We’re going to need your help in 2019. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution by clicking here or on the piggybank. It’s easy.
This letter was sent to all of our newsletter subscribers a couple of days ago, and I thought I’d share it with all of you before the year comes to an end. We’re working on a new sign-up form for the newsletter, but you can easily subscribe by texting BAYOUBRIEF to 22828.
December 22, 2018
During the past year, because of your support, kindness, and the faith you placed in our vision of a new type of publication for the people of Louisiana, the Bayou Brief has established itself as an innovative, informative, and important part of the Fourth Estate in our increasingly fragile democracy.
As we wind down 2018, I wanted to write you to express my immense gratitude for your generosity and your encouragement, which has sustained and reaffirmed my dedication to the work we are doing and my hope for a renewed spirit in the inimitable place we cherish, despite its flaws and failures.
Next week, I will share some of the most important stories we have published this year, and please also look for Sue Lincoln’s recap in the upcoming days. (If you are a regular reader of the Bayou Brief, I think you’ll agree: We were immeasurably enriched by her incredible reporting. On a personal note, there is absolutely no way the Bayou Brief could have thrived- or possibly even survived- without Sue’s guidance and insight; I consider myself very lucky to count her as our investigative editor and as one of my closest friends).
Importantly, I want you to know that I am dedicated to learning from and correcting the mistakes we made this year. Most of those were due to growing pains; others were the result of flawed technology, and some were entirely my fault as the Bayou Brief’s publisher.
We’re a small team, and we’re operating on a shoe-string budget. This means, often, we simply do not have the capacity to be as robust and responsive as we would like to be.
For one thing, our email news alerts were terrible. We relied on a bad product for far too long. As a consequence, some of you accidentally unsubscribed, and most of you never saw our updates because they were filtered out into the graveyard of your spam box.
If you’re receiving this email, it means you’ll no longer receive the old version.
We conducted an informal survey of our readers last week, and overwhelmingly, most respondents said they preferred a weekly newsletter. That’s what we’re launching right now. To those of you who want to receive an email notification every time we publish a new report, we’re working on a simple way to ensure you won’t miss a thing (one of the easiest ways, right now, is to follow us on Facebook or Twitter).
We also heard, loud and clear, that readers would much rather we spend money expanding staff than completely revamping our website. So, while we know it is essential we make a few small changes, our fundraising efforts will be all about guaranteeing we can augment our staff with new writers.
Specifically, more than 75% of those surveyed told us they wanted the Bayou Brief to add writers who would focus on the issues of education and poverty. We also hope to improve and increase our reporting on history, culture, and the arts. To accomplish all of this, though, we will need more resources than we have right now, and we are going to do as much as we can to convince as many people as possible that we are a worthy cause doing important work.
2019 is an election year in Louisiana, and by far, respondents told us the two most important issues that we cover are politics and the environment, which are intrinsically interlinked in our state.
We are also adding a letters to the editor section in the very near future, which is something we had wanted to do and something respondents told us they wanted as well.
Although we will not veer into national news (unless it uniquely affects Louisianians), we intend on venturing more into topics that concern the Deep South and our neighbors in Texas and Mississippi. We are affected by the decisions their elected officials make, and they’re affected by the ones made by our leaders in Louisiana. Respondents also overwhelming told us they hoped we would continue to report on the most important things happening next door.
We’re creating something that no one has ever done before in Louisiana- a statewide, nonprofit, online news publication. As a result, others in the media aren’t quite sure yet what to make of the Bayou Brief. Sometimes, we’re dismissively (or innocently) called a blog, but that’s the wrong word. And it’s especially absurd when it’s from publications that almost exclusively exist online now. Others may assert that we’re merely partisan propagandists or “fake news.”
But here’s the truth: The Bayou Brief produces original, investigative reporting and commentary. We do not accept advertisements; we’re not underwritten by any political party or sponsored by any campaign.
Sue Lincoln has been a professional journalist for more than three decades, working across the country and the state. Our contributors are all professionals in their respective fields (though, next year, we also hope to help cultivate the next generation of Louisiana writers). I’ve been writing for publications since I was seventeen; I’ve worked in public service; I have degrees in creative writing and in the law.
During our first seventeen months, we have never retracted a single report or issued a material correction. We take our responsibilities seriously. We do our homework, and we are proud of our work and of our profession.
When our country’s founders guaranteed the fundamental freedom of the press, they were deliberately protecting those who report the facts that challenge those in positions of power and who express opinions that question the status quo. They saw that as essential to democracy.
We agree. And, by the way, we’re just getting started.
Vive le Louisiane!
Lamar White, Jr.
New Orleans and Alexandria, Louisiana