Monday Morning Thoughts II: Where is This Vanguard Train Going?



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


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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37 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts II: Where is This Vanguard Train Going?”

  1. MrsW

    I imagine that 100 years ago, in the Western US, these conversations would be happening outside the General Store, in person.  We would each be waving the newspaper that was slanted towards our own sensibilities.  The conversations might get heated.  Individuals would have their pet topics and the conversation would offer veer towards those topics.  And others would pull them back. (We can do better there).  Individuals would also show restraint, letting others vent—and then get back on topic. (We can do better there).  Since in my imagination, this is the West, there might be a brawl on occasion.  That’s because these topics are all important.

    I believe the Vanguard is performing a very important service.  Please keep up the good work!

    1. Michelle Millet

      I like the old west analogy. I must say waving a lap around is not nearly as cathartic as waving a newspaper, plus the consequences of it dropping are much higher and more expensive.

        1. hpierce

          And the chairs would be rocking chairs, and a trusty bloodhound would be lying nearby.  You reminded me of a fantasy I and  a good friend had ~ 40 years ago.  We called it the “General Store” dream.  There’d be a pickle barrel, and little kids would come up and ask, “what was it like in ‘the day?”‘ Thank you Phil, for reminding me of fond memories.

          Oh… and “swapping lies”…

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      The plan is to hire a professional who can write articles on news stories and further separate the news from the commentary.

      The best way to have a conservative perspective is for conservatives to write commentaries for submission. I understand your reluctance to do so, but if you ask Frankly, I’ve never rejected one of his pieces.

      The one thing I didn’t mention is that we are going to be increasingly doing community outreach like the forum we had last week on the downtown.

        1. hpierce

          Duh… not like you are “outing” yourself.  This has been evident from previous posts by others who knew your Clark Kent/super poster identity. And exposed it. As for moi, not ready to do that, yet,

        2. Frankly

          Ok.  I’m Batman.  Please don’t remove my mask or my ability to fight the righteous fight would be negated.

          I’m sure Mr. Miller can figure it out.

  2. Frankly

    Frankly, someone I see as very insightful even as I disagree with just about everything he says

    I’m torn between hurt feelings, and feeling like I am doing some good work!

  3. hpierce

    Michelle’s piece today would be a good example of what the VG could be posting on a regular basis.  Affecting community, somewhat personal, opening up minds, and perhaps, hearts.  Tia, Dan Carson, others, same thing.  You have no control as to folk submitting topics/pieces, I know, David.  But you have been clear you invite that.  I applaud you for that.

    I have often opined that many of the VG pieces are meant to “get hits”, controversy for the sake of controversy.  Yet, I have to acknowledge, many are genuine ‘get a clue’, ‘what if’ pieces that do lead to ‘good discussions’ (and good thinking, whether I agree with the thought or not).

    Now I’ll need to reflect on what I want to be when (or if) I grow up.  Frankly, I think Frankly had an insightful comment that we are reacting to.  With tongue fully in cheek, for someone who has a formulaic approach to comments (try to bash “liberals”, overpaid/underworked government employees for just about anything, any subject), Frankly reminds me of the proverbial ‘stopped clock’… guaranteed to be right at least twice a day (and, as we approach daylight savings time, maybe three times!).  Repeat, tongue (pretty much) in cheek!

    1. Topcat

      Michelle’s piece today would be a good example of what the VG could be posting on a regular basis.

      Yes, I’d like to see more focus on local issues that affect us on a day to day basis.

  4. Davis Progressive

    there is stuff that can be done to generate more guest pieces with give different perspectives, but i think what i read here and what i’ve heard in personal conversations with david is that he has a time crunch.  there are days where he’s literally working from whenever he gets up 3 or 4 in the morning until late into the evenings, with time carved out for transporting his kids – he needs people whether they be volunteers or paid to take up some of the slack.

  5. Alan Miller

    For those who hate anonymous posters

    I don’t hate them, I hate that you allow them to criticize others without any consequences.  If I insult or accuse someone, or am insulted and accused by a person, they can take it up with me and I with them.  The anonymous can lob hand grenades from behind an impeneterable bunker.

    this is a small town and people are afraid to speak out against the grain

    Only because you allow the anonymous, I have to watch what I say.  I have been insulted and accused by the anonymous commenters on things that were absolutely false.  Because you have no ability to subscribe to comment replies, I sometimes don’t know this until someone tells me or I go back to an old article.

    while anonymous people can be nasty, so can people posting under their own names.

    Yes, but again, the anonymous take no responsibilty for their nastiness.  They should be held to a higher standard — which is — no personal insults or accusations against others from behind the cloak of cowardice, #ahem#, I mean anonymousness.


    1. Davis Progressive

      what kind of accountability do you think you have with the typical person.  even if you knew my name, you wouldn’t know who i was.  the only thing posting under my own name would do is get me fired from my present job.

        1. Frankly

          Is it possible that posting with a real name makes a person be a bigger ass on the VG?

          I don’t know.

          Frankly, (because I am), I don’t see any difference in assy-ness between those posting with a proper name (is it their REAL name?) or pseudonym.

          I think when I posted with my real name, I was just as big of an ass.  I had several people confirm that.

          I think the personality of a poster is not going to be any different name or no-name.

      1. Alan Miller

        To quote Michelle: “I agree with Alan on this own (sic), if you are going to attack someone, or accuse them of something,  have the courage to use your name.”

        What part of “don’t be both anonymous and an ass” don’t you understand, DP?

      2. Tia Will


        even if you knew my name, you wouldn’t know who i was. “

        Actually for many of us this is no longer true. A quick Google search can tell a lot about people who use their electronics for anything more than posting on the Vanguard. My kids are much better at this than I am, but I have found out quite a bit with name and location only.

  6. Michelle Millet

    Michelle’s piece today would be a good example of what the VG could be posting on a regular basis.  Affecting community, somewhat personal, opening up minds, and perhaps, hearts.

    I think you need to encourage more comments like this one;-).


  7. Michelle Millet

    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

    I agree. I can’t tolerate the comment sections of most blogs, especially when posters can post  anonymously. This blog does a good job shutting down the most vial commenters.

    I would like to see fewer personal attacks from anonymous bloggers on non-anonymous people. I agree with Alan on this own, if you are going to attack someone, or accuse them of something,  have the courage to use your name. (Frankly get a pass on this one when it comes to me, since I know where to find him).

  8. Frankly

    I think we need to define “personal attack”, because it seems to me that some are just irritated to be challenged and are personally attacking anonymous posters as a way to vent their frustration.

    It does not matter.  It should not matter.  Unless your goal is to eliminate those that would challenge your viewpoints on certain topics.

    If you want to point fingers at the cause of the trend for people to use pseudonyms, look no further than the rise of the PC police and terms/concepts like “hate speech” and “micro-aggression”… the omnipresent claims of “intolerance”, “xenophobia” and “racism”.

    These are tools of those that just want to prevent challenges to their worldview… no matter how screwed up it is.  And they are more powerful in this day and age of sanctioned hypersensitivity.

    Now, here is someone that is brilliant in a 180 degree turn comedy routine.

    Anthony Jeselnik’s stuff is the complete opposite of politically-correct.  On his current offerings on Netflix, he does a hilarious show in San Francisco.  It is just amazing to watch the audience respond to his humor.  It is like they are getting some therapy to come out of their shell and laugh again without worrying who might be offended.

    If we ever get back to that normal sensitivities again, maybe we will have far fewer anonymous posters.

    1. Michelle Millet

      Attacking someones position on something, that’s ok in my book to do  anonymously.  Attacking other poster personally or questioning their motives should only be done by those willing/able to use their own name.

  9. Napoleon Pig IV

    I would never consider using a pseudonym to post anonymously. Only people would consider doing something like that. Oink!

    Great job with the Vanguard, by the way!

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