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A reset of sorts
The future of The Wausonian
Well, it has been quite the week. I started this little newsletter thinking it would be a nice independent supplement to the news, and a way to get that news into readers’ hands easily. What’s more convenient than an easy-to-read newsletter delivered right to your inbox every Thursday morning?
Then I thought, well, what’s the next step? Adding some investigative reporting to the mix? I was excited at the prospect and thought it might make a nice testing ground for some investigative projects. If I looked into something and it turned out to be short but interesting, I could make a short post about it and be done. If it turned into something more, it could end up being a big story in the publication I work for.
Last week one of those stories turned into something big. I got a tip that the local waterpark wasn’t being forthcoming about positive bacteria tests conducted by the local health department. I ran a story in City Pages, then wrote a little more extensively on my Saturday The Big Read.
The post honestly didn’t get too much attention at first. No new subscribers or anything. Tuesday morning I decided to share a link without comment. I thought it deserved a little more attention than it was getting. Maybe that would help.
That’s when things blew up.
By last count, the post had been viewed more than 7,000 times. I gained 21 new subscribers, putting me at well more than 100. (In fact, not counting myself, I had exactly 108 subscribers, which has a lot of significance in East Asian cultures and legends.)
I had been surprised when nearly a week had gone by and no one else picked up the bacteria story. A simple call to the health department would have confirmed the story. But once the Substack post went viral, suddenly both TV stations ran the story.
Did my substack have more power than the printed paper I worked for?
This made me nervous. Afterall, I started The Wausonian as a side project. I meant it to be supplemental to my City Pages work, not as a replacement or competition (Although I did envision a day when I worked on this project entirely, down the road.) I also didn’t necessarily want them linked; I didn’t actively hide that it was my substack newsletter, but I also didn’t want to draw attention to the fact. To me it was the ethical way of handling the potential conflict.
A couple of things have given me pause this week:
A) Inside sources tell me there is talk of a lawsuit. I think it was in reference to my source, suing that person for breach of contract, but it got me thinking. What I wrote was true, and I wrote it with extreme caution. It’s defensible, but that doesn’t mean it won’t need to be defended. With the paper, I am covered under the company. But what about my subtack?
B) A few folks have made it apparent they’re aware of the connection between The Wausonian and City Pages, and my involvement with both.
Those facts made me nervous. So I completely deleted The Wausonian. I first saved all the posts and the email list. This made the decision reversible (at least somewhat). Reversible decisions are the best kind, because they require less decision-making effort. If you change your mind, you can.
That was Thursday. I wrote the bulk of this on Saturday, and I have changed my mind. I think there is a way forward with The Wausonian that is both ethical, mutually beneficial and can still give readers what they want.
I think I will resume publishing this Thursday, but if I don’t, it means I took a little more time to figure out my approach. But even in that event, rest assured; The Wausonian will return.
In the meantime I wanted to write this to you, my readers, to assure you A) how much I’ve appreciated your support, and B) to let you know why the archives are missing (or in case you checked and noticed The Wausonian suddenly disappeared.) It was always my intention to write and explain what happened either way. But now I’m writing to tell you The Wausonian is coming back. Thanks for sticking around.