The Batavian. Also, The Batavian frequently reports news stories long before that other publication gets to them, if they ever do.  And of those two news organizations, The Batavian charges less on either a monthly basis or an annual basis.

Can’t I just get all my news off of social media?
In brief: no, you can’t. Social media is a poor substitute for an actual news-gathering operation.  The way the algorithms work, you can’t trust that everything that might be important to you will come to your attention or in a timely manner.  And how do you know what you’re reading on social media is accurate?  Who is the person providing you the information? What is the person’s agenda?  A lot of local governments now post information about what they’re doing on social media, but who is asking questions about the accuracy and context of that information?  What social media company is sending reporters to small town meetings to find out what’s really going on, to ask questions, to make public document requests, to hold appointed and elected officials accountable? These are the functions of journalists, and journalists, like any other worker, need to be paid to do their jobs. Twice in the past month (as of May 2023), reporters for The Batavian have reminded elected officials that they were about to enter secret meetings that violated the state's open meetings law.  In both cases, the elected officials agreed to hold their discussion in open session. It takes engaged, knowledgeable, professional reporters to hold public officials accountable.

Why is local news so important that I should pay to support it?
Without local reporters, there is nobody to hold local government officials accountable, to ensure they’re serving the public interest.  In communities without much, if any, local news, small-town governments have been shown to slip into incompetence, if not outright corruption. And it’s not that local government officials are bad people. It’s just without a watchdog, it’s easy for anybody to fall into bad habits.  Further, local news reporters do more than hold officials accountable. They also report on the accomplishments of our children. They spread the news about the good deeds of charities and civic organizations. And by spreading all of the information about a community, they help bind a community together, which is essential to a community’s health and financial well-being.

I’m not convinced. I still don’t think I should pay for local news.
Well, like we said, you don’t have to.  You can wait the four hours to read a story that might interest you.  That said, if readers won’t support local news, someday there will be no local news. Howard Owens, the owner of The Batavian, is going to retire or die someday.  As things stand, it’s doubtful The Batavian could continue under a new owner.  It would just shut down.  And the other big news operation in town relies heavily on its print subscribers to stay in business. All across the country, the declining value of print subscribers can be found in obituary columns.  The death of print news in small towns is inevitable.  So, if readers won’t support digital news, someday there will be no local news.

How do I join if I don’t want to use a credit card?
You can send a check for $80 to:

            The Batavian 
            P.O. Box 632
            Batavia, NY 14021

To join Early Access Pass online, click here.

The Batavian's coverage-leading stories of the past week

By Howard B. Owens

In the past week, The Batavian once again brought you more news about Genesee County than any other news source.  

Below is a list of the bylined stories The Batavian published over the past week ahead of any other news outlet, and, again, in many cases, The Batavian was the only news source to bring you these stories.

The Batavian's dedication to bringing you the most local news first is a good reason you should sign up today for Early Access Pass.  News coverage is a lot of work, and in order to continue to stay on top of it, we are asking for reader support through Early Access Pass.

Please be sure to sign up for Early Access Pass today.

The Batavian brings you more local news faster

By Howard B. Owens
don't be that man early access pass

The Batavian brings you more local news coverage than any other news source in Genesee County.  Here are the stories we reported before the competition in the past week.

Here are 23 reasons to sign up today for Early Access Pass

Click here to sign up for Early Access Pass

The Batavian bringing you more news faster than any other local news source

By Howard B. Owens

When it comes to getting news out first, The Batavian doesn't always beat the competition, but we beat them more often than they beat us.

We work hard to bring you the news of our community quickly, thoroughly and accurately.  

We do a lot of original reporting and break a lot of important stories, but our format also allows us to publish all of the press releases we receive, which helps us lead all other news sources in bringing you the most local news.

This is why you should sign up for Early Access Pass.  We bring you more news faster, and as a member of Early Access Pass, you get access first.

Here is a list of stories published over the past seven days, excluding press releases and scanner reports (just original reporting) where we beat the competition.  These are also stories in the vast majority of cases, the competition hasn't even covered yet. 

And speaking of exclusive coverage of important community news, The Batavian broke the story earlier this year of the change in maximum income requirement for the apartments at Ellicott Station (perhaps one of the most important stories of the year) and the competition has barely covered anything about the issue.  

And as for the biggest story of the past week, the changes at Batavia Downs, The Batavian not only broke the story locally but provided the most thorough and in-depth coverage.

When you support The Batavian, this is the kind of dedication to covering the community you are supporting.

A reminder on how Early Access Pass works: When we do original reporting, meaning something, we go out and gather information to report, and write a story that has a byline on it, for the first four hours after publication, that story will be exclusively available to people who have joined Early Access Pass. However, posts that are press releases or scanner reports, and some other occasional items, will be available immediately upon publication.  In one way or another, everything we publish remains free for those who either don't want to sign up for Early Access Pass or who can't afford to sign up.  We appreciate the support of everybody who signs up, but joining is completely optional. 

To sign up for Early Access Pass, click here.

The reviews are in: Readers love The Batavian and Early Access Pass

By Howard B. Owens

We've been receiving praise on multiple fronts for the introduction of Early Access Pass, our new program that gives readers the ability to support our local journalism in exchange for early access to original, bylined news stories.

Here's what readers have been telling us:

"My husband and I believe that you, Howard, and The Batavian staff does excellent work, and we appreciate your efforts." -- Kay Lennon

"We had been thinking about direct support of your site for some time. Even more so lately, seeing the new names and announcements of hires.

With yesterday's announcement of the 15th Anniversary (Congratulations, btw....) and unveiling a creative yet gentle way to entice people to subscribe, it made sense to do our part. We've always appreciated the site not forcing subscriptions like most other outlets do, because:

We believe that being connected to local news is important for a healthy community. Knowing what's happening in our own backyards helps raise awareness of events that we can have an effect on. We appreciate having an unbiased news source, and that is still free for our neighbors who may frequently face difficult financial choices.

Thank you for the excellent work, congratulations on the milestone and in being able to bring new workers into the business." -- Dan & Sue Jag


"I have been reading The Batavian on a daily basis since its inception. The Batavian consistently offers well-rounded, unbiased reporting on a variety of topics in the region.  One of the greatest features is the speed of the news to the readers. For me, it’s made traditional newspapers obsolete."  -- Mike Davis

"We're very impressed with what you are doing. The Batavian puts the print papers to shame!  Keep up the great work!!" -- Jerry and Carol Foster

"I read the Batavian because it makes it easy to keep up with local news and events.  You can access it at any time, on your computer or phone.  It is so easy.  Let's not forget the Deal of the Day.  Love the bargains."  -- Tabatha Torcello

"The Batavian keeps me informed about Batavia. We are “Snowbirds,” so keeping in touch is important to us. Thank you." -- Bill Lawrence

"You do great work.  Our community is fortunate to have you (Howard Owens and Joanne Beck) as journalists who capture news stories that touch people’s hearts." -- Robyn Brookhart

Sign up now for Early Access Pass. Don't be the last to know.

The Batavian is 15: we have a new logo, and a new way for you to support local journalism

By Howard B. Owens
The Batavian Eagle

Today marks two important events for The Batavian.

It is our 15th Anniversary.  The Batavian’s official first day of publication was May 1, 2008.

We’ve come a long way from those early days when we were thrilled the first time 1,000 people checked out the site in a day to now reaching 10,000 to 14,000 people per day.

We’re also launching a new website.  The look isn’t changing as much as the important steps we're taking to improve our community coverage and the overall efficiency of the site.

We’re also asking readers to take a more direct role in helping to fund local journalism by becoming supporters through our new Early Access Pass. Those who do sign up for Early Access will be able to read selected bylined stories as soon as they are published. Those who don’t will need to wait four hours before getting access to the full story.

New Logo
As part of our forward-looking effort, we’re introducing a new logo.

The Upton Monument is Genesee County’s most distinctive landmark, and the Eagle at its pinnacle is a symbol of ambition and freedom, so I’ve long wanted to incorporate the Eagle into our masthead.  We also decided to go after a more modern, forward-looking design.  The Batavian remains locally owned, and we steadfastly maintain our independence.  We also are deeply rooted in our community.

The new logo (designed by Lisa Ace, our creative manager), we think, symbolizes our community and our independence, and with a clean, modern design and an eagle eye -- we can look forward and outward in an effort to be up on the latest in current and breaking news right here in Genesee County.  

Site Design
The software The Batavian runs on was getting dated, so it was time for a significant upgrade.  We saw that as a time to slightly tweak our design.

We know some people think our site design isn’t very sophisticated with full stories and all the ads on the home page.  But here’s the thing: what we do works. We often hear from readers how easy our site is to use. Readers tell us they like all the ads of local businesses on the home page.  It acts like a local business directory.  Local business owners love it because they know their ad is being displayed to thousands of local residents every day.

Early Access Pass
I’ve been publishing The Batavian for 15 years.  It’s been hard, grueling, and stressful work at times. I can’t charge forward with the same energy I once had.  I rely more on people helping me, especially with recent changes in my life circumstances. 

We now have three hard-working and talented full-time employees and some wonderful freelancers, and we need to be able to hire more help.  We simply can’t cover all the news in Genesee County without your help.

Covering local news is time-consuming and that makes it expensive and difficult to get to everything of interest or importance.  There is no cheap way to do it.  News can’t remain free forever.

So, we’re going to ask our most loyal supporters to take a more direct role in funding local journalism.  

We’ve come up with a unique, perhaps first-of-its-kind program in the news industry: The Early Access Pass. It’s unique in that it won’t force you to pay to read the news.  It’s simply a reminder on freshly published stories that we need your help to continue to bring to you the news of your community. When you click a link for a story published within the previous four hours, you will be provided an option to sign up for Early Access, or you can come back four hours later to read it. The choice is yours.

The Batavian has long dominated Genesee County news by publishing most of the news of Genesee County first.  That’s still our mission.  With Early Access, you can become among the first to know about important news while everybody else waits.  Early Access will apply only to original reporting, stories with a byline, and not to press releases, posts primarily of photos, or scanner reports. 

We’ve kept the cost of Early Access extremely low, so all of our loyal supporters can afford to sign up -- $8 per month or $80 per year. If you're interested in a group rate, email me: [email protected].

Local news is essential to the health of a community, and we hope you value what we do enough to support us as we endeavor to do more of it.  We work hard to cover our community, and we appreciate our readers.  Please support our efforts by signing up for Early Access today.

The Batavian hires Kara Richenberg as publication assistant

By Howard B. Owens

For the first time in its nearly 15-year history, The Batavian has three full-time employees.

Kara Richenberg, a lifelong resident of Genesee County, is joining the staff today as a publication assistant.

Richenberg's duties will include posting press releases, managing our community calendar, and administering Deal of the Day, as well as other customer support.

"We're excited to add Kara to our team," said Publisher Howard Owens. "She has been an active part of our community throughout her life, knows the community well, and will fit well with the team we already have in place."

Already on that team are Lisa Ace, creative manager, who joined The Batavian nearly 12 years ago, and News Editor Joanne Beck, who has been in that role for about a year.

In her previous jobs, Richenberg has worked for Tops Markets, the Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union, and Toyota of Batavia.  She is a graduate of Pembroke High School and earned an associate's degree from Genesee Community College.

Mike and Kara Richenberg married in 2016 and welcomed their first child, a daughter, in 2020.  Her new job will allow her to work from home and care for her daughter.  The couple is currently working with the building trades team at BOCES to build a home for themselves in Corfu.

Both Mike and Kara are avid runners (Mike won the first six consecutive Arc Friends and Family 5Ks), and Kara is currently the coach of the modified tennis team at Pembroke HS.

The Batavian will market its 15th Anniversary on May 1 with the launch of an upgraded website as well as a new program that will enable readers to help us produce more community news.

The Batavian honored by NYPA for Winter Storm Elliott coverage

By Howard B. Owens


The Batavian was awarded first place for Best Online Breaking News coverage on Saturday by the New York Press Association for its coverage of Winter Storm Elliott.

The stories of the storm that led to the award were written by Howard Owens and Joanne Beck.

The primary stories considered for the award were: 

Second place in the Online Breaking News category went to the Albany Times Union for a deputy-involved shootout, and third place went to the Queens Chronicle for Winter Storm Elliott coverage.

To see all of The Batavian's coverage of Winter Storm Elliott and its aftermath, click here.

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