Four years ago we launched Camel City Dispatch with big dreams to bring Winston-Salem closer together as a community. Our idea was simple – share the stories of our citizens from one end of the city to the other. That sometimes meant celebrating people and accomplishments, and other times meant holding people and institutions accountable. We’ve been here to share in the highs and the lows as we’ve lived life together in this city – from getting national recognition for our political and investigative work to covering the daily realities of failing schools and rising murder rates. Our relationship with Winston-Salem has been as complex, incredible, infuriating, awe inspiring, and frustrating as any relationship between two people can be.
Running a news outlet is a non-stop venture, even more so with a small staff. We decided to take a hiatus during July and August, and we know we didn’t do a very good job of explaining what we were doing, which led to many emails and inquiries as to what, exactly, was going on here at the office.
“Are y’all taking a break?”
“Are y’all mad at someone?”
“Are y’all quitting?”
The short answer is, we just needed a break. Our creativity and passion had about dried up, and we had an opportunity to do what we do best – help people in need tell their story. The short hiatus we took to work on a documentary series about the impact of coal ash contamination in the Belews Lake area (Life in the Sacrifice Zone) also provided us with the opportunity to think about CCD’s future.
We honestly didn’t know what to expect when we stopped posting on July 1st. When we checked analytics on the first month of our hiatus we were stunned. Over 13,000 people visited the site – to read old content. Even without us posting original work you stuck around. So we decided that we would come back, but with a little different structure that would allow us to continue to grow and share more.
CCD is maturing. We will look a little different, but our fundamental mission and focus will remain. We aren’t going anywhere.
While our daily news and political coverage will be discontinued, CCD will now be the home of Winston-Salem’s top writers and content creators. We wanted to get back to our original plan of letting the people of our city tell our own stories, not a couple of editors or producers deciding what was “news” or who or what was interesting and worth talking about.
It’s true that crime, investigative, and political coverage were hallmarks of CCD’s beginning and an important part of our brand, but that kind of coverage takes a lot of time and costs a lot money, and online ad revenues just aren’t there for us to continue to do the work for free. We tried crowd funding and membership style campaigns, but these have never delivered the kind of capital that was needed. Perhaps our mistake was sticking to our guns and never charging a subscription or membership fee. We did, and still do, believe that news and information about the community should be readily available to all in that community regardless of their ability to pay.
What we found was that here in the 21st Century, that part of the Social Contract is hanging by a most delicate thread right now. Ad revenues have been gobbled up by Google and Facebook. Very little is left for anyone else, and what crumbs were falling off of the table will not support our family.
That said, we are still dedicated to Winston-Salem and realize that CCD is a brand and a platform with an earned audience and a continued responsibility to the community. We have decided that instead of closing down we would make more space for you, Winston-Salem. The voices will be yours, the stories will be yours, and you will cover the issues that you want to read about. Want to see wall to wall coverage of City Council? Start attending and send us reports. We’ll run them. Want to know how the upcoming County bond money will be spent? Research public documents, feel free to ask your elected officials a few questions, and then write it up for us and we’ll run it. Practice citizen journalism! We’ll help you learn the ropes.
The new CCD will have space for local bloggers and writers, information and tips from local businesses, word from Forsyth County’s nonprofits and churches, recipes, creative ideas and how-tos, and more ways to discover new people, places and things.
We will still have some of the content and contributors that you know and love. Tim Beeman will be writing about food and libations, Katie Shick will be reviewing films playing at a/perture, and Randy Gillis will be back with his own special brand of humor. Winston-Salem Writers will be publishing poetry, short stories, and local book reviews and Chad Nance will still be reviewing local theater and music. (His last Third Shift is coming soon.) There will still be community calendars, reviews, and event coverage of our amazing arts scene. And on occasion, we may look into an issue to hold our leaders accountable. CCD will still sponsor local events and will help promote Winston-Salem as a great place to live and work.
We’re not going anywhere, just retooling what we do and opening the door to an even more diverse collection of voices and talents. So be on the lookout for our new site design and content, coming in September. We know you will welcome our new contributors and introduce them to your friends. And if you’ve got something to say – send it our way!