From AINN’s President and CEO: A Letter of Thanksgiving
An Open Letter Regarding The Washington Independent, The New Mexico Independent and Thanksgiving Wishes.
I am writing to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and to share some important news.
Last week we closed The Washington Independent and significantly reduced capacity at The New Mexico Independent due to lack of financial support for these programs. These were not easy decisions to make. They are the consequence of operating in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.
As word of these closures spread, we were deeply touched by the outpouring of support that came from across the web. “It’s sad to see the Washington Independent shutting down,” wrote Ezra Klein of The Washington Post. The Washington Independent “achieved excellent journalistic results, winning awards for its reporting and praise from many newspaper reporters and editors,” Roy Greenslade of The Guardian said. The Washington Independent “has been a must-read for those of us who appreciate our online news presented by incredibly intelligent reporters who possess a keen understanding of policy and why things matter,” explained Aaron Morrissey of DCist. Steve Benen of Washington Monthly declared, “I’m really sorry to see the Washington Independent close its virtual doors. It did some amazing work over the last three years, served as a launching pad for some terrific journalists, and it’ll be missed.”
The decision to reduce staff at The New Mexico Independent was equally difficult, and New Mexicans lamented the news. Democracy for New Mexico wrote, “This is very bad news for New Mexico’s citizens, as well as independent media coverage of government and politics… Now, more than ever, our citizens are in dire need of top-notch reporting, commentary and analysis to counter the right-wing echo chamber and the increasingly corporate-controlled mainstream media.” Tracy Dingman of Abq Journal Watch explained, “Now, more than ever, all New Mexicans need more eyes watching the legislature, not fewer. Think about it. The merits of keeping a close eye on the people we’ve elected to serve us are really not debatable. How else are regular people who work jobs and raise families and live all over the state supposed to keep tabs on what’s going on in state government? … So that’s why I’m telling everybody I know that even if you never read one story or visited one liveblog at the New Mexico Independent, you’re going to miss it. A lot.”
Closing The Washington Independent and reducing capacity at The New Mexico Independent are difficult milestones in an otherwise remarkable year for The American Independent News Network. While our revenues have fallen by 50% since our heyday (from $4 million a year to $2 million), and our staff has been reduced by a similar amount, this year we recorded:
- The most impact ever — as of today, 56 confirmed “impact stories” for 2010. To put this in perspective, in 2009 we tallied 48 impact stories with twice the reporting capacity. The positive impact of these stories on our national life is hard to overstate. You can read our definition of impact, here. And see the stories summarized by each quarter: here, here, and here.
- And even though we have half as many reporters, our network traffic is down by about 15% for 2010. Put another way, averaging 2009 and 2010 traffic by each full time reporter, our audience has grown by 77% this year. A stunning achievement.
With each passing month, our organization continues to improve: the way our team works together, the partnerships we develop, and the interactions with our readers. We have been able to accomplish so much, and with so much less. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to say,
- I am thankful to all of our current and former employees and contributors, who made our accomplishments possible.
- To our ongoing supporters for standing by us at a time when our needs are more pressing and resources scarce.
- I am also grateful to our readers, both for their attention and also their encouragement.
Those of us who remain at AINN are deeply inspired by our mission and the encouragement of our readers. We will work towards rebuilding the legacy of our national coverage through The American Independent and aim to return to full capacity in New Mexico.
Below, you will find some of the kind words that we received.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
David S. Bennahum
“[The Washington Independent] achieved excellent journalistic results, winning awards for its reporting and praise from many newspaper reporters and editors.” – Roy Greenslade, The Guardian
“Launched with the noble goal of providing substantive reporting on a number of very underserved issues, the Windy garnered recognition and launched careers… In areas such as immigration and national security policy, for instance, the Washington Independent did stand-out work…” – Jason Linkins, Huffington Post
“Even if the Independent wasn’t an entirely conventional news site, it made tremendous contributions to Washington journalism. It’s too bad donors didn’t turn out to be interested in that project. I can only hope that other publications recognize the tremendous value of the Independent’s remaining staff, and bring that same innovative, developmental spirit into their newsrooms, and do it quickly.” –Alyssa Rosenberg, Washingtonian
“Almost all independent news organizations and blogs are feeling the pinch — and it couldn’t come at a worse time. Now, more than ever, our citizens are in dire need of top-notch reporting, commentary and analysis to counter the right-wing echo chamber and the increasingly corporate-controlled mainstream media… [The New Mexico Independent’s] extensive and live legislative coverage was unprecedented in the state, and pivotal in the never-ending battle for more transparency, accessibility and accountability in government… Congratulations on a job well done during the two and a half years you served the citizenry of New Mexico. NMI, we hardly knew ye. You will be missed.” – Democracy for New Mexico
“And anyone who understands how important real journalism and reportage is to an informed citizenry — and in turn, to democracy — should be devastated as well about Wednesday’s shutdown of the [New Mexico Independent] that pioneered in this state the integration of quick blogging and in-depth enterprise news reporting with real-time live-blogging and webcasting, notably from the [state legislature]… The New Mexico Independent worked against bias, and tried to cover issues largely ignored by Albuquerque’s only other daily news organization, the Journal. I mourn NMI’s loss as I did that of the Albuquerque Tribune. . .To my former colleagues at NMI, may you find rewarding outlets for your talent and ambitions.” – Denise Tessier, Clearly New Mexico
@KUNMnews (89.9 KUNM News): “KUNM News thanks the New Mexico Independent journalists for 2.5 years of solid reporting; today brings another loss for independent media.”
And our readers comment on our farewell announcement…
“I found this TWI news site and I was pleased to highlight many of the stories at my blog. But like so many others in America, I never supported what gave me value and now, sadly, that value is gone…I won’t forget this lesson again easily. To the best of my ability, I will financially support the things I find of value so that they will be around a long time. I hope you will do the same.”
“TWI provided such necessary coverage and analysis. Where am I going to go? We have to figure out a way to finance these endeavors because we need good investigations and coverage.”
“No way! I just found you, a beacon in the night…and now your light has burned out. Bummer…I wish you all well…”
“I’m sorry to see you guys go. If it’s any consolation, TWI was an incubator for some honest and honorable young journalistic talent, and I suspect those of you who are left will be quickly picked up by other outlets for that very reason. It’s to your credit – and perhaps a basis for TWI’s doom – that you folks didn’t whore yourselves out for bigger bucks. Best wishes and regards.”
“In a time of liberal ascendancy, in a time when Blackwater/Xe is thriving off government contracts and liberal media outlets such as Air America and this one go belly up because there is no valid support structure (ads, grants, links, etc) from the liberal establishment, I still doff my conservative cap to you.”
“One more independent voice stilled. The public forum will be a poorer place. Thank you for three years of outstanding journalism, and good luck to you all.”
“Dang! I loved the Independent. Why doesn’t anyone fund the independent and left of center news? I don’t get it – the out and out liars of FOX, NY Post, etc. make tons of money and the rest of us are left with our blogs.”
“Terrible news–I started each day reading your articles. Trip, your emphasis on prison and corrections in general will be missed.”
“[TWI] was a truly fine publication without bias — I read it often and will miss it.”
“I was shaken to hear this on the radio. Thank you for all you have done. May you, like the phoenix, rise again soon.”