Welcome to the new Decaturish
A few years ago, with the help of a web designer friend and an ad salesman, I decided to make a go of it and pursue a career in independent local journalism.
It was not the most logical decision for someone to make, given how poorly journalism has fared in the digital age. But I was stuck with a problem. I had trained and dedicated myself to doing one thing: telling stories about communities fully and honestly. I could make a decent living doing some other job utilizing the basic reporter’s skill set, like public relations, but I knew in my heart I’d hate it. Before too long, I’d be looking for an escape hatch.
I was in my middle thirties with a wife who was willing to put up with my nonsense and give me the freedom to fail.
To my surprise, I have not failed. I have not always lived up to my own expectations, but Decaturish has been a success, both financially and professionally. I am fortunate that I do not have to choose between doing what I love and making a living. It’s something few people can say. I make a point to never take it for granted.
With that in mind, I feel a sense of obligation to the community that has lifted me up. I want to tell more of your stories. I want to fill the niches that other publications have abandoned.
Small publications with lower overhead are the future of journalism. I believed that when I started this project and I believe it even more now.
As you have probably noticed, the site has received a total makeover. I’m quite proud of it, but I can’t take credit for it. That belongs to Valene Ashia, a local web designer with considerable skills. Though the process of creating the new Decaturish has not been painless, she has risen to the occasion. I would recommend her to anyone without hesitation.
I’d like to explain a few of the changes we’ve made and why.
The biggest change you will notice, even if you aren’t immediately aware of it, is the site is much wider now. It takes up the whole page. It hopefully makes for an easier read for all of you.
Another change has to do with the way you engage with the news itself. For a website of our size, we produce a significant amount of content. Because we are local, we can not always count on people checking us hourly the way they would check a site like AJC.com or CNN.com. Perhaps one day we will get there. The traffic we generate is more than enough to sustain us. Our 60,000 readers a month have seen to that. But for the readers who are more casual, I wanted to make sure you see all of the good work that we’ve been doing while your attention has been directed elsewhere.
That’s why I’ve created two new sections. Trending, which are the stories with the most page views in any given week, and editor’s picks, which are the stories that I think are the finest examples of what local journalism can do. I’m showing you what you are reading and what my ego dictates you should be reading. Hopefully between the two you won’t miss a thing, or you will miss far less. (Pro tip: signing up for our daily email ensures that you get every story we publish on any given day delivered to your inbox. To sign up, click here. I’ll be promoting the hell out of the list in the coming months, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sign up if you’re too busy to do it now.)
I’ve added a more conspicuous search bar. I want you to find what you’re looking for if you didn’t see it on our home page.
The wider layout of the new site also gives us more flexibility with ads.
I know not everyone is a fan of advertising, but I hope we can move away from the notion that advertising is a necessary evil of the news business. The businesses that advertise with us — all local — are supporting us because they support local journalism and they know a site with our reputation can introduce their business to more potential customers. They help keep Decaturish free for everyone.
Our ads program has always been above board. I have an ad salesman doing the negotiations on my behalf so I don’t have to worry as much about financial pressures bleeding into our coverage. The ads that you see are locally hosted. We’re housing the advertising images on our site. We are not importing ads from elsewhere and targeting you with them based on your search history. We are not selling your private browsing data to other parties. And, most importantly I think, we are not bombarding you with pop-up nonsense that blares noise at you or directs you to a site you didn’t intend to visit.
We do have the ability to place ads on the left-sidebar. We have more room for potential clients who want spaces on our site. More clients mean more revenue and more revenue means more coverage of your community. I hope we can all agree that is mutually beneficial for this business and its audience.
The audience, by the way, is equally important. We have more than 500 paid subscribers who contribute money to our efforts every month. With your help, I have been able to grasp at stories that until now have exceeded my reach. I am committed to having a reporter at every Decatur Planning Commission meeting next year, where lots of news happens but goes unreported, and every Decatur School Board meeting, which also flies under the radar more often than it should. Depending on how our financial picture looks next year, I’d like to commit to sending someone to cover County Commission meetings. It’s often thankless work, but the more people we have keeping an eye on things in county government, the better off we’ll all be.
So if that kind of coverage means something to you, it would mean a lot to us if you would consider becoming a paid subscriber. To see our various subscription options, click here.
Journalism as we know it may not always be here, but it is always needed. I’m committed to trying to make it work, not just for my own financial benefit but hopefully for the benefit of our entire community. I hope one day not to be a small flashlight in vast darkness. That was part of my thinking when I turned our Atlanta Loop website over to my colleague Derek Prall. If he can one day experience the privilege of making a living while making his community more informed, that will be more than worth it to me. He’s been doing a hell of a job and you should read his work daily.
Maybe someday I can be the incubator of other small journalism enterprises. I’d like that. We need more people shining a light on things. The amount of corruption that has ensued during journalism’s decline will surely be astounding and yet unsurprising if we ever get to uncover it.
Decaturish is my salvo against complacency and ignorance. It’s my finest work and I’m honored to be able to share it with you every single day.
To the readers and advertisers who have made this new site possible, thank you. The new design makes a statement. We’re here to stay.
We hope you will stick with us, too.
Here’s to a more informed 2019. I look forward to many more years of sharing the news with you.