Thank you, readers, for seven years of support: your readership, commentary, word-of-mouth marketing to friends and neighbors, constructive criticism, and, since 2015, for your financial support for our nonprofit enterprise.
This is our Valentine’s to all of you. I speak for a staff of 18 passionate, talented colleagues who believe our journalism, our mission of informing and connecting San Antonio’s engaged citizens, is helping to build a better city.
Monika Maeckle and I launched the Rivard Report on Feb. 13, 2012, with the simple proposition that our voices mattered and citizens deserved to be more fully informed and engaged. I had left my job as editor of the San Antonio Express-News after 14 years and more than three decades of work as a print reporter and editor. Monika had left her work as a longtime communications executive. The world I knew, daily newspapers, was caught in an internet-driven state of cyclical decline. Monika’s world in corporate communications was equally disrupted by technology.
Work was no longer fun. Anything we could do to create a new media platform in San Antonio was worth the hard work and risk.
We knew the days of monopoly newspapers were drawing to a close and that niche digital publications were the future, if not the present. People had endless choices, as we greeted the dawn of smartphones and apps.
The Rivard Report began as an experiment. Not all our friends and contacts believed it stood a chance. We were underfunded, undefined, and less than certain we would attract regular readers. We had no idea what it would be like to work 80-hour weeks with no pay. If we had known, we might never have started.
We found a home in and around Geekdom, a co-working and tech incubator space started by Rackspace co-founder Graham Weston in his downtown Weston Centre. We were two baby boomers replanted in a world of millennials where the office was redefined as a shared desk for laptops, a whiteboard and coffee machine, maybe a pingpong table, and 24/7 food delivery.
A maze of coders, web designers, and social media savants adopted us and helped us navigate as we took our first real steps into the digital universe. We learned that day-to-day failure was an option, as long as you learned and adapted on the run.
Our first published story somehow attracted several thousand readers in the ensuing days. It also prompted several readers to submit their own thoughtful commentaries, what I would call enlightened disagreement. Almost overnight, we struck a chord. A fast-changing San Antonio was hungry for a community platform, one that gave the views of readers the same space we gave ourselves.
Within a year we were attracting advertisers. We scraped together enough cash for a part-time intern. That was Iris Dimmick, who then became our first full-time employee as more money dribbled in, and then an advertising director, Jaime Solis, who became our first poached employee, joining a tech firm in Austin. Today Iris is our senior reporter covering local government and politics. Scott Ball became our first photographer and today is our photo editor. Hanna Oberhofer became our first full-time editor and today serves as our community and production editor.
Thanks to some smart advice and mentorship from individuals who would form the core of our board of directors, we reorganized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2015, joining the Institute for Nonprofit News, which now includes 190 nonprofit digital publications in U.S. cities and state capitals. We quickly began to attract support from individual members, some paying us $5 a month or $25 a year, as well as grants from foundations and local philanthropists. We began to stage more civic engagement events that also helped fund our mission-driven journalism.
We built a remarkable board of directors. Their credibility and community standing, leadership and experience, financial support, and, above all, belief in our mission have elevated our standing far more quickly than we could have done on our own.
By 2018 we had grown to our present size and graduated to new offices in historic St. Paul Square in a 19th century building that began life as the Lone Star Hotel, built to serve passengers arriving on the city’s newly laid railroad tracks.
We look forward to hosting many of you at our Wednesday evening reception celebrating seven years of continuous publication. We are still young, but we are starting to feel grown up. Our celebration will include a four-day fundraising effort to raise $7,000 or more to be used to send members of our team to continuing education seminars and conferences.
If you come, you’ll meet the new generation of leadership taking the Rivard Report into the years ahead. Managing Editor Graham Watson-Ringo has spent more of her journalism career in the digital space, working for ESPN, Yahoo, and then expressnews.com. She leads our team of 13 reporters, editors, photographers and a number of regular freelance contributors. Jenna Mallette, our chief operating officer, leads our business team of four people who oversee advertising and marketing, donors and development, and our growing calendar of civic events, including the annual San Antonio CityFest.
That team was recognized last week when Facebook selected 17 digital local media across the country for $100,000 grants to help build membership, a project that will be carried out in the next six months. We hope, of course, that such national recognition helps spur local philanthropists and donors who have not yet become supporters.
I am allowing myself a few moments of nostalgia after thousands of published articles, columns, commentaries, videos, and podcasts that have drawn millions of site visits. This week we will pause for a party, but then it’s time to get busy again. The news never stops, and now in San Antonio, neither does the Rivard Report.
Thanks again to all who support us. To other readers who have come to depend on us, why not join now and help us reach a new level of journalism and public service in year eight?