Open Media Boston Turns Four Begins Fifth Year of Continuous Publication
OK, I'm finally starting to feel better after over a week of a nasty cold. Which means it's time for our slightly delayed fourth anniversary editorial. But I suppose the whole "Jason has a cold" business illustrates where this publication is at after four years of continuous publication. There's still only one paid staff person. Me. And, don't get me wrong, that's a significant achievement (which I have to remind myself every time we get a grant or a donation). But when I get sick or have to leave town for a conference or go on vacation or have to spend time at school (I'm over halfway through an MFA program in visual arts), we generally have fewer articles in our news and editorial sections, and I think it shows. So I hope our fifth year will be the charm - and that we'll finally break through the various funding obstacles and be able to pay at least one more staffer by next spring. That would be really great. And it would make for much smoother sailing on the continuity front hereabouts.
On that note, let me remind everyone that this publication wouldn't have made it this far without the work of dozens of dedicated volunteers. Seriously. Lots of folks have put a good deal of their time into getting OMB past our fourth birthday. I don't want to rehash what I said in our recent funding pitch a few weeks back, but all that work has gone into fulfilling our core mission of being a solid professional news weekly with a progressive editorial stance. And I am personally indebted and grateful to each and every person that's ever spent an hour's time working for this publication for free. So I hope you'll join me in thanking all the other OMB staffers and contributors whenever you have a chance.
It's hard to review all of the hundreds of original articles that we've produced across various media since our launch on March 20, 2008. Folks have done great work covering everything from housing to transportation to the environment to labor to immigration to the arts to technology and beyond. And we've run all kinds of interesting opinion pieces as well. But the dozen members of our Special Events Unit did a truly great job helping to break the story of the rise of the Occupy movement in Boston over ten weeks last fall. As I've mentioned before, we actually went daily for six of those weeks - something I had never even conceived of doing without a bigger budget. And people, including brand new people, stepped up and did solid work on a punishing schedule day after day after day. It was truly inspiring to watch and participate in. Thanks to those efforts, support for Occupy Boston grew inside and outside progressive circles. And I think that if we had done nothing else in the last four years, that work alone justified our existence. Naturally, we've done all kinds of other good stuff too. But that's how I feel.
We've had our failures, too, for sure. One thing I often fulminate about (mostly in private) is the way that many progressive non-profits and unions are always trumpeting "victories", but only rarely mention defeats or failures. And by doing that they make it difficult for people to learn from their mistakes. So I think it's worth mentioning our biggest failure to date: the flop of our attempt to start a democratically-run co-operative business wing for OMB, the Open Media Co-op.
Four of us spent over a year on the project. And we really spent a lot of time researching the ins and outs of co-op startups and getting our ducks in a row and talking to experts. And we had weekly OMC staff meetings for most of that time. And we had a pretty solid plan and supporting documents at the end of all that effort. All we needed was 50 people to sign on as members for a minimum of $35 a year to convince us that we were ready to launch the co-op.
And that just didn't happen. We had a couple of public meetings, and generated a lot of questions about the effort. But that was it. It eventually became clear that we weren't finding a critical mass of OMB viewers that were willing to spend a few hours a month helping to run a co-op business that would help provide them with the kind of progressive news weekly they enjoyed. The money wasn't the issue, the time was. Plus the plan we can up with for our co-op was very complicated - and would have required a number of standing organizational committees with different functions. And people just weren't up for it. Everyone we talked to was already overcommitted with work and family and other kinds of volunteer projects. Finally, we pulled the plug on the effort last summer. We might revisit the idea of some kind of co-op in the future. But I doubt it will follow the model we came up with. We'll have to wait and see for now.
Still, live and learn. We're here. Open Media Boston has already survived much longer than many other online community news startups in the US over the past few years. Which makes us a long-distance runner by the standards of our industry.
So we look forward to the future, and we'll keep doing our best to keep putting out the best Boston area progressive news and views we can as we enter our fifth year.
As ever, we love feedback. So if you have any comments on the occasion of our fourth anniversary, fire away. Just send them along to our main email address: info [at] openmediaboston [dot] org. We're especially keen to hear any suggestions for how we might do our work better - keeping in mind that, yes, we know we need a new website ... we just need several thousand extra bucks to make that happen. Therefore, the top A-number-one-mega-awesome most critical type of feedback we'd like to get is: leads to serious money. If you know where there's some money and you think we have a chance at getting it, let us know right away.
Thanks for checking us out, and best wishes for the next year.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston