WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It’s been an interesting ride to say the least, like an experimental roller coaster in a new kind of theme park, maybe. But the ground has shifted and it’s time to move on down the MoJo road.
We are launching a brand new news Website under a new name from Washington, D.C. called the New American Journal. You might want to Bookmark that page or subscribe to the new RSS feed now.
This archive will remain up for awhile longer, but most of the action will move to the new site over the next few weeks and months as I make another transition out of my home town of Birmingham, Alabama to a more mobile setup in a Roadtrek camper van that will remain on the move from Washington, D.C. and the mountains of Virginia to the Gulf Coast.
In the spring of 2005, after moving back to Birmingham from Washington, D.C. to be there for my then-79-year-old mother -- who had no business being alone anymore for health and safety reasons -- I covered my last story for The New York Times: The trial of Richard Scrushy of HealthSouth.
But after it became clear that the new management at the Times was marching to the right for economic reasons after the Jayson Blair scandal, and after “the people” re-elected George W. Bush for a second term as president — or perhaps the Republican techie cabal out of Chattanooga stole the election in Ohio, depending on who you believe — I became convinced that a new kind of press was needed in America for democracy to have a chance of survival.
Blogging software was just emerging then as an alternative way to publish on the Web — and as an alternative for readers to the mainstream, corporate news media in the U.S. and around the world.
I studied up on what was out there, then found a programmer in Homewood who was running a server out of a little computer shop, and started chasing the headlines on a new domain, LocustFork.Net. The idea was to practice the kind of watchdog journalism that helped fight and stop a dam on the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. It started out as a simple html news page, but we soon added a blog archive interface where original stories, columns, photos and videos could easily be published on the Web and archived by date, tag, category and keywords.
I made one more trip to Washington, D.C. in March to do some work for States News Service and The Hollywood Reporter, and while there, launched a new editorial opinion column from a kitchen in Silver Spring, Maryland called Under the Microscope.
Before I knew it or wanted to admit it, however, I found myself back in Birmingham hunkering down to see what would happen in Bush’s second term. It was a stressful time for the world as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still raged, and it was a stressful time for the country as we woke up every day wondering what fool hardy thing Bush and Cheney would do next. So yes, it was also a stressful time for me as well.
I left my native Birmingham in 1981 for college at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and only rarely looked back. I did move back to Southside for a brief period in the late 1980s to open a book store, newsstand and coffee bar and launch a free-lance journalism career after becoming disillusioned with the state of newspapers in my home state. But I left again in 1989 for Gulf Shores to get back into the news business full time.
Then in 1993, I moved back to Tuscaloosa to work on a Masters degree and then got out of Alabama for a good long time, my journey taking me to teach in Georgia, Tennessee and then New Orleans. After having a heck of a run as a free-lance journalist from there, in 2004 I made the big move to D.C.
This new kind of news Website was discovered and followed by people all over the country who were appalled at the politicization of the legal system in America.
I continued to work on building the economy for this new Web Press and started getting enough traffic to actually receive pay checks from Google ads and then Blog ads. People began to send in donations in lieu of a subscription price through PayPal.
By the time of president Barack Obama’s historic election in 2008, and then when the BP oil spill hit in the spring of 2010, thousands of people — even in Alabama — were getting online and starting to follow the news on Facebook and then Twitter. We ramped up the readership and the funding to pay for the journalism to a whole new level with the help of a few trial lawyers, labor unions and environmental groups.
By the time President Obama was reelected in 2012, we had completed a redesign that finally merged the news and blog functions into one interface. Our monthly readership hit 3.2 million in October, in part because I was about the only public opinion analyst in the country willing to predict that Obama would walk away with that election in a landslide. Pretty much everybody else, including AP, the Washington Post, all the talking head pundits on TeeVee and even the New York Times kept saying that the election was going to be “too close to call.” I knew better.
As the weeks and months went by, however, and my now 87-year-old mother’s condition continued to deteriorate, I knew it was about time to start planning a new transition for my family and for my future as a Web publisher and journalist.
Ever since I made that first move to Washington in 2004, I have known deep down that the real action in American politics and journalism takes place in the nation’s capital city. It is hard to make a career or a difference out of just focusing on what happens in state capitals like Montgomery or Baton Rouge. The big action and the big news happens in Washington, no matter what they try to tell you in Alabama’s capital city, where they still insist on bucking the fedral govmt every chance they get.
What the federal government does is just far more important than what happens in the states. Besides, the people and the politicians in states — especially Old South states like Alabama — remain far behind the times when it comes to public opinion, forming public policy and keeping up with the news online. Everybody in New York, D.C. and on the West Coast long ago moved on past reading print newspapers and getting all their news from the Boob Tube.
I mean I stopped reading newspapers in print in 1995 and have since sworn off most news coverage on television, national and local. It is all a money-making sensational game for national news outlets, where the partisan divide so dominates the discussion that we will never move past it as a country until so many people stop watching it that they have to change their ways. CNN is already considering converting itself into a cheap reality show. If that is what you think we need feel free to change the channel.
On the local level, the softball local, local, local philosophy on the news will never generate enough traffic to form a full economy of scale, with the possible exception of Newhouse news outlets like al.com, where the resources of the old newspaper and television news empires still provide the budget to create a virtual monopoly on what people consider to be news. Many, many people are now seeing that as a bad thing and have turned to alternative news outlets like this one for a more informed perspective on what goes on in the world.
But a huge swath of the mass audience will continue to depend on broadcast news outlets to read the news generated by print outlets to them on television for the foreseeable future. High Definition television is a powerful medium of communication and is so addictive with the all the entertainment options for sedentary viewers to sit in their recliners and soak it all up with their eyes, without have to exert themselves to do anything but change the channel now and then.
Those who are turning to the Web are a more educated, higher-end demographic audience who are burned out on the old news they get late from newspapers and the passive nature of television. They want to be more engaged in the entertainment and the news process. They make comments and share headline links on Facebook and Twitter, and they are more apt to be politically involved and donate to worthy causes and do more than just show up on election day to vote for their same old party hacks.
These are the people who we are interested in reaching. They are the ones who will change the world for the better. If you have read this far, that means you.I truly and sincerely appreciate all the support we’ve received from readers all over the state and the country over the past few years. I hope you will continue to follow us on this journey into a brave new world.
Please continue to follow and support our efforts as we create the next new evolution in this new, new, watchdog journalism, what I like to call the alternative, independent Web Press. We really are creating something entirely new here. The technology inevitably changes the way we report and write.
See you down the road from the New American Journal. Don’t forget to like, comment, share -- and maybe even make a donation when you can. Reader contributions are still going to be critical even as we seek out new national sponsors to truly build the economy for this new journalism, to sustain this critical work into what I hope will be a bright, successful future for American democracy.
I has to be so. Any other attitude would inevitably result in failure. I'm not ready to give up. Are you?
Even if it's only $10, the price of a couple of Starbuck coffees, it could make a big difference at this critical time in the history of the Web Press. Use one of the secure methods below to add your voice to the growing chorus of people who understand the need for this new kind of press in America.