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Losing hope
(Published October 18, 2004)

This month marks seven years since I decided to walk into a D.C. government office to incorporate Common Denominator Inc. as the parent company of what I hoped would become a real "hometown" newspaper for city residents, like myself.

I began this enterprise with high hopes that my long-ago-adopted hometown would embrace an honest effort by one of its own, with proven professional and business credentials, to provide a forum for community information and public discourse. As the former operator of a suburban retail business, I hoped to offer a much-needed, affordable and attractive medium for the local business community to reach potential new customers and clients. I also hoped that my business would grow and provide jobs for the community.

More than six years after publishing the first issue of The Common Denominator, and as many years of accruing substantial business and personal debt, my hopes no longer remain high.

"With your support, D.C., we won’t let you down," concluded the paper’s inaugural editorial on June 15, 1998.

Since then, The Common Denominator has dependably provided award-winning citywide coverage of public affairs and community events. As a public service, we have contributed time and resources to help the Smithsonian Institution, The City Museum and others tell the city’s story. In addition, we have created several programs — including D.C. Public Schools sports awards and our annual Black History Month essay and art contest — to provide positive incentives for D.C. schoolchildren.

Our staff has built up a tremendous amount of good will in the community, but that good will has not translated into the money necessary to operate a successful business. That good will also has been what often kept me going when reason told me to throw in the towel.

It wounds me deeply when I let people down, and, due to a lack of financial resources from the start, I have. Over the years, seven local banks have rejected my applications for small business loans. Along the way, my business also has encountered numerous unanticipated – and possibly illegal – monopolistic obstacles to gaining access to the local marketplace, often making it difficult to distribute The Common Denominator as a paid-circulation newspaper.

As the daughter of a small business founder in Ohio, I have grown bitter and disillusioned by the lack of support for local small businesses that I have found within the District’s government and business community – except for those that curry political favor, which a newspaper by its nature should not.

My inability to draw a paycheck or take a vacation or travel to share joyful occasions with family and friends has taken a great personal toll during the past seven years. I have lived most of my 49 years as what some longtime friends termed "the eternal optimist." No more. For more than six years, I have often wondered how I would scrape by to pay the next month’s bills to keep the paper going. Now, I also worry that The Common Denominator has left me with little recourse to pay my own bills.

I can no longer promise that there will be a next issue of The Common Denominator. I hope there will be. But, for the near term, I continue to be appreciative of our customers and beg forbearance from our loyal readers as I investigate available options for the future.

—Kathryn M. Sinzinger, Editor and Publisher

Copyright 2004, The Common Denominator