When I began the Magic City Morning Star in 2002, there was never any intention of earning a living from it. True, I had hoped that advertising revenue would pay the costs involved with running the publication. These costs included, not only the actual hosting charges but software, software upgrades, and perhaps some new features along the way, in order to keep things interesting. My intention was to publish only local news, opinion and events, with a concentration on that which was not being accurately or adequately reported by our existing print media, which at that time was the Katahdin Times and the Bangor Daily News. The mill, then, was in the process of closing for the first time, and a group of scoundrels calling themselves the Millinocket Area Growth & Investment Council (MAGIC) were positioning themselves to ensure that the only possible recovery would benefit their own bank accounts, and at the expense of everyone else who lived in the area.
After a long, hard fight, and one that involved many more people and circumstances than I can take credit for, the magic went out of MAGIC, and the founder of the organization was perhaps the only one who truly benefited from it, which was probably okay with him. Eyes were opened and people began to see them for what they were. In this light of day, people were not so willing to pay for their own demise, and the organization's public funding went away. The Magic City Morning Star played some small part in this, and I remain proud of the role we played.
In the process however, and to some extent because of the role that we played in fighting corruption in Millinocket, my wife and I were eventually forced to declare bankruptcy. Certainly, we made some mistakes along the way as well, but we could have survived our own errors financially.
Because this has a bearing on the status of the Magic City Morning Star, I will deviate from my story for a moment to discuss this.
I had never experienced such a thing as a bankruptcy before, and it wasn't a pleasant experience. I've never been what very many people would have called rich but I have always been able to pay my bills and usually had money in the bank. When Michelle and I married, she had been doing pretty well in her own business. Since we were working online, we were able to bring our income with us to Millinocket. As very little of our income was local, I falsely believed that our livelihood couldn't be threatened by our involvement in local politics.
I was wrong about this. Telephone calls were made, and emails were sent to people we did business with, accusing us of any number of crazy things, mostly made up out of whole cloth. While people didn't necessarily believe all of this nonsense, I'm sure that some of them did, and few of them wanted to become involved in something that seemed so messy. As contracts ran out, they weren't renewed, and we couldn't support ourselves in our own business any longer.
We took jobs in Bangor. My wife went to work with a non-profit social service agency, which went a long way toward paying our most essential bills, and I took a part time job. Those of you who have had to drive to Bangor for work every day will understand that this gets tiring after awhile - and expensive, particularly since we were working different hours. We wound up having to rent a place nearer to Bangor, which had both advantages and disadvantages. For a time, I lived in Millinocket while wife was living in Levant, and I refuse to tell you whether that was an advantage or disadvantage.
Unfortunately, in trying to help someone out of a bind, my wife made a referral to someone here in Millinocket, which let that person know where she was working. Within a very short time, someone from Millinocket had filed a groundless complaint against her with her employer. The complaint didn't go anywhere because there wasn't anything whatsoever to it, but still this is not the sort of thing that anyone likes having their employer involved in. Having kept my job a secret even from those who I considered to be my friends, I was spared this embarrassment but I have no doubt whatsoever that something similar would have occurred at my place of employment had anyone connected with the MAGIC group in Millinocket been made aware of where I was working.
Keeping up two homes on one and half jobs wasn't exactly filling our bank accounts, so we moved to North Carolina for a couple of years. There was more work than we could keep up with there, and we both worked two full-time jobs during the time that we were there, while building up another income that we could take back with us to Maine, since Millinocket is our home.
During this time, keeping up with the tasks of continuing the Magic City Morning Star became more and more difficult.
For one thing, were weren't making any money from it. It was costing us money, and always has. While I was able to believe that we were serving a good purpose in keeping it going, I devoted as much time to it as I could, and probably more so than I should have. The Magic City Morning Star was most effective while other local writers were contributing to it. Because we were effective, the Magic City Morning Star was under attack, even the the point where MAGIC supporters on our town council discussed our online publication as being a "threat to the community" during an official workshop of the council. Meanwhile, our contributing local writers were becoming involved in elected positions, either on the town council or with other local organizations, and began seeing their association with the Magic City Morning Star as a liability.
Our local advertisers were approached directly, in some cases even by members of MAGIC's executive board, and discouraged from advertising with us, so I was faced with more work and greater costs at a time when I was already having trouble paying my bills. While living in Levant or working two full-time jobs in North Carolina, I was hardly in a position to report on local news and events myself.
With less local participation, I began soliciting statewide and national writers, some of whom have been contributing to the Magic City Morning Star for many years. I have enjoyed their writings, although I have not always agreed with the things that they had to say. My heart has always been in a local publication however, and with little time to contributing any of my own work to the project it began to occupy a position of less importance.
Years ago, I had changed software for the Magic City Morning Star to permit writers to publish their own work directly to the site, hoping not only that this would encourage more people to contribute but that this would minimize the amount of time that I had to spend formatting articles sent to me by others.
You see, when someone composes an article in Microsoft Word or another text editor, the file comes to me with a lot of formatting code that I have to strip out before I can publish it to the Magic City Morning Star's article manager. Unfortunately, very few of our contributing writers were willing to publish their own work through our article manager, preferring to send it to me in email or as an email attachment.
Since I wasn't paying for publication rights, I didn't feel that I could require them to publish their own work in our article manager. Nevertheless, I found that whatever amount of time I had allotted for the Magic City Morning Star was taken up with publishing the works of others, leaving no time for me to put any of my own concerns into words, and still I wasn't able to keep up with it without dipping into time that I needed to spend elsewhere. When someone would complain that I hadn't published their article quickly enough, or that I hadn't made corrections to their article that they had sent me, it frustrated me. I knew they were right, and that they had every reason to want their article published in a timely fashion, and to make corrections to it that they thought were necessary, yet I couldn't keep up with it.
Eventually, I found that I couldn't even come close enough to keeping up with it to make it seem worthwhile to me. I wasn't publishing any of my own stuff, nor was I able to make anyone else happy, so it made sense to me to concentrate on the things that I could do, which was to earn enough money to pay my bills and hopefully ensure that my wife and I would never again be in the kind of financial position we were in a few years ago.
Contrary to rumors, Michelle and I are back in Millinocket, still in the home that we have had for ten years now. I do not envision becoming involved in local politics again whatever the circumstances. If they start lining people up against the wall of the municipal building and shooting them, it's only my business if I find myself among those who are lined up against the wall, and there would be little reason to complain about it at that point.
I feel deeply about the same things that prompted me to begin my journey with the Magic City Morning Star eight years ago. At that time, most of the bad decisions that were being made by the town council were enacted by unanimous vote of the council. Today, we have a council that for the most part has the best interests of the people of Millinocket at heart, although too many of them are far too willing to compromise with evil. I believe that the Magic City Morning Star did its part to wrest control of Millinocket from a pack of wolves, but it's someone else's turn now. If the voters opt to elect scoundrels to office again, someone else can deal with it.
Or not. It's your decision.
As for myself, I have been sitting here behind my computer day in and day out, earning a living and growing my hair. I am nearing sixty now, and I may not have it for long so I feel the need to let it grow at least one more time while it still will. I have been following state and national politics to a point, but I don't know much about what's going on in Millinocket anymore. I sense that good people are forming alliances with bad people for reasons that they consider politically expedient, and that's always a mistake. But that's not my problem anymore. That's where I'm at personally.
As for the Magic City Morning Star, until I believe that I can afford the time to do a good job of maintaining the Magic City Morning Star, I don't know my time would be worthwhile. I still harbor hopes that I will one day find myself in a position to be able to contribute once again in some meaningful way to the Magic City Morning Star, but am not sure when or what that might look like. If I earned a revenue from the Magic City Morning Star, as I do from some of my other web sites, I could justify spending some time with it. Unfortunately, I don't know of a way to do this. I fear that there remain people in Millinocket who would threaten any local advertising that we might pick up and affiliate marketing has never paid off with the Magic City Morning Star for reasons that I've never really understood. Every minute that I spend doing anything else is time that I could be spending earning a living.
I would love to have local contributors willing to publish their own articles to the site, whatever their interests might be. If more of our other writers were willing to publish their own content, that would reduce the amount of time required on my part, if I were to be involved in the process again. I would love to be able to but I hold myself to high standards, and if I am not able to do a good job of it, whatever amount of time that I would otherwise spend would be simply depressing.
Lacking local participation, the Magic City Morning Star could turn into something different, perhaps continuing the political commentary but including a concentration on book and product reviews, something that I enjoy doing and which might have some potential for paying the bills. If I were to be involved again, probably I would want to change the format considerably.
Meanwhile, I have been paying the hosting costs for the Magic City Morning Star every month, and have renewed the domain name. I would like to thank R.P. BenDedek for the work that he has been putting in on the Magic City Morning Star over the past several months in particular, and apologize for my lack of communication. I will be in touch with him soon. The last several times that I have tried to access my editor email, my account was so inundated with spam that I didn't even have time to wade through it.
I am not sure what the future holds. It doesn't entirely depend on me.