by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
April 10, 2010
15 YEARS IN 15 MINUTES
BRADENTON, Fla., April 10, 1995 -- Last year, reporter Billy Cox of the Sarasota Herald Tribune, a solid if struggling local institution and regional New York Times daily newspaper here, spent a total of 17 hours interviewing me for a story on our 15th anniversary. He wrote it and rewrote it, revised it again and again, and was finally persuaded by his editor that his account was "too depressing," and that our situation here was "pathetic."
Well, it is pathetic, but it would only be depressing if people got to read it. And I readily understand that with such depressing news around these days, we probably don't need any more.
I have about 15 minutes to write an anniversary piece before the clock turns topside and the great day is here. I want to say a lot of things that need to go unsaid, but some I will.
We have some of the best writers in the world in Joyce Marcel and Randolph Holhut. We have great and uniquely gifted reporters in Dr. Walter Brasch and Mark Scheinbaum. We have a very hard-working humorist in Erik Deckers. Sometimes we have our beloved Constance Daley. Chiranjibi Paudyal. And me.
These are some of the 400 reporters who at one time or another gained equity in the ownership of this publication, and most have quit writing for us. Every few years they check in and ask if I remember them, and I always do. But I will never and can never forget the handful that have stuck with us through 15 very lean years, including two who died while still contributing - Bill Johnson and Eleanor Sullivan.
Beyond them, I want to thank Bill Wells and the Rosenkrantz Family of New Jersey, who gave us financial support in past years when we were on our last legs. But it was the writers, those gone and those not forgotten and those still with us that made us what we are. Our reporters, whether in Algeria, Nepal, Israel, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Wales, Ireland, Great Britain, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, France, Panama or anywhere else they have reported from gave us a distinct edge over the years.
We told the world when coups were coming - at least two, and they came - when the markets were going bad - and they did - and when they felt the deep colors of the American heart in motion, they showed it to us. I merely had to edit their work, knowing that not a single major newspaper editor in the country was smart enough to buy any of it, even at $10 a story or so. They stuck with the formulaic stuff, God bless them, and we will soon welcome their remnants onto the Internet, where things are a little bit wild and a little bit different, thank God.
I have tried to model our enterprise on the history of the New York Times. It was started by a very enterprising man who had a good grasp of the journalism that was needed back then. After struggling with it for 15 or 20 years, he sold it to wealthier people who made it into the greatest newspaper on Earth. I have always hoped that journalists brave enough to make the long, hard sacrifice that our lack of income has meant will one day be able to boast that they were a founding contributor to The American Reporter, the greatest publication that ever began on the Internet.
That remains my hope. I'm not so hot on the selling it to a wealthier guy part, but the next time somebody offers me a million dollars for it, I may say yes. The first time, when an emissary of Bill Gates came calling during our landmark battle against Internet censorship, I said I'd have to think about it. Actually, I'd still have to think about it.
I want our readers to know something. I see hits coming in a half-dozen times a day from places like Tallin, Estonia, Lakeland and Safety Harbor, Fla., Los Angeles, and know that for better or worse there are readers out there who care very much whether we survive. You'd be amazed at all the various small towns and big cities around the world where The American Reporter is known to someone. We will survive. And every single time you visit our page, I really and truly appreciate it. Your readership is as precious to me as green grass in Spring; I couldn't bear to be without it.
I especially need to thank Andy Oram, our Webmaster. He's a senior editor at O'Reilly & Associates, and I imagine they are feeling the recession as deeply as anyone and have Andy working very hard to reverse it. That he finds time to write for us is little short of a miracle, and he's put us back online countless times in better shape than we were before we called him. Thank you, Andy.
While I still bear the cost of our overhead, it's been manageable even through this terribly deep recession. Sonic.net, which has to have the best support team in America, has been terrific. Now, with a $412 social security check and food stamps - and just now starting a good new job - I am still afloat. They've turned off my phone and cell, and the Internet, too (thanks to a neighbor's WiFi I can still post this), but they forgot to turn me off.
We have survived longer than any of our brethren on the Internet. We are not as broke as they are, of course, because we were smart enough not to take on any debt or look for investors; they did. We may have no idea who owns them, but if you're reading any article in the 17 megabytes of this edition, or the hundreds of megabytes written here in the past, you know who owns this one. The person who wrote the article you're reading owns this newspaper, and they can say so all day long.
My 15 minutes - and 15 years, I guess - are up. We shall carry on. Like lunatics, as soon as the bars open.
Unfortunately, Joe Shea doesn't drink much. But he toasts you all.