Happy 2011! A Year-End Report from FlaglerLive Editor Pierre Tristam
FlaglerLive | January 1, 2011
There aren’t many occasions that warrant an exclamation mark. This ought to be one of them: Happy New Year! Happy being a relative term this year more than most: 20 million Americans are jobless or underemployed, Oprah’s public therapy couch is no more, and the first of 79 million baby boomers—10,000 a day from here on—are passing through the polypy gates of 65, their pursuit of happiness hereafter more like a race from the hereafter. Or assisted living hell, whichever comes first.
It could be worse. “At present,” Meriwhether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark) wrote in his journal on the first day of 1806, when the expedition was wrung up in the waterlogged misery of its Oregon layover, “we were content with eating our boiled elk and wapato, and solacing our thirst with our only beverage, pure water. Two of our hunters who set out this morning returned in the evening having killed two bucks elk; they presented Capt. Clark and myself each a marrow-bone and tongue, on which we supped.”
Be glad, in other words, of yesterday’s cheap champagne. I certainly was with mine—a truly foul Italian concoction Cheryl picked up for under $10 at our new house of worship, this not being the kind of year when we could afford our traditional $45 clinks of Veuve-Clicquot.
And yet for us it was one hell of a happy year despite, if not because of, the occasional setback. There’s nothing like personal shock to give complacency the boot. For the growing and rewarding majority of you who became readers a few weeks or months after the launch of FlaglerLive in April, a quick in-fill of the backstory: I joined those legions of unemployed at the end of March when the Daytona Beach News-Journal switched ownership and became one of those many transcription houses for the good folks at Fox News. Since print journalism is well past its polypy gates anyway, and 21 years in any leaky ship is long enough, I figured I’d try something new, and do it myself, with a little help from my brain trust. FlaglerLive is the result.
It’s been quite a ride in those seven or so months since launch. Faster than I imagined possible, we went from zero to well over 3,200 visits (and 22,000 page view) a day. The numbers keep growing: readers’ hunger for news is not seasonal, and the accelerating migration from print needs its Ellis Islands. The immigrant in me loves that analogy, because America’s enduring meaning as a place where we come to take refuge can still be a place where we can also take flight. So it’s been a happy year, watching FlaglerLive take flight—without a net, and over what often looks like an abyss from this side of the keyboard.
Three dozen advertisers took a blind plunge down that abyss and into the world of online advertising as they joined us along the way. Most of them are still with us, and I’m happy to report that as of today, our premium spot—the so-called “leaderboard,” in online lingo, that you see at the top of every page—is sold out, thanks to four local advertisers: Tom Gibbs Chevrolet (who, with lawyer Phil Chanfrau, is the inaugural advertiser), Ormond Internal Medicine, John’s Towing in Bunnell, and Prudential Warren Real Estate. Hot-linking them and other premium advertisers here is the least I can do by way of thanks. (Our ad reps are out there: give them a listen if you want your ad dollars to reach the most concentrated, engaged and educated local audience, or click here.)
And some 40 readers made straight-out donations, which are also a vital part of keeping FlaglerLive going: relying entirely on advertisers is neither fair nor prudent. But only half those readers are recurring donors—donors who have signed on to automatic, monthly contributors. We need many more of those. We’re not yet half-way to breaking even, so this year I’ll be making more insistent calls that you not merely visit FlaglerLive as often as you obviously do, but that you put a little of your money where your clicks are. You can start now.
Speaking of fund-raising: The one thing I’m most proud of in FlaglerLive’s first year isn’t a story but the site’s contribution to Feed Flagler. Thanks to you, we raised $1,100 in a matter of two and a half weeks, the second-highest figure for any business or concern (second to Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston, who’s never been a slouch at collecting money) in the county’s drive to raise money for food pantries and feed 2,000 people at Thanksgiving. The goal next year, of course, is to beat Ms. Johnston. If FlaglerLive’s numbers grow in 2011 as they did in 2010, we’ll be first to send our video reporter to Ms. Johnston to record her abdication.
In these inaugural months I think FlaglerLive made a modest but indisputable mark not only on the kind of journalism available to Flagler County readers (and the quarter or so of readers beyond Flagler County who are interested in reading about Flagler County), but in how that journalism is presented, and in the public engagement it generates. The stories about Carver Gym, the Kill a Mockingbird controversy, the doomed tax-and build “economic development” referendum or the more successful school-tax referendum, to name a few, not to mention contributors’ columns, helped at least add some light, I hope, to the heat surrounding each issue.
I’m accused on occasion—and almost exclusively by those with a stake or a slab of ego in what’s being reported on—of putting too negative a slant on the news, as if there were such a thing as “negative” or “positive” news. There isn’t. There is analytical, skeptical (but not cynical) reporting, which is the business of news. That’s at least the aim here. Then there’s cheerleading and happy talk—what used to be called propaganda—which is the business of government, corporate and chambers of commerce’s PR offices. We have enough of those to spare for America’s 3,140 other counties, with little but chronic unemployment, out-migration to show for it. We can use less happy talk and more critical inquiry if we’re to get anywhere. The number of readers who now click on FlaglerLive in droves, and the many who enrich its growing comment section—sometimes with astounding stupidity, often with smarter or more enlightening writing than anything I’ll ever be capable of—suggests there’s plenty of people out there who want more from their news than blind transcriptions or the kind of infantile feel-good syrup that passes for so much journalism these days.
FlaglerLive is merely filling a fraction of that need, and to be doing so as part of a much larger story in a county and a cluster of towns that, together, have a chance to write the best of those stories, if they dare. With your continued support, 2010 will be little more than prologue. For FlaglerLive, Chapter 1 begins now. Happy reading.