It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform everyone that the Clarke Daily News is ceasing operations today, September 26, 2012. It has been an honor to provide news for our community and it has been my pleasure to become acquainted with so many wonderful people that I would probably not have met otherwise.
This experiment has always been about community. Sustainable news in a format that is easily accessible is an integral part of every community. It creates the narrative memory that we can all contribute to and share. But, as large media companies continue to contract, creating ever growing areas that see little or no news coverage, that narrative is lost. The Clarke Daily News was an effort to strip news down to the bare bones and see if there was a way to sustain it. For three years Ed Leonard and I wrote about the tragedies and the triumphs in Clarke County and everything in between that makes-up the mosaic of our community. During that time, we published over 4,000 articles. But, what was really amazing was the level of interest people had in participating in the experiment through comments. During our years of work, there were almost 20,000 comments on the site. There was something unique about the level of ownership people felt. Comments on our articles outstripped other news sources 10 to 1. But, therein lay the problem that would ultimately be the demise of the CDN.
Owned by two equal partners with distinctly different editorial perspectives and views of how the comments should be moderated, the middle ground was always an ongoing compromise. The line between free speech and hurtful screed is impossible to define precisely, and ultimately was not acceptable to either one of us. For me, it became hurtful and counter to the whole idea of community. In the end, there was no compromise that was workable. Since Mr. Leonard and I are both tied to the brand, there was no path forward other than to shut-it-down.
So this experiment ends today, but I think there is hope. News can survive in small communities. While there are stories that can bear the full brunt of free speech, the overall approach needs to also protect stories that are simply nice reflections of a beautiful place.
P.S. We will leave the Facebook page open as a way to promote events in the community. “Life in the Coop,” will also get a site all to itself soon, so stay connected. Who knows what else the future will bring.