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Reflections: Two years of This Is Reno (opinions)

By ThisIsReno
Published: Last Updated on

This Is Reno quietly passed its two-year mark recently, as well as more than 200,000 page views since we launched in 2009. As we have gained in popularity, interesting requests have been made of us. While it’s difficult to define what exactly what we are as a news site, others seem to want to place their needs onto us beyond just posting a simple press release (and believe it, some folks have trouble contributing basic news releases) or a written contribution of some sort. We discussed these requests at a recent meeting. They were:

  • One person didn’t want us to indicate his submissions were in fact submitted by him. We discussed this and unanimously agreed doing so goes against the transparent nature of the site.
  • One blogger/content mill purveyor – it was difficult to tell who, exactly, this person represented – submitted to us a write-up about Reno but insisted we keep an unrelated link to another site in the ghost-author’s byline. Since we reserve the right to edit submissions for any reason, and communicated this, interest in submitting to the site quickly vanished. Thankfully.
  • Anonymous commenters and spammers, probably groomed on Schadenfreude culture that dominates other news sites, apparently haven’t grasped that we appreciate full disclosure. We post our real names and expect nothing less of others. Admittedly though, our commenting policy was only polished recently. In short, we strive to be civil and transparent.

Thank you for sticking with us for the past two years. Be sure to friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and get the news in your inbox daily. It’s free, there are no ads and we occasionally will tell you what we’re thinking.

Each volunteer was asked to write a short statement about TIR and what is means to them – good, bad or otherwise. Here’s what they said.

Ron Andersen

The best thing about being a contributor for me is the challenge of meeting a naturally high writing standard. Most of the people here write, or have written for a living, so I always feel compelled to do my best just to stay even. Being in the company of writers is both inspirational and entertaining.

I’ve been in a couple of group efforts in the past, and they came and went pretty quickly. The fact that we’re still here after two years says a lot about the quality of the people involved.

Laurel Busch

I’m proud to have been part of This Is Reno since the beginning. I post news releases after cleaning up typos, AP style and awkward wording if necessary. I’ve also taken advantage of This Is Reno’s policy of posting submissions from individuals as well as agencies, organizations and businesses; I’ve posted several articles and opinions of my own. We receive releases from so many people now that I often feel as if I’m the first to hear a lot of the local news. Besides enjoying the work, I like working with other professionals who are more interested in disseminating news than making money from doing it.

Bob Conrad

It bugs me that some credit me for this site; Ron even recently referred to me as TIR’s “fearless leader.” I love Ron, but this made me cringe. This Is Reno was equally my idea and Ryan’s idea (he blames it mostly on me), and everyone works as hard, if not more so, as I do on posting the news. Rebecca, Laurel, Ron and Jim in particular post most of the news and the most consistently. It’s true I delegate out the stories, encourage the site’s direction, delete most of the spam and anonymous comments and set up our rare meetings, but at the end of the day, nothing major happens with TIR without consulting others; at a minimum Ryan and Laurel (mainly because they seem to have the most interest in the site’s direction and policies), and then the group as whole.

Ideas can get shot down regardless of who presents them. Some of us like to post the news in our own way. Some edit releases, some edit titles, some just post. Some didn’t respond to contribute to this article; others did. Some contribute original content – Ron has been the most prolific – but most do not. Since nobody gets paid to be a part of This Is Reno, and there are virtually no expenses beyond hosting and the domain name, which Ryan pays, we’re pretty loosely organized. (This also means we’re not exactly a favored model for other people wanting to create news sites, who also want to make money from their sites.)

Most important, I think, is that each of us to some degree guided by a vision of doing something new for news in northern Nevada. Ultimately, that’s probably what keeps us going. Not any one individual.

Bethany Drysdale

I admit, I didn’t understand TIR when Bob first told me about it. I come from a traditional news background and couldn’t fathom a single news site that posts ALL news given to it. Someone must be the “gatekeeper” and decide what’s really newsworthy, right? Ok, so we’ll post submitted news releases, but only ones we deem interesting or of worth to our readers, right? Wrong on all counts. Thanks to a clear vision by the founders (sorry Bob and Ryan, but that’s what you are) and a well-designed format, we are able to post everything submitted to us. Our readers get to decide what’s newsworthy, and we know that by how often those pieces are read, shared and comment on.

TIR is no one’s day job. It is a labor of love, an after-hours affair that takes time and effort. And I think that those of us who post things to it do it because we recognize that it’s something different and new, and we want to be a part of it. We want to see where it goes next. We want to see other communities build their own version of TIR and provide unfiltered news and commentary and let the public, the readers, decide what’s important. It has been eye-opening for me to be a part of a truly community-driven news source and to interact with my community through news.

Ryan Jerz

There is plenty that can be said about what has changed in the past two years. Most of it is small and doesn’t matter other than to entertain someone while they read a retrospective. I like to think that we’re about a lot more than entertaining at This Is Reno. Without question, we all got into this because we wanted to do things that matter.

When Bob came to me with this idea, my initial thought was that it was just some outfit that recycled PR. I had some renegade ideas about what “news” was and didn’t understand PR well enough to get that it supplies an awful lot of news. I also didn’t understand the news business well enough to get that they rely on PR, despite occasional ridiculous protestations to the contrary, for a lot of their ideas. The two are forever married in this world. I didn’t see any of that. I just wanted to do something and Bob had an actual idea that was actually missing from our local area, so I went with it.

We are enjoying success. That success comes completely in the form of accolades, site visitors, and the ability to continue to find great people to help with the site. We attempt to recoup absolutely no money for the cost of the site, which is admittedly minimal. Every person involved  does so on his or her own time. That sometimes means we are slow on posting new items. It sometimes means we can’t schedule a meeting we want to have for over a month. It mostly means we almost never have the ability to do what got us all into this area of interest in the first place – producing original content for a site I believe we all can agree needs more original content.

The group of volunteers at This Is Reno is amazing. Two years we’ve been at this. Two years. Without paying anyone a dime, without arguing over where the site should go and what the site should be. It could have only happened because we have a bunch of people doing this that simply care about what they’re doing. I know how much these people have going on in their lives. I have a lot myself, and they’re no different from me in that regard. Without having found some people who want to do something good in the community, we wouldn’t be around at this point.

That matters.

Bridget Meade

I learned about ThisisReno.com through friends. TIR’s model is similar to what we discussed in my first semester as a journalism graduate student.  My hope for the site’s future is to have more citizen journalists contribute content (articles, pictures, video, etc.).  It’s a fantastic outlet for people to tell the other side of the story.

Jamie Roice

Though I have only been with This is Reno for a few months I have had a great experience with the team members and website. The intelligent yet down to earth team members make helpful and immediate responses to any problems or comments that I or any readers have with the site.

One problem I find is the ability to gain more readers to the site.

Other than this common problem that has plagued news professionals all over, This is Reno is a great site.

Jim Scripps

For two years I’ve volunteer-edited This Is Reno, and I’ve enjoyed its reception in the community and what I’ve learned about how information distribution can work in the connected world.

In the old-media world in which I used to work – newspapers, news websites – information was the commodity. The paper, then the website, was the delivery method. The newsgathering process, while noble, was ultimately a process of connecting eyeballs to ads.

With This Is Reno, it’s different.

At This Is Reno, there isn’t a commodity, and there isn’t a transaction. And we don’t game the website to grow page views to turn revenue. We also don’t apply editorial judgment in the traditional sense. For the most part, we are a depository for public relations, and we aren’t trying to be something other than that. We label it as such and allow the audience to use its judgment. So far it has worked out well.
So, instead of having a broadcaster-consumer relationship with our audience, the audience is the broadcaster AND consumer. Our visitors come from search, they come from Twitter and they come from Facebook. People pass This Is Reno stories on to their friends, colleagues, and oftentimes, customers.

This Is Reno is literally “social media.”

Of course sources like This Is Reno are not a substitute for journalism, but they certainly can complement it, and in some ways keep it honest. I will always honor newsgathering by people and institutions who are expertly trained and vetted by an establishment and the public. But we can never turn back the clock on the democratization of information and news.