CJR’s Launch Pad feature invites new media publishers to blog about their experiences on the news frontier. Past Launch Pad columns from Bethlehem Shoals and others can be found here.
I have a confession to make: up until this point, these posts have been heavily vetted acts of organizational messaging. The Classical didn’t yet exist, or only sort of existed, or was about to exist, and this platform gave us the opportunity to try and set our terms in advance. That doesn’t mean they were any less truthful—or, at times, precariously candid. But they weren’t a running diary per se. They were transparency with ulterior motives, and if that seems like an obvious point to make, you don’t know how long we spent workshopping certain paragraphs.
Today marks the end of the second full week of The Classical. We’re here, for better or worse, and our first impressions—and attempt to influence them—are over and done. We’re a thing, now concerned less with proving our legitimacy, or hitting all the right rhetorical notes, than we are in getting the day’s pieces edited and posted. There’s a sense of security that comes with realizing this next phase has begun. Yet with the focus shifting to the long term, or even the possibility of a mundane grind, there are new things to worry about. From what I can tell, it’s a lot like becoming a parent, another recent milestone in my life. The birth, including the preparation before and panic after, eventually gives way to the rest of the kid’s life.
Birth is a weird, magical, wonderful thing that all humans share in common. My twelve-week-old daughter’s plot to get rich off of stolen phone cards using a broken wheelbarrow filled with turkey meatballs is pretty much of no interest to anyone but my wife and possibly said daughter. The Classical’s launch was all about rhetoric, placement, and making sure that everyone involved was on the same page. Now we’ve got a virtual workplace. And so the larger concerns, or at least our ability to control them by making explicit statements about them (one of the downsides of doing rather than saying), become altogether more personal, neurotic, and private. We still talk about how things are going, but in practical terms. When it comes to the big questions, each of us is left to our own devices.
That’s why, after two weeks, I find myself convinced that we’re about to run out of stories. Before I go any further, I should save a little bit of face: the well hasn’t dried up, and we’re getting plenty of pitches and submissions to keep us going. But between the feeling that the launch was some sort of Big Bang—an event with a distinct beginning and end that we simply had to get right—and the strength of the material we’ve had, I can’t help but worry. We put together a damn fine run of articles, especially considering that we can’t afford to pay freelance contributors. We had long, reported features and think-pieces that went through as many as five drafts. We hit up our friends, called in favors, and got writers to take time out of their busy schedules.
It’s stupid, I know. However, it’s indicative of where The Classical is in its life cycle. The site is on its way, and even if there are still some major issues that need to be addressed, there’s also been an opening up of space where frivolous fears can take hold. We are no longer primarily concerned with whether people will like us. It’s too late to think like that. We’re taking things day by day, trying to make sure each piece or post comes off like we want it to. And, in between, we worry about silly shit like running out of stories. In other words, the site has come into its own, and we’ve finally got a little bit of room to really be ourselves.Bethlehem Shoals is a founder of The Classical. Tags: Bethlehem Shoals, Launch Pad, news innovation, news startups, The Classical, turkey meatballs