So if I were going to start from scratch I would attempt to hold a “congress” of those existing sites, ones that are compatible with the sort of journalism practices we support, and begin that small community-building process: find areas of common agreement and common need, and then build from there. I think a “freelance wing” is a good idea, too, of course, but those of us starting little businesses have a lot to teach each, too. This isn’t meant to criticize ONI and the hard work many have put into building and sustaining it, especially our friend Bill Lascher.
Michael: I think you’re right—and frankly I think it’s my fault for not looping in more startup types when we all got together. But that’s part of the time management problem for entrepreneurs. The communities we form will rightly be shaped by the people (like Bill, a freelance writer) who show up and do good work.
What about less formal relationships with other outlets? I credit a lot of my momentum to the beneficence of one of the country’s most successful local-news entrepreneurs, Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org. I think he immediately saw that having an outlet about public transit could be good for an outlet about bicycling—like two Chinese restaurants on the same corner. Respect from young-but-established companies like his and the Mercury has really helped Portland Afoot establish a brand.
How do you see Oregon Arts Watch working with its peers and/or competitors?
Barry: I think one of the most difficult psychological hurdles we face is to get over the idea that your success somehow limits mine, that your success is a comment on my efforts, that your success is something to be envied rather than celebrated.
The spirit of the non-profit should be to act for the common good. Oregon Arts Watch is a service organization and its product is the best news, analysis and commentary on the region’s cultural life that it can muster. If we believe that’s important, then we should celebrate it wherever it occurs, not just on our own site. We should build on the successful descriptions of others, add our sense of things, help those who read, see or listen to our reports to understand what’s happening here better than they do now, regardless of where the original “kernel” started (though with complete transparency about the origins of that kernel!). So this is the idealistic heart of the matter for me: We change things by working together, by directing attention to things that really matter. Really, it’s good, old-fashioned Dewey pragmatism.
So, I’m hoping Oregon Arts Watch is an ardent aggregator of good work, that it can establish beneficial financial networks with its peers and work with them to change life as we know it on the planet forever! OK. That’s crazy. But you know what I mean, right?
Michael: I just pulled out a little American flag to wave along, Barry. I can’t think of a better way to end a mini-series.
Thanks very much to CJR for inviting us to do this. And thanks to you for devoting so much precious time to it with me! It’s been a lot of fun. Any final thoughts?
Barry: The future awaits? Nah—just my own thanks to CJR (and our editor Justin), to you for putting up with my rants and bad typing, and to those who’ve passed this way on the Internet and spent some time with us. So long!
Barry Johnson has written about the arts since 1978, when he started writing about dance for the now-defunct Seattle Sun. He has edited arts sections at Willamette Week and The Oregonian, and recently finished a twenty-six-year stint at the latter by writing a general arts and culture column. You can find his up-to-the-minute thoughts on the arts at http://artsdispatch.blogspot.com.
Michael Andersen publishes Portland Afoot, a ten-minute newsmagazine and wiki about low-car life in Portland, Oregon. He also writes about entrepreneurial local journalism on NiemanLab.org, oldforestnewtrees.com, and Twitter.