Dear Raging Chicken Press readers and supporters,
Two years ago today Raging Chicken Press’s first issue hit the Internet. Back then we were publishing one online issue a month. That first issue featured:
- “An Open Letter to Governor Corbett,” by Wendy Lee
- “[Self] Pep Talk,” by Seth Kahn
- “Plan to Renew Pennsylvania – A New Hope,” by J. Rizzo Mertz
- “No More Teachers?,” by Aaron Barlow
- “Don’t Want to Accept Responsibility? Blame Teachers!,” by Christina Steffy
- “You Are Not Alone,” a video by political comedian, Lee Camp
- “Kutztown University, Shock Doctrine, and Snake Oil Tales,” by yours truly.
In that first month, July 2011, we got 1,101 visits to our site. We finish June 2013 with over 31,000 visits for the month. That’s pretty amazing…especially given the fact that Raging Chicken is a side project for virtually everyone who works on the site or writes for us. That means lots of late night writing and editing or trying to catch up on emails and news before the first kid wakes up at 5:30 am. I’ve grown to appreciate fellow night owls feeding Twitter, Facebook, and Spotify at 3 am just as I began another long work day. It says something that it was not hard to find labor activists, progressive journalists, lefty radio producers, and bloggers to chat with in the dead of night. That’s just the only time that’s left to get work done.
Ever since we dropped the once-a-month publishing schedule and began posting much more frequently, we have seen our traffic increase steadily. By the end of next month, we expect to cross the 200,000 total views marker – something Raging Chicken Assistant Editor Sean Kitchen and I would talk about as a goal to strive for. We didn’t actually think we’d get there so fast.
High Water Marks
The good thing about “birthdays” is that you can look back and reflect upon where you’ve been. I think it’s safe to say that this past year has been pretty remarkable. We’ve seen Raging Chicken Press articles cited in PA media such as The Morning Call, Philly.com, and Reading Eagle in addition to a number of progressive blogs. We’ve also been cited in national progressive media such as Mother Jones, The Nation, Fire Dog Lake, Daily Kos, and Huffington Post. Just this past week, our article on A.J. Marin’s arrest for chalking “Corbett has health care. We should too,” on the sidewalk in front of the PA Governor’s mansion made it to the #3 spot on Reddit’s Front Page and #1 on the politics subreddit.
In addition to the mentions, Raging Chicken Press contributors Wendy Lee, Sean Kitchen, and Alyssa Rohricht have had articles picked up by Counterpunch, TruthOut, and ShaleShock Media. We’ve also regularly featured articles by prize-winning progressive journalist, Walter Brasch, and DeSmogBlog.org investigative journalist, Steve Horn. For her writing and activism against fracking the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, Wendy Lee has been invited to give several lectures and was honored with several awards, including the Clyde Peeling Critical Thinking Award by a PA ACLU chapter, for her work as an educator and citizen journalist. In May 2013, I broke the story on Kutztown University’s decision to drop its campus weapons ban, opening up the campus to concealed handguns and weapons. The story caught fire and was picked up by reporters across the region, leading to the revelation that the change in policy originated in PA Governor Tom Corbett’s office.
Behind the scenes, we have been hard at work trying to improve our reach and the site’s appeal. In May 2013 we upgraded our server space after experiencing too many days in which our site went down or was extremely slow due to high traffic volume. We had to spend an additional $125 for the upgrade, but it’s been worth it. Also in May, we upgraded our site design so we could display more content on the screen and better feature some of our series (e.g. Rick Smith Files, Smashing Apples, RCP Interviews, Frack That). We are very happy with the new design, even though it has taken quite a bit of work on the back-end to get everything working the way we wanted it to.
In late 2012, we launched a membership campaign. If you have been with us from the beginning, you might remember our first-ever fundraising drive in early 2012. We were hoping to raise as much as $20,000 through both small and larger donations. In the end, we didn’t even get close to that first $1,000. We knew it was a moon shot, but given the success of so many Kickstarter-type projects, we thought we’d give it a whirl. The campaign was not a complete flop, however. As you may recall, we raised enough to send Sean Kitchen and I to Providence, RI for Netroots Nation 2012. That was one of the most useful experiences we’ve had. Not only did we learn how to grow our site, we met folks from around the nation doing the same kind of work. We didn’t have the funds to send us to Netroots 2013 earlier this month in San Jose, CA, but you can count on us being there for Netroots 2014 in Detroit next July.
With our current membership campaign, you can become a member for as little as $5/month. In fact, if you become a member in July, you will receive a copy of Lee Fang’s new book, The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right. Without our members and donors, we would never have been able to upgrade our servers, improved the appearance of our site, or purchased a couple small pieces of equipment for conducting interviews. We can’t thank you enough. But, the fact remains, there is only so much we can do without additional support. This past year Sean and I burnt through a laptop, a computer, and a camera. Thanks to generous family members and some personal savings, we were both able to replace our tech. But, we know that we only have so much in our savings accounts and there are limits to our families’ generosity and resources. Our ability to build a strong membership will make or break Raging Chicken Press in the long-term. And since we are committed to the long haul, we are just going to have to find a way to make that happen.
So, if you really want to help us celebrate our second birthday, become a member. Really. For the cost of one beer or one frothy espresso drink a month, you can become a member and help us build strong progressive media in Pennsylvania and across the region. And by becoming a member now, you can help Raging Chicken Press take our next big step.
Our Next Big Step
Over the past several months, Sean and I have been talking seriously about how to expand Raging Chicken Press and make our work sustainable. The fact is we do not have a wealthy benefactor or some corporation throwing money at us to do activist media – surprise, surprise. We’ve been researching a whole range of grants and funding possibilities. We’ve come to the conclusion that in order to be able to fund our work, we have to take the next step: becoming at 501(c)3 non-profit organization. This summer, Sean and I will be getting the paperwork together and, hopefully, file our paperwork before the fall. We still have a way to go since we will need between $600 – $1500 to file the paperwork depending upon how much legal advice we will need.
By becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit organization we will be eligible for a whole range of grants and funding. Of course, that means a hell of a lot of more work writing grants and talking to donors, but that comes with the territory. Another important reason for pursuing 501(c)3 status is that it will mean that the costs of membership and individual donations will be tax-deductible. We hope that will provide more incentive for all of you dedicated readers to become members.
So, that’s the big news for now. We’ll keep you updated on developments as we go. For now, thanks to all of you for helping Raging Chicken Press thrive. We’ve been able to do so much in these two short years. We hope to be around for the long haul. Thank you again!