Eulogizing Rye Reflections
October 20, 2010
There’s a time and a place for everything. And Jack Driscoll’s letter on the site he ran, Rye Reflections, goes into the details of why it was time to retire the five-year-old site.
Contrary to what you might expect, it wasn’t a case of running out of money. They never had any. In fact, there was no smoking gun, said Driscoll.
In part, ability in producing the monthly magazine-style site had waned in this quiet, coastal New Hampshire vacation hamlet. Most of the contributors are over age 75 and it was hard to replenish their corps of volunteers.
Years ago, KCNN wrote about Driscoll and his model of training seniors as citizen journalists.
Check out his Anatomy of a Shutdown. Among the excerpts:
The fact that we called it quits after 64 issues would suggest we failed. However, based on feedback and our highest number of page views ever at closure (13,000 a month, according to Google Analytics), we were a successful failure in a community of 5200 residents year-round with another few thousand in the summer.
Rye Reflections was content operating on a small, volunteer-based budget:
It could be argued that we should have solicited advertising, that we should have joined forces with a local newspaper or other website, that we should have have been more aggressive in our recruiting, that we should have lowered our standards, etc.
Driscoll also notes “creeping corporatization of newspapers in particular over the last 25 years has changed the ethos”:
In the five years that Rye Reflections functioned, we never had a problem dredging up enough stories. Generating 18-20 stories a month was quite doable (I have seen other sites desperately scraping up stories the few days before publication; that never happened to us). So the question is not whether citizen journalists can generate good stories of interest to a community. The question is whether citizen groups can fill the void left by the cutbacks in professional newsrooms. I doubt it.
Some day the public will come to realize the extraordinary service provided in the 20th Century by publishing families, who, for the most part, were public-service oriented, not profit driven.
There’s been quite an outpouring of support from readers, says Driscoll. And those who worked on it haven’t completely let go: They still meet monthly for a brown-bag lunch. But they were unanimous in the decision to pull the plug on Rye Reflections.
Read Driscoll’s entire post here.
Archives of Rye Reflections are available at www.RyeReflections.org.