High intensity doesn’t always yield good results. Steve and Melinda Taylor, 53 and 52 respectively, started the Rio Grande Guardian in 2005. It was Melinda’s idea to start an outlet that focused on news about the border. When Steve agreed, she sold her Isuzu for $3,000 worth of seed money. Melinda doesn’t have a journalism background, but Steve is a veteran political reporter. He was to take care of the editorial side of things, and she was to be the publisher.
Despite their separate tasks, they had a lot of disagreements over the site’s direction. “It’s not easy to compartmentalize when you’re both working for the same business, especially if you own it,” says Steve. And when you feel as passionately about the topics as they do, it can be hard not to let the site take over your life: “Our pillow talk was not, ‘Oh, baby, your eyes are so beautiful,’” says Melinda. “Our pillow talk was, ‘That fucking asshole. Did you see how he worked with the lobbyist? Did you see what he did in committee? It’s time for us to expose what’s going on.’”
Melinda wanted the site to be comprehensive, and cover a variety of topics, from business to education to lifestyle. But Steve had a penchant for politics. When the site expanded and they were able to hire some reporters, things went south. Melinda felt that Steve was “hijacking” her reporters and sending them on too many political stories. Running a news operation together “was like frying bacon naked,” says Melinda. “It hurts; it’s maddening, even if the end result tastes fantastic.” The strain on their marriage became too much. “I realized our baby, the thing we had conceived together, wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be,” says Melinda. In 2008, after ten years of marriage, they divorced. Melinda sold her share of the business to Steve, which he still runs.
Other couples who run websites do say that having distinct and clearly defined roles can really enhance the chances of success, both personally and professionally. Tracy Record, 52, runs West Seattle blog with her husband, Patrick Sand, 55. She’s in charge of editorial and Patrick handles the business end. “It just doesn’t work if everybody is accountable for everything,” she says. West Seattle blog, supported by advertising, is one of the nation’s more successful local news sites, with more than a million page views this past October. Tracy and Patrick say it is making money. Two years ago, they won a community-service award from the American Legion branch in West Seattle and rode near the front of a local parade, which Tracy described as “perhaps the coolest moment of the whole thing.”
Olwen and Nigel Logan, 56 and 57 respectively, make a concerted effort to keep work life and personal life separate. They own Shoreline Web News LLC, and operate three websites: Lyme Line, Old Saybrook Now, and Valley News Now. They split up the sites; Olwen is in charge of Lyme Line, and Nigel runs the Old Saybrook site and Valley News Now. Drawing a clear line between work and home life is a priority for them, especially since they have four kids, ages 16 to 24. “It’s important to turn it off,” Olwen says. “Now we’re working. And now we’re not. The kids don’t want to just hear about this all the time.” They each have their own offices and do almost all of their work communication through e-mail, even when they are in the house at the same time. “There’s a discipline that comes out of communicating by e-mail. It avoids miscommunication and sets a more businesslike framework,” Nigel says. “You can’t say, ‘Can we sit down and work out a marketing plan, and by the way, don’t forget to take the trash cans out and pick up George from soccer.’ You can’t mix up normal household conversation with work things—at least we can’t.”
Still, Laurie and Joel Kramer, both 63, who together run MinnPost, serving Minneapolis and St. Paul, often find themselves mixing business with the rest of life. Laurie had worked in nonprofits most of her career; combining Laurie’s nonprofit knowledge with Joel’s knowledge of journalism and publishing, they created their nonprofit in 2007. This blend of talents has enabled them to think big: MinnPost has never had a budget under a million dollars. The pair, who met at their high school newspaper in Queens, NY, lead a newsroom with a full-time staff of 17 and about a dozen writers on contract. Stock proceeds from the sale of the Star Tribune to McClatchy more than a decade ago have allowed them to work without a salary—at least for now.