What is Rio Grande Digital?

Mike Scanlon

Welcome to Rio Grande Digital.

Mike Scanlon

As of this writing, the site is in its infancy — or maybe it’s a premature newborn. There are still bugs to work out and features to add, a little tweaking here and there. But what the site needs most right now is a community. It needs you — readers, collaborators, critics and fans — to direct the subsequent stages of its development.

What this site is all about

This site, I hope, will grow up to be a news site. We have three of those, at least, in the Las Cruces market and a few false starts. Many news sites today belong to newspapers. Traditionally, newspapers have defined their markets as the geographic areas surrounding their newsrooms — roughly the area in which it was feasible to deliver newspapers. They have reporters, but their newsrooms are top-heavy with managers and executives. They have customer loyalty, but they carry a lot of baggage related to their print editions. They have financial resources, but they also have debt. Some have a lot of debt.

This site has no print edition, no reporters, no office, no money and no debt. We certainly don’t have any executives. We don’t really have a “we,” just a me. My break-even point is still within the range I can afford to lose, if it comes to that. That includes a year of pre-paid web hosting, domain name registration, a mailbox, a couple of boxes of paper clips, some expert advice and this WordPress theme I purchased. WordPress themes are all over the Internet free for the downloading, but I paid for this one because I believe that if you do good work, you should get paid for it. I don’t include the time I’ve spent setting it up and will spend in the weeks to come, but I hope I’ll find a way to compensate myself for that in the future. If not, I knew the risk from the beginning.

So while many newsrooms around the country are downsizing — some to the point of implosion — this site can do nothing but grow.

Having lived in Las Cruces for most of four decades, I have my own ideas about what our “community” is. I think it is Las Cruces-El Paso-Juarez. That’s what I want this site eventually to be.

Please take a moment to read about Our values.

Where the content comes from

As you click around, you’ll notice that much of the copy is what we in the newsroom would call “canned” copy or “handouts.” These free articles are produced by public information people who work for various entities, such as the city, county, school district, NMSU and others. But just because it’s free doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. In a compilation such as this site offers, these articles help create a mosaic of life in our community. Or that’s the pitch anyway.

There also are little things here that I believe add value to the site: a currency converter, three-day weather forcast, New Mexico and Texas lottery results along with the prize payouts for different games. I hope there will be obituaries for the Las Cruces funeral homes. I won’t charge the funeral homes or the families for printing those because I know the obits are among the best-read features of many news websites. None of those things is particularly compelling by itself, but packaged together — along with a few more — I hope they begin to give people a reason to visit the site.

As time goes on and I get this website running smoothly, I will put on my reporter’s hat — which I proudly wore for many years of my career. I will write articles and take photos to put on here. I will actively seek op-ed pieces from the many bright people and great writers in our community. As important, however, I hope to generate money with the site and invest that money with some of the freelance newswriters in the community. I want to offer better freelance pay than anyone else — enough so that these talented and dedicated professionals can see the possibility of making a living by doing what they do.

I also plan to indulge my interest in Mexico by writing a blog you will find under the “Mexico” category.

In some of the earliest posts, you might notice my use of first-person plural pronouns. I use those as in the “editorial we.” In reality — as of the time of launch anyway, it’s just I.

How I plan to earn a few bucks

I anticipate three ways to create income with this site.

  • First, you might notice a number of advertising spaces around the site. I want to sell those and use part of that money to pay myself a modest wage. For more information about those, click any of them or click the “Advertise” link under the “About us” category just under the site’s name plate.
  • Second, I will solicit donations from readers. There is a “Donate” feature at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. Clicking that takes you to a secure place at PayPal where you can make any size donation. Your support of independent media will be appreciated. I’m thinking about following Heath Haussamen’s lead and creating a place in which to disclose all the donors. I’d like to know your thoughts about that idea.
  • Third, I want to find some of the grants that might be available to independent media startups.

What I don’t want to do is set up a paywall and charge people to look at the site. That model, in my opinion, runs counter to the personality of the Internet.

Once I’m rolling in cash, I want to use PART of the advertising money, ALL of the donation money and ALL of the grant money to pay writers to write stories and photographers to take photos for the site. Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of those will produce a single penny. If that’s the case, I’ll probably seek out some volunteer collaborators to help me keep the site alive as a public service to the community.

So let’s do this together

Click around and tell me what you think. Report any problems, such as broken links, missing features or browser compatibility issues. I especially hope to hear about compatibility from my friends who have Apple computers. I hope you’ll give me ideas and constructive criticism. Tell me what you think and what you want. You can reach me any number of ways, including the “Contact us” information in the “About us” category.


Michael Scanlon is a professional newspaper journalist. See his resume here.

RioGrandeDigital.com is published by Rio Grande Digital Media LLC




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