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SKP First Anniversary!
We're a year old. And maybe about 6 months wiser (hey, 2022 was a tough year).
I hit publish on the first post for Salem-Keizer Proletariat on February 10, 2022.
The first actual article was published a few days later - a primer on how to combat school board extremism.
A year later (well, not really a year…), we’re closing on on 200 subscribers (probably before end of February 2023).
I wanted to take this 1 year anniversary to answer some frequently asked questions I’ve gotten over the last 12 months.
Why did you start Salem-Keizer Proletariat?
In early January 2022, the tech start-up I had spent a few years with started to fall apart. Poor leadership making ill-timed investments makes it hard to meet payroll obligations. I got laid off - one of the earliest casualties of a layoff cycle that is still going across tech (and other industries). I was frustrated with the “corporate” world. Burnt out after 20 years solid of increasingly stressful work.
Salem-Keizer Proletariat exists because I started my career as a journalist - writing, editing, photojournalism, design and business development - at a small community newspaper. I got my hands dirty in every aspect of publishing local news. I loved it. But it didn’t pay a living wage. I moved on to a more lucrative career in a different profession, but I kept a warm spot in my mind for those early journalism experiences.
In early 2022, freshly unemployed, I decided to give it another shot. And I set up Salem-Keizer Proletariat. SKP was one of a half-dozen personal projects I launched in that post-layoff period. And it’s 1 of only 2 projects that survived the past year!
I also started SKP because local news has been rapidly defunded over the past several years (decades?). And the conservative propaganda machine has steadily filled the hole where local media used to be. That’s not going to change because a nice, benevolent corporation is going to come in and magically fund quality news and information. It’s going to change when people start battling against that flow of disinformation with, y’know - actual facts and real information.
This isn’t journalism, is it?
Honestly, this question is more often posed as an accusation. But it’s valid thought, nonetheless.
And the answer is yes. This is journalism. And not just because I have a degree in journalism. Or even because I have professional experience as a journalist.
This is journalism because SKP uses primary source information (public records, public social media posts, etc.) to give readers unfiltered information & fact-based analysis of local or regional news, events and public figures. I do this through a progressive lens.
I think what most people get hung up on is twofold:
I write in more of a conversational tone. That’s on purpose. It’s easier & more effective to reach people when they read words delivered in a tone that makes them feel comfortable and casual. It seems like some folks are bothered I don’t write in the standard newspaper journalism style (tightly structured; rigid grammar rules; etc.). That shit is boring. Go read a newspaper if you are a fan of that style of writing.
I don’t strive for objectivity. Partially because that’s a mythical, unattainable concept. A fool’s errand. But mostly because striving for objectivity is useless when we’re facing a relentless tsunami of right-wing disinformation. Trying to battle mature, established disinformation machines with dry, objective journalism is not a winning formula. And, for some, that seems to disqualify what I write and report on. But journalism happens in many different forms and with many different functions. I’m comfortable with my form. And I’m comfortable with SKP’s function.
And when I make errors or get factual things wrong, I correct them. It’s happened before. It will happen again.
But, if we’re being honest (spoiler alert - we are), I most often deal with this question (or accusation) from folks who are just mad at something I wrote :)
Is SKP just you?
Yep. I research. I write. I edit. And I promote.
I've been fascinated by the concept of being a solopreneur since reading “Company of One” by Paul Jarvis a couple years ago. The idea is to use available technology to create a company designed to be run by one person. Staying small on purpose.
That book helped shape what SKP became. I didn’t accidentally decide to focus on primary source information to power nearly everything I write. I just knew that was a way one person could produce news without having to spend time tracking down sources; interviewing people; and all of the resources and time it takes to maintain that style of reporting.
I write in bits and chunks, when I have time. I set (and usually blow through) my own deadlines. I pursue the stories I want. I build the data-based tools I think would benefit a more informed community. I am able to be much more nimble and adaptive to both my own life commitments, and the information needs of my community.
My goal, to be totally transparent, is to grow SKP enough for me to focus on it full-time. Maybe then, I might have different feelings about bringing in additional resources.
But, for now - just me :)
Salem-Keizer Proletariat is entirely reader-supported. To receive new posts and support future growth of SKP, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
So what does Year Two mean for SKP and for readers?
But, from a personal standpoint - I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. Based on the subscriber growth chart above - if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
*Most of the aspirational things in that post are still true. Except the name/brand change. I’m less sure about that one, now. I don’t know that I have the time or coordination to continue publishing regularly and manage a rebranding process. Plus, I’ve seen some organic growth in different places where people are talking about SKP by name (and referring subscribers). So I’m going to hit pause on that idea for now. But I am aware that using the word “proletariat” might put some people off. I think the pros of name recognition outweigh the decision to rebrand at this point.
WAIT WAIT BEFORE YOU GO. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!
Thanks for reading. Seriously, it means so much to see folks subscribing and supporting this journalism project. It makes me hopeful that we can actually help counter both the deluge of disinformation AND recover from the defunding of local media.
Y’all are great. And I will try my hardest to continue making reading this newsletter worth your time.