When my suburban Dallas newspaper company went belly-up in 2009, and the parent company of the newspaper where I wound up next went into Chapter 11 my first day of work, I naturally tightened the belt a bit.
Among things lost was a subscription to High Country News. It was a magazine I loved.
I still read the non-paywalled articles. And I still touted stories it had done on social media. But, I wanted to read its in-depth pieces, and I wanted to resubscribe.
So, I got a digital-only subscription. Which I have let lapse. And won't renew.
Nor am I likely to read the non-paywalled articles. Nor am I likely to tout HCN on social media any more.
It's gone off the rails somewhat. And, late-February issues finally turned on a light bulb.
As far as I can tell, it's given in to the Overton Window.
When you have a staff writer who repeatedly has called Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski a "moderate," that's what we call a "tell." When you run a photo caption about Sagebrush Rebellion folks having their constitutional rights violated and never use the word "alleged," that's a concern.
The straw that broke the camel's back? Numerous problems related to their commenting system. They generally revolved around articles about the Bundys taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and the amount of "constitutionalist" drivel, followed by outright conspiracy theories, that people there started posting.
Yes, you may have an old, proprietary or semi-proprietary back-end system for website content management in general. But, I suggested a couple of easy fixes.
One was to limit commenting to subscribers only.
If that was too draconian, another one was to put a three-day, or maybe five-day, limit on articles being open for commenting. I'm sure that either one is easy to do. I know that Wordpress-based websites, and I think even the free blogging version of Wordpress, allow that. If your CMS doesn't allow for either one of those, it's time to look at investing in something new, because it has problems otherwise.
And, you don't even need that. Given that HCN web staff will manually close comments for an article, they could easily do that for every article after a three-day or a five-day comment window.
An "attentuated" version of enforcing commenting guidelines was the straw within the straw. Calling an apparent tea partier a tea partier is apparently a personal attack, rather than arguably nothing more than a label, even as the tea partier (and others on other threads) hijack comments by repeatedly going into the deep weeds of constitutional misinterpretation.
Further exacerbating it is that it's invariably non-subscribers doing this. Per evolutionary biology, I don't have to feed the beast on the well-known "freeloader" problem.
The Overton Window would also explain why the likes of Felice Pace no longer write there. Let alone Jeff St. Clair.
That said, there were other reasons, too.
HCN repeatedly emails me, and presumably all subscribers, about advertising opportunities for coming issues and special sections.
Erm, I'm not a business. And, I shouldn't have to be forced to find out how to opt out of such emailings; they should be an opt-in system.
That said, these issues are probably related to why Pace and St. Clair no longer write there — they probably spook some donors.
And, yet, it can't email me personally about my feedback, and how they're addressing commenting issues — if they are at all.
Call this all the feedback of a jilted lover.