Jacking in from "It's Been A Hell of a Year" Port:
Washington, DC -- What a wild ride it was, 1994. It's been a comfort to have had each of you right there with Dispatch every step of the way.
CyberWire Dispatch is barely a year old, yet the scope of its readership and breadth of its success is truly amazing. Dispatch regularly broke major stories during 1994, beating the major daily newspapers to the punch time and again. That success and the acceptance of this truly unique news service by the Net community is what kept Dispatch "in business," so to speak.
What success Dispatch has had is a direct reflection of you, the reader. Without your support and input, this effort would have atrophied and slipped quietly into the ether long ago. The triumphs were many, but there also were many dark days.
Dispatch's struggle to punch through the ominous cloud of the first libel suit filed against a journalist for something published on the Internet has been well chronicled. There were many weeks during those dark months that Dispatch struggled to keep its focus. In all candor, the fight was often day to day and there were times when the effort to write Dispatch simply seemed more trouble than it was worth.
But Dispatch continued to receive your support. You never let us forget how much you appreciated our efforts. And I'm not ashamed to say that I leaned heavily on that encouragement and support. There are many, many to whom we owe a great thanks.
First, there are the thousands of you that responded to Dispatch's legal defense fund drive. That effort brought in a total of about $7,000. Each and every dollar is appreciated and it is humbling to have been on the receiving end of those gifts. The legal fees incurred in fighting the libel suit, however, came to about $30,000. All the money went to pay those fees, leaving a $23,000 deficit.
More good news: Dispatch didn't get hit with having to make up that $23,000. Our lawyers, Bruce Sanford and David Marburger, both of the law firm Baker & Hostetler, graciously agreed to accept all the money raised by the Defense Fund as payment in full.
And while the kindness of Sanford and Marburger and the partners of Baker & Hostetler can't be repaid, Bruce and David went beyond just being "my lawyers." They provided invaluable advise and support during some of the darkest hours and just when it seemed like I was ready to snap from the pressure.
Dispatch, of course, eventually beat that libel suit. The case was settled out of court. There was a payment of $64 made to cover court filing fees. But Dispatch issued no apology, no retraction, no correction and there was no admission of liability.
A big thanks also is due Sam Simon, president of Issues Dynamics, Inc. of Washington, DC. Sam did the heavy lifting on my Defense fund and used the resources of IDI to handle the flow of money from the Net to the lawyers. Sam also coordinated the gathering of all those that lent their names to the defense fund and it was IDI that housed the Internet account from which the fund responded to individuals.
The "thank yous" also must extend to all those that signed on as part of my Defense Fund committee, lending the weight and influence of their reputations to my case. I appreciated their support on several levels on my behalf.
Dispatch started its life this year with no home page, no archive, nothing but an informal "home" based at the WELL. It was distributed only on a couple of mailing lists. The fact that it was regularly reposted around the world and throughout several government agencies, is a tribute to those readers that thought it important to take the time and effort to send it along.
But soon the pleas to start a mailing list for Dispatch became too many to ignore. That effort would never have been possible without the efforts of another Dispatch benefactor, Eric Theise (firstname.lastname@example.org), president of the San Francisco-based Liberty Hill Cyberwerks and operator of the cyberwerks.com site from which Dispatch is administered. Eric, too, has donated his time and resources to Dispatch, for that Dispatch owes him much, as do you, the reader. Without Eric's work and generosity, there would be no mailing list, no gopher archive (though Dispatch is now up on several gopher sites throughout the world) and no home page.
(Small Disclaimer: Dispatch is arguably the owner of the WEB's ugliest and most boring home page. This is not Eric's doing... it is due largely to my own shortcomings. I have had neither the time nor the inclination to "sweeten" the Dispatch home page on my own. So, if any reader out there wants to take on a worthy "makeover" project by reinventing the Dispatch home page, just Email me.)
Also due a large measure of thanks are my previous and current employers, Communications Daily and Inter@ctive Week, respectively. For each of these publications, my writing of Dispatch provided no small measure of concern on several levels. But the editors at each of those publications had the stones to see beyond the usual tired arguments that keep reporters from writing with attitude. The recognition that Dispatch has gained only served to add to the visibility of those publications, too.
Adding to the excitement-stress of this year was a job change. (My "day job" as a reporter covering DC essentially underwrites Dispatch.) After 2 1/2 years, I left Communications Daily and went to work for Inter@ctive Week.
The skills I gained and enhanced working for Communications Daily cannot be overstated. I learned much from all my colleagues and editors at CommDaily. But my biggest lessons were from watching and working with CommDaily's Art Brodsky. He taught me much about working inside the Beltway and about workings of the telecommunications industry in general. I don't believe there is a better reporter in all of Washington than Art. Best of all, Art was a perfect "good cop" to my "bad cop."
My long time mentor and friend, Richard Louv, also has been with me while birthing Dispatch. Rich is a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune and author of several books. I'm sure he would be surprised to know that I still learn from him, but I do. His newspaper columns function as my own self-styled "continuing education" journalistic workshop.
Then there is my trusted "personal advisor" Peter Grunwald. He's acted as a real-time bullshit detector for Dispatch and has added his valuable insight as in interested "outside" observer over the course of the year.
A measure of Dispatch's success this year can be seen in the fact that hard copy publications are picking up our stories and running with them (as opposed to some daily newspapers which have used our stories merely as jumping off points for their own copy... not bothering to give us any credit. Ahem... but I digress...).
Already Wired magazine has picked up several Dispatch articles in one form or another. MicroTimes, a regional computer publication distributed in California has printed Dispatch. In addition, Dispatch has just set up a deal with MetroTimes, the 100,000-plus circulation alternative weekly in Detroit, to print our stories. And we've begun negotiations with the Anchorage Daily News, the largest daily newspaper in Alaska, which also wants to start running Dispatch on a regular basis.
And there have been other newspapers that have, from time to time, expressed interest in Dispatch in some form or another. Although these discussions haven't progressed very far, as they say, "it's an honor just to be nominated."
This year we hope to add more "features" to Dispatch. Running guest editorials, in the way that Newsweek runs the "My Turn" column is one area we're thinking of starting.
Also, we'd like to begin a type of "letters to the Editor" column. Currently, Dispatch readers simply respond to an article by posting a comment to the mailing list on which they read Dispatch. But these lists don't often "cross pollinate" so we'd like to start something that gathers comments up in the familiar digest form and distribute them.
But Dispatch is as much a product of its readership as it is a "sweat equity" publication of my own. So You Tell Me what you want. Also, Dispatch would like to hear more from you about stories we should cover. You are, after all, in the trenches. You and your colleagues are living and breathing a million different stories. So... get on that keyboard and tell them to me.
Don't feel like being an official "whistleblower"? Use Dispatch to let off some of your frustrations. I guarantee, we're good listeners.
May the coming months bring each of you a healthy and prosperous new year.