On Saturday, one of our regular commentators, Frankly, someone I see as very insightful even as I disagree with just about everything he says, wrote a comment noting, “I was thinking that David should write a piece about the Vanguards vision for what type of blog it wants to be when it grows up. What are the key topics that interest him as a journalist or opinion piece writer. Then he should solicit input from all for points about what would keep them coming back.
“There are a lot of articles on race and cops,” he continued. “And if you remember this topic was the driving force behind the creation of the VG. It is and has been David’s crusade… and probably will be his crusade for the rest of his life. And of course national events and the national political narrative has been focused on race and cops… so there is that too.
“Now I know some people dislike that topic. Interesting to me, that topic seems to attract the most posts, but from a smaller group of posters,” he writes.
He continues, “The challenge is that there is not really a sensitive way to debate that topic. It just makes some people feel so uncomfortable that they run away or burn with anger just because people are talking about it. But it is exactly this, IMO, that has led to such entrenched divisiveness on the subject of race and contributes to racial strife. I think we NEED to talk about it. I had my place of business threatened at one point for talking about it. One side of the debate benefits from the PC rules that kill debate. It has caused an unhealthy expectation that everyone just accept the narrative. But instead it just drives people underground and with silent resentment and a goal to disassociate with people holding the other view. That is not healthy for a community.
“Those on both sides are absolutely convinced the other side is wrong. My perspective on this is that I am not trying to change David’s or Tia’s or Bidlin’s mind, but I am debating them so that others that are still in questioning mode can make up their own minds. I am also hoping that we beat back the PC police from demonizing, threatening and denigrating any and all that would dare to challenge the status quo political-media narrative of race and racism.
“But that won’t work if it is turning people away from the VG.”
This is a very helpful comment in that it brings up a lot of very important points.
The first thing is that, while some people may have stopped reading the Vanguard, overall the Vanguard continues to expand in readership. Over time the formula changes somewhat, but right now we look at a day as being 3 or 4 articles. Depending on the day those will vary, but we are always going to have something on the city, often going to have a school-related article, and then either a court watch or a social justice article involving the criminal justice system.
My thinking has always been that we have a number of different groups of readers with different interests and bringing in something from the courts, something on budget and finance from the city, something on economic development, something on climate or environmental concerns and something on the schools is a way to maximize our likely audience.
In reality it never seems to work that way – people seem to gravitate toward one or two hot articles and ignore some of the other ones. And people seem to get bent out of shape when they disagree with one article, even as we have a variety to choose from.
Frankly is right, the issue of policing and race was part of the impetus for why the Vanguard was created in the first place. It dovetails with my work in the community in the courts and with the city’s Human Relations Commission. It is an area of great interest and concern for me.
But I think the key is that just because I happen to be interested in certain issues, it doesn’t mean that the Vanguard can’t cover a much wider variety than it currently does.
This year we tried to expand the range of articles, having an active push for guest pieces – that worked briefly, but the emphasis fell off by mid-year.
My push right now is to get funding in place to really be able to professionalize the Vanguard. Right now my days are long and hard. I start at 3 or 4 in the morning. I interrupt my day at several points to transport my children to schools.
I spend the bulk of my business day meeting with people, working on the next day’s articles, and seeking money.
The good news is we have put together enough to hire someone to cover school board meetings on a regular basis. We put out an ad three weeks ago, got 22 applicants by the deadline, and are in the process of scheduling interviews for 7 of them. We hope to have someone in place by November.
I think this model will work for the future as well. My hope is to have an office assistant and another reporter perhaps by early 2016. That will free me up to focus on covering the city, managing the team, and raising money.
I know comments are always a sore spot for the contributors (those who post, as well as the readers). Too heavy a hand and we discourage people from posting. Too light a hand and people get fed up with the vitriol and the tangents. We have tried to address both sides over the years with comment policies, a full-time but volunteer moderator, and registration requirements.
For the people who think things are too nasty here, I think we do a far better job than other sites in policing our comments. For those who hate anonymous posters – I understand the frustration, but part of the reason I allowed anonymous posters from the start was that this is a small town and people are afraid to speak out against the grain (however they perceive that grain). Also, I have noticed that, while anonymous people can be nasty, so can people posting under their own names.
Here is the bottom line – we have plans to do a lot more in terms of hiring additional writers, and expanding the topics we cover. But at this point it is all revenue dependent.
I have to be very honest, I love the Vanguard. Every day I do this work, I do it because it is a labor of love. But I have done this for nine years and I don’t know how much longer I can do this without a lot more help monetarily.
We have a lot of plans for the next year which we will be unveiling soon, but it is all predicated on getting enough money to pay the bills and right now, that is increasingly dicey.
—David M. Greenwald reporting