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I was wrong; I’m sorry. Let’s go again.

Reflections from the Editor on two years of publishing The Raincross Gazette.

Downtown Riverside from City Hall
Brenda Flowers

I had been dreaming of launching a digitally native newspaper for 11 years before we first published The Raincross Gazette in January 2021. It is hard for me to believe we have now been publishing for two years (in two weeks, but who’s counting?). The community of Riverside was so gracious in it’s welcome to us I found it overwhelming. Over two dozen people purchased annual subsriptions before we ever published a single story, community groups invited me to speaks to their members, and I even got to Zoom with former Mayor Loveridge where he shared about his excitement for our endeavor.

We launched as a subscriber only email, publishing every Tuesday and Thursday mornings – “a newspaper delivered straight to your inbox instead of your porch.” This model was inspired by my own subscriptions to Morning Brew and The Dispatch. This model was working – we had generous launch sponsors from The Woodard Group, our subscriptions were growing, and within our first two months we published at least three stories that had a direct impact on action at City Hall. But something was wrong.

When well-meaning subscribers would see me out and about they would often ask me “how are things going with the newsletter?” or tell me “I forwarded the latest newsletter to my neighbor who really appreciated it.” The newsletter, the newsletter, the newsletter – I quite quickly came to hate that word. Calling The Raincross Gazette a newsletter seemed to me an insult to the dignity of what I was building and devalued my efforts and intentionality. Why couldn’t Riverside understand I wasn’t publishing a newsletter; I was building a digitally native newsroom?! I am embarassed to write theese words, but they are the truth: when Riversiders sought to bring me gratidtide or encouragement I, in my arrogance, received it as belittlement and contempt.

I fought hard against this perception and have spent the better part of the last two years working to make the Gazette look better. We acquired a fancy new website, I contracted network of freelance professional journalists, and I worked hard to change the perception that we were merely a newsletter. In the meantime, the consistent quality of our publication slowly and steadily declined and subscribers don’t stop me in public anymore with a word of gratitude or encouragement. I have been blind to this up until now, but I made a critical mistake over the last year. I shifted the focus of my energy for the Gazette away from you–the subscribers, your neighbors, and this city we love. Instead I have been focused on myself and how The Gazette makes me appear.

Shortly before we announced our launch, I called the then Mayor’s Chief of Staff, the incomprable Dr. Cheryl Marie Hansberger for advice. Believe it or not, I was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough news in Riverside for us to cover. I will never forget her quick laugh when I asserted that concern: “that won’t be your problem!” she said. She was right: my ego has been the problem. There is no shortage of news, good and bad, to be shared in Riverside. Just this moring I reviewed a list of sixty stories I wanted to cover, but didn’t have the resources for.

What is in short supply is a human, who deeply cares for Riverside and its residents, willing to put aside their own ego and publish for Riversiders. Earlier this year I made a new friend in Mark Talkington, Editor and Founder of The Palm Springs Post. Mark has shown me a way to publish local news that is profoundly human and neighborly. I am grateful for his leadership in our region and his impact on me and I am coimmitted to rebuilding The Raincross Gazette to better serve Riverside.

Shortly after I hit publish, I am going on a holiday break (my family has been through one hell of a year), but when we come back I am starting over. I am committed to embracing being called “a newsletter” and once again delivering news that is helpful to my neighbors.

Thank you for your subscriptions, for your support, and for your patience.