After many months of exploring and working out the idea, the two of us officially launched The Crisis Papers one year ago on November 5, 2002. So much has happened in the past twelve months -- politically, to be sure, but also with this website -- that it seems as if we've been producing our weekly updates of The Crisis Papers for a much longer time. But it has been just one year. Amazing!
When we were considering launching The Crisis Papers, we were quite aware that there were, and are, numerous outstanding progressive websites on the web -- and we list a goodly number of those on our Dissenting Internet page [link]. But we thought we could provide something unique: a website that would contain our own editorial columns, both fresh and archived, along with the best of political commentary on the progressive internet by other writers, listed in a wide variety of topic pages.
In doing our pre-launch research, we learned that excellent analysis often appears on a particular website, hangs around for a day or week or two, and then disappears into the cyberether. It's possible to resurrect it after an internet search, but sometimes that doesn't work, or one has to jump through a number of site-hoops to find it. What we do on The Crisis Papers is to save the best and most important of those articles on their original topic pages; we call them our "Keepers." In this way, a continuity of context is maintained for anyone interested in following out the evolution of a topic or idea. Also, our topics pages provide an excellent "entry point" for researchers, writers and students who are focusing on particular issues.
Looking around at a number of progressive websites, which seemed awfully cramped and "busy," we decided to create a "cleaner" site that was pleasing to the eyes, easy to move around in -- "user-friendly," to use the lingo. And we think, under Ernest Partridge's design and
web-meistering, that we've come close. (We're always open to adding new, better wrinkles, and some of your suggestions have been incorporated into the architecture and content of the website.)
Finally, we wanted to help create a community of caring and intellectual-sharing with our visitors and readers. We still have a long way to go, but the increasing number of suggested articles we learn about from our readers each week -- along with the huge numbers of sterling emails we get, and publish -- is a testament to that developing interaction and sense of community. Even more interactive innovations are in the offing.
Another aspect of that developing relationship is the one worked out between the two of us. We knew only each others' internet writings before we got together, one fateful weekend in Monterey, and talked face to face about the possibility of founding a website, a political/journalistic room, of our own.
We realized that not only did we share a similar outlook on the world -- including a love of country, an undying respect for the genius of our founders and the institutions they devised to keep us on course, our horror at what the current Administration was doing to our country, indeed how it was endangering it, etc. -- but also a similar sense of humor, and dedication to The Cause.
We have met face to face only twice since our launch, once in the Partridges' San Bernardino mountain aerie, once in the "tree-house" the Weiners were house-sitting in the West Marin hills. We needed to talk "bidness" about the site, work out plans for the future, and, in general, just keep in touch. We do so daily via email, and sometime over the phone, but there's nothing like breaking bread and hiking together in nature to help build a relationship, and that we are doing, with good feelings on both sides.
Division of Labor:
In order to share the enormous load, each of us has primary responsibility in various areas of websitery. Ernest Partridge is the webmeister, overseeing the technical, formatting and design elements of The Crisis Papers; Bernard Weiner is more or less the Features editor/Lettermeister, dealing with the hundreds of emails and requests for information that arrive each week, along with such features as Short Takes, The Dissenting Internet, Best of the Blogs, and so on. In June, following her retirement from the English Department at CSU San Bernardino, Associate Editor Elinore Partridge took on the task of editing and formatting our selections.
All three of us participate, along with Weiner's wife Heidi Linsmayer, on the future development of the site, but the day-to-day decisions about content and policy are made by the founding
Co-Editors, Partridge and Weiner.
Response and Feedback:
We had no idea a year ago who, if any, would find their way to our website, and whether any visitors that did come our way would appreciate what we were up to. Lo and behold, from virtually day one of our existence, we've been receiving a good deal of attention and mostly favorable comments.
Several fellow progressive websites -- early on, most notably Democrats.com and SmirkingChimp.com in this country and Scoop.co.nz in New Zealand -- aided enormously in our launch by alerting their many readers about our entry into the political-analysis field, and those visitors told others, who told others, who told others, and off we went.
The Crisis Papers has also benefited greatly from the re-publication of our original essays by numerous other progressive websites.
We went very quickly from hundreds of visitors per week, to more than 10,000 visits and 50,000 "hits" weekly, and continue to grow, receive favorable notice, and are linked to often by other, older and more prestigious, websites.
The flip side of our growth is that it takes virtually all of our energy, time and money just to stay afloat. We're so pre-occupied with keeping the website updated on a weekly basis -- which entails reading hundreds and hundreds of stories each week -- that we've been unable to spare much in the way of marketing and outreach to "grow" the site. As a result, we haven't expanded to new readers and new markets the way we'd like to have done.
It's a vicious cycle. Because we barely survive economically -- we take no ads or government/corporate handouts -- we haven't the
wherewithal to expand our technical capabilities and ability to reach masses of folks. In other words, no money or staff to do any kind of reasonable outreach. Because we haven't the funds to "grow" the site, we haven't been able to hire any extra staff to develop outreach. Because no funds to -- well, you get the vicious-cycle loop we're in.
We would very much appreciate some volunteer assistance, both at the San
Francisco and San Bernardino "offices" of The Crisis Papers. At the San Bernardino end, a one-day-a-week volunteer could help out with the "website housekeeping" -- e.g., checking the site periodically for broken links, etc. At the San Francisco end, we could use some assistance handling promotion, typing, fund-raising, formatting, etc.
We do solicit donations and, thanks to your generosity, have been able to scrape by each month with just enough, or nearly enough, to cover the required fees for service providers, equipment, supplies, etc. But nothing extra, in order to hire more staff. And none of the three of us can take any money to offset the humungous amount of labor we put into the enterprise -- an average of about 60-70 hours per week for the three of us. But even more important than the cash-flow is a large and growing community of Crisis Papers readers. So please spread the word to your friends and associates, and add our link to your sites.
With the presidential race heating up, we have our work cut out. We count ourselves among those who believe that the coming election may be the most crucial in American history. If the Bush team is elected (pointedly, not "re-elected"), this could be the last free election for the United States. First of all, the American public must demand that the election be open and verifiable -- and that matter is very much in doubt, as the scourge of paperless voting machines spreads around the realm. And then, the internet must become the free media that was taken away from the American public by the six mega-corporations that own and control most of the commercial mass-media. For those with eyes to see, the Busheviks are the most corrupt, inept, and dangerous Administration in our history. It falls upon the independent dissenting internet to open the eyes of sufficient numbers of our fellow citizens to effect a restoration of our once-magnificent republic.
Will you join us in this effort?
Ernest Partridge & Bernard Weiner, Editors
Copyright 2003, by Bernard Weiner and Ernest