The Next Era of the Vanguard Starts Today

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At some time in the next several hours the Vanguard will go from the current site, which we just built last December, and will launch a brand new site. We may be offline for a few hours today, but the wait will have been worth it.

While the second site served its purpose and helped launch the Vanguard to unprecedented heights in terms of readership, contributions and influence, it was rushed, out of necessity in the collapse of the previous site last December, and was beset by problems from the start.

But I want to discuss the future rather than the past. In July we celebrated our eighth birthday, and it gave us time to reflect on the foundation of the Vanguard – born during a very tumultuous chapter of our city’s history. At that time I was really amazed at the first entry dated July 30, 2006.

I wrote, “This blog will be the voice of truth for the City of Davis. This blog will expose the lies and deceptions whether they come from the City Council, the Davis Police Department, the DA’s Office, or the City Manager. This blog will be the source of hard-hitting reporting and news that you will not get from the Davis Enterprise.”

I have been reading a lot of Guy Kawasaki in the past few weeks. Guy Kawasaki made his name as the “chief evangelist” for Apple in the mid-1980s. It was in that time that Apple rolled out a truly revolutionary product, the Macintosh. Prior to the Macintosh, he would explain, the computer was a tool for experts who could understand and manipulate computer programming languages.

The Macintosh allowed the average person to be able to interface with a computer with a minimal level of proficiency by clicking on icons and adding text. By doing so, Apple would democratize computers and bring them to the mass public in a way that was not possible previously.

At the time, everyone was trying to build a better and faster MS-DOS. After that time, the world was trying to build on the concept of Macintosh.

When the Vanguard first launched, a lot of people did not know what to make of it. So they resorted to comparing it in terms they could understand – typical mainstream construction of a newspaper. The truth is that the Vanguard is not merely a reposition of mainstream newspapers on a new medium that is without mass or physical boundaries.

The Vanguard is, in fact, to the newspaper what Macintosh was to MS-DOS.

Observe the following. The classic newspaper represents typical one-way communication. The journalist, columnist, letter writer, or editorialist speaks to the readers. They report the news as they see it. They commentate on the news as they see it. And the readers can either take it or leave it.

Yes, the reader can engage in a delayed and long-distance dialogue through letters to the editor, but for the most part papers are bound by their physical limitation.

It is worth noting that even when traditional newspapers meet the new media era, they struggle to break out of their confines. The Enterprise has attempted a number of different comment configurations and, while they briefly had some engaged readership, they never had a dialogue space where the writers and readers could interact on an exchange of ideas.

While it is true that one of the motivations of the Vanguard was to get a different voice out to the public, our chief frustration in 2006 was the inability to get alternative voices and messages out to the public for fear of retribution and ostracism.

This consideration is why the Vanguard, through modifications and revisions, has been steadfast in allowing the reader to comment without fear. Some believe that this leads to mean-spirited posts, but we have found over the years that people who post under their own name can be just as pointed and critical as an anonymous poster.

Moreover, we believe that the marketplace of ideas can overcome the limitations of anonymous commenting.

As the Vanguard has evolved, we have worked hard to develop professional codes of ethics – while these may resemble some of the ethos and code of conduct for traditional journalism, our vision is different. We view democracy as a process, not a sterile transfer of information. We view our primary mission as one of education and engagement. Allow the people access to information about their government and their community and then they can decide which way to go on things.

On Wednesday, the Vanguard hosted a candidates forum. That may not be a typical venue for a media organization, but it is a typical venue for a public engagement organization. On October 16 at 6:30 pm, at DMG Mori Seiki, the Vanguard will host a community discussion on Innovation Parks.

Our new website will enable us to continue to develop and innovate. This year, our readership has soared – some months we have averaged between 5000 and 6000 unique visitors per day. The city’s recent poll showed that seven years ago, the Davis Enterprise was by far the most utilized source for local government information. By June of this year, the polling showed that the Enterprise market share had collapsed and they had been nearly caught by the internet.

The Vanguard and its vision are not standing still, either. In addition to reaching out from behind our computer monitors to engage the public in community debates and discussion, the Vanguard is innovating on the computer screen.

For the first time, we will have a dedicated section for community announcements and for what we will call “Letters to the Vanguard.” We realize that sometimes the public wants to weigh in on their own issue and they don’t want to write a full op-ed. This feature – similar to a letter to the editor – will enable the public to submit shorter pieces, either about community events or their views on the issues of the day.

Once we launch, we are working on community partnerships that will bring new information and facilitate more public understanding of the political process.

We are excited about this new era and we hope that a new stable web environment will allow us to push forward more changes.

One last point, with new models for news and engagement, comes a new financing model. The Vanguard had operated for several years under the auspices of the Vanguardians, a Glendale-based non-profit with a similar mission. A month ago, the Vanguard ‘s own 501(c)(3) status was approved.

While the financing is in place for our new website, we rely on advertising and community donations rather than paid subscriptions to fund our costs. As we grow, the costs to maintain the site continue to grow, as well.

A number of our readers are also contributors. We have a group of people who graciously and generously donate on a monthly basis, with their contribution automatically debited from their credit cards. If you can help us on an ongoing basis, please click here – your generous contribution can us maintain our infrastructure as well as go into a pool to fund new features and innovation. Please donate today.

Thank you for reading the Vanguard – this should be an exciting time.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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31 thoughts on “The Next Era of the Vanguard Starts Today”

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          From Snopes: “Despite the derisive references that continue even today, former Vice-President Al Gore never claimed that he “invented” the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way.”

          Quote: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.”

          Snopes: “Although Vice-President Gore’s phrasing might have been a bit clumsy (and perhaps self-serving), he was not claiming that he “invented” the Internet in the sense of having designed or implemented it, but rather that he was responsible, in an economic and legislative sense, for fostering the development the technology that we now know as the Internet.”

          Read more at http://www.snopes.com/quotes/internet.asp#xPWSEU9zgcVrCqbU.99

        2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          No one single person invented the internet. It evolved over about a decade from the time it was first proposed (by a guy named Leonard Kleinrock) until it was effectively up and running.

          A history I read (on wired.com) said the two people who deserve the most credit as inventors of the internet are Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, largely because they designed Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), and those allowed the internet to work.

          1. Jim Frame

            Don’t forget UCD’s own Russ Hobby (now retired). Russ was one of the designers of Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP, see RFC 1792), part of the Internet protocol suite.

          2. Don Shor

            Vint Cerf: “Al Gore had seen what happened with the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, which his father introduced as a military bill. It was very powerful. Housing went up, suburban boom happened, everybody became mobile. Al was attuned to the power of networking much more than any of his elective colleagues. His initiatives led directly to the commercialization of the Internet. So he really does deserve credit.”
            Quoted in Esquire. http://www.esquire.com/features/what-ive-learned/vint-cerf-0508

          3. Matt Williams

            Time Test Comment submitted September 20, 2014 @ 1:38 am but showed as 8:38 am. Time corrected/edited manually after the fact.

  1. Barack Palin

    “The Enterprise has attempted a number of different comment configurations and, while they briefly had some engaged readership, they never had a dialogue space where the writers and readers could interact on an exchange of ideas.”

    The comment section of the Enterprise was starting to pickup steam until they imo made an ignorant decision to tie all posts to Facebook which in turn killed the comments. The place is like a morgue now.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      While true, the Enterprise never really understood that they should have their reporters on a regular basis interact with the readers. That is I think a key part of the Vanguard is separate and distinct.

    2. Barack Palin

      They say it was because of some out of line anonymous posts, which I’m sure played into it, but I think they also didn’t like some of the criticism the paper and their writers often received from posters as was proven by some articles that their staff wrote about anonymous commenters.

      That’s where the Vanguard stands out, it can take critism, it often fires back but that’s what makes it interesting.

      1. Barack Palin

        In fact here’s an old article from an Enterprise staff writer where she calls some posters “trolls” and “sock puppets”.

        Here’s an excerpt from the story:

        “I didn’t think people would comment on stories in a snotty, snarky, inflammatory, troll-like way. But do they ever!

        I also — foolishly! — thought we would get heaps of positive feedback on stories via our website. I thought this because we get so many nice comments from people to our faces all the time.”

        So it was obviously getting to them, I guess they just wanted pats on the back for their stories.

        http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/trolls-sock-puppets-and-other-hazards-of-our-new-website/

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          I think you make good points. One thing I’m usually good at is not taking stuff personally and trying to learn from criticism and disagreement. Not everyone can do that.

          You certainly get more praise to your face – even from people you know disagree with you. I’m surprised though that they thought they would get positive feedback, most people post when they disagree either with your story or what is happening in their world.

  2. Frankly

    I like the moxy in this piece and the tone of confidence and excitement. It is pretty cool when someone takes an idea, works hard on it, and creates an organization that advances to greater and greater success.

    I wish every child could grow to an adult and experience this type of top-level self-actualization in work and enterprise. I’ve experienced it several times in my career. If we are to lament any missing elements of the human condition in this life, in this country, in this state and in this city… it should be that we failed to maximize that opportunity.

    But think about how disruptive and transformative the new media has been to the old media. I don’t know if the Enterprise circulation and readership suffers from the existence and success of the VG, but I am sure that the VG has got the attention of the Enterprise and influenced some of that newspaper’s strategy. Or if now yet, it most certainly will in the future.

    As we debate the future of Davis with respect to fiscal sustainability and economic development, we should agree that the pursuit of enterprise is disruptive, but that resulting opportunities for improve the human condition are profoundly beneficial enough that we should gleefully accept that disruption.

    Bravo Vanguard!

  3. Anon

    “This blog will be the voice of truth for the City of Davis. This blog will expose the lies and deceptions whether they come from the City Council, the Davis Police Department, the DA’s Office, or the City Manager. This blog will be the source of hard-hitting reporting and news that you will not get from the Davis Enterprise.”

    I hardly think the Vanguard is a bastion of “truth” and has often strayed away from “hard-hitting reporting” and delved more into the realm of political opinion (which is fine if that is what it chooses to do, as long as it does not claim opinion as fact). However, I do believe the Vanguard’s strength lies in its willingness to allow readers to critique Vanguard articles/opinions, and to facilitate spirited dialogue between readers. I do believe the Davis Enterprise missed the boat when it chose to insist readers sign in with Facebook, because the comment section which had started to get interesting on the Enterprise internet site just died on the vine.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      No poetic license? Obviously unless we’re dealing with physics or mathematical formulas, the truth is more of a subjective concept than a concrete objective fact. I’m not sure I agree that we have strayed away from hard hitting reporting, opinion pieces are more prevalent now just because there had been kind of a lull in major stories.

  4. Jim Frame

    I tried Chrome after posting my last comment from Firefox, just to see if it’s a browser issue. (It’s not, both browsers have the same grey text problem in the comment box.) But I ran into another glitch: when I tried to log in from the “you must be logged in to comment” (or somesuch wording) instead of the login button at the top right, I was taken to the old WordPress login page. In other words, some link cleanup is still needed.

  5. Jim Frame

    A couple of questions:

    1. Are all comments going to require approval? The one I just submitted returned a “Your comment is awaiting moderation” message.

    2. Will there be a sticky thread where users can post comments about the new look and feel?

    Regarding the latter: On my system, the comment text entry box produces text that’s barely distinguishable from the background, sort of a light grey on white theme. This makes the entered text very hard to read.

  6. Jim Frame

    Another design issue: the Latest Comments feature is a very useful navigation tool. It currently appears only on the home page, not on the article pages as before. I’d like to see it in a sidebar on all the pages again!

  7. Anon

    Comments that are indented far to the right, become horribly narrow. When I type in my comments they are in a pale gray against a gray background – very hard to read. Much preferred the black background. Thus far, I hate the new website.

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