This past weekend, the OB Rag celebrated its sixth anniversary – and we had a small party and pot-luck complete with a fire-dancer and player piano (and meats catered by the BBQ House).
Ah, yes, six years of being the online ‘news and views’ for Ocean Beach and beyond. We’ve now been publishing for as long as our name-sake predecessor, the original OB Rag, OB’s alternative community newspaper from the Seventies.
It’s been a great run for the Rag, these last years.
But we’re at a crossroads, because the practicalities of continuing to publish are forcing us to face where we’re at and forcing a sober re-assessment and re-evaluation of just what the Rag is doing.
These past years we tried to provide a platform for OBceans to discuss community issues as well as being a source of progressive opinion on local and national issues, and providing local news from a progressive perspective. And we’ve been doing it mostly as volunteers. No one is making any money here. We can pay our bills from ads, T-shirt sales, and straight donations, and we slip literally a few bucks to some of our writers to cover their costs.
Yet, we’ve been at it, expanding, learning, teaching.
We’ve been behind and illuminating a number of OB issues; we helped save the OB Library from Mayor Sanders’ budget cuts; we were instrumental in preserving the icons of the beach – the firepits one year; we made OB’s homelessness into a civil rights issue – and caught hell for it; we’ve been providing notices and reports of the OB Planning Board meetings; we have pushed for a consensus resolution of the marshmallow fight controversy; with our ‘news from Newport’ reports, we catch everyone up on changes among the merchants on OB’s business streets; and lately we’ve provided a discussion and information post for such things as CVS Pharmacy moving into the former Apple Tree Market.
The Rag has also been a key supporter of the OB Planning Board and its efforts to maintain and improve OB’s blueprint for development, the Precise Plan. And our archives contain reams of online history from OB in the 1970’s and Eighties.
Plus, our daily and monthly stats on readers remain fairly phenomenal. We routinely have a daily readership of between 1400 and 2000 visitors.
So, since we’ve done all this great stuff, why is the OB Rag now at a crossroads.
Part of the reason is that in June 2012 we started publishing the San Diego Free Press. Many of our writers and bloggers at that time didn’t live in OB – and most of them transferred their talents to the Free Press – and now that online publication has become very successful.
That’s not all of it, by a long shot.
Since we are mainly volunteers and cannot pay our writers, talented people who are looking for work and who write for us – have over the years – found that work and have had to move on. The Rag has had trouble maintaining a consistent staff developed enough to provide coverage of OB’s issues, meetings and happenings on a regular basis.
OB Merchants Do Not Support the OB Rag
Not only that, despite all of our coverage of the comings and goings of merchants on Newport and Voltaire, of supporting a ‘buy local’ attitude, of educating villagers on the various issues that concern and confront the community, the OB Rag is not supported by OB merchants. What do we mean by that?
We do carry a number of advertisements in our sidebar. But -, except for a very few – the simple fact is OB businesses do not support the OB Rag and do not advertise on our online and inexpensive space. You won’t find many merchants trying to reach our thousands of readers. Even some of those businesspeople who do support our efforts decline to be listed as a supporter. The OB Rag – even though we’ve been around for over half a decade – was not listed in this year’s “OB Local” directory published by the OBMA.
Events, concerts sponsored by merchants or others – do not care to take out banner ads on the Rag that would get the attention of thousands in just one week. In contrast, the original newspaper version of the OB Rag had lots of local merchants advertising on its pages, like The Black, People’s Food Co-op, Pete’s Liquor and other commercial businesses.
Despite all the advertising of clean-ups of OB over the years, the trimming of the weeds at the OB Entryway Park, no one steps forward and recognizes that work. The OBMA and OBTC give out annual awards for people and groups that help the community – but neither of these organizations have reached out and sent props our way.
The Rag Caught Hell Around Homelessness Issue
Several years ago, the Rag led an effort to raise the issue of homelessness as a civil rights issue. And we caught literal hell for it, and made a bunch of enemies – or at least alienated some friends. It was the right thing for us – and the churches – to do, as OB had slipped from being a center of progressive consciousness and toleration to becoming a repository of hate. But the hate that the Rag received in response was enough at times to make grownups cry.
It is true that the Rag has disturbed the tranquility of some who wish to either profit off of OB’s counter-culture reputation or who revel in its nostalgia but without warts. And perhaps these are reasons for some of the unresponsiveness of some in terms of giving us support. We don’t know exactly. There’s other publications out there with loads of local advertising – but no content.
OB Still Has Problems
Ocean Beach still is facing its problems. They range from high-rents to issues of gentrification, from the taking-over of Newport Ave by bars and alcohol serving establishments to the crumbling of its infrastructure. And there is no mass grassroots group or movement that can respond to these issues adequately.
The OB Rag – since its inception in 2007 – has been one of the only sources of progressive politics and views – in OB.
But will the Rag be around to deal with these continuing problems and issues? That is unclear.
What Has to Happen?
Because of the lack of local merchants supporting the Rag with advertising, one significant change would be to move towards a subscription base or a system with readers’ sponsorships. If we had 50 to one hundred individuals or groups that sent us $10 a month, we wouldn’t have to worry about advertising.
Or we could become more of a weekly journal or blog, and not carry daily news or researched views.
Or perhaps we could form a community advisory board and have direct and immediate feedback and monitoring of local issues and news.
These are some of the ideas that we will be considering these next couple of weeks. We are of course always looking for music and film reviews, poetry, photography and other written contributions in the meantime.
This is also a chance for OBceans to give us an earful and express what you think the OB Rag ought to do or become.
There is a principle here … if you appreciate and expect the OB Rag to continue to provide coverage and insight on events and local issues, you will need to step up and help us do that.
Or if you think it’s time for us to move on and for a new generation of online opinion makers to merge into the open, let us know that too.
If you don’t like what we do, then plainly don’t do anything.
The OB Rag is definitely at a crossroads as something has to change. OB is also at a crossroads and will have to decide if it still wants the OB Rag to publish.