COOPER, Iowa, October 27, 2013 — It’s a new deal for this old Internet news and opinion site, Offenburger.com.
In the past six months, we had learned that after 13 years, the “content management system” we had always used to put together our Internet news and opinion site Offenburger.com was worn out. In July, our webmaster for the last four years, Chris Brocka of G.Rafics Inc. of Adel, apparently wore out, too. We’ve never really been able to pay him enough to fairly compensate him for all the time he was putting in on our site. And he dumped us.
Carla Offenburger and I gave serious consideration to ending our website right then. Why, we wondered, should we continue to put several thousand dollars per year into something that has no direct financial return for us? Good question, huh?
Well, there’s a pretty good answer, too. And here it is: We like what we do here.
We enjoy having a place to tell stories the way we want to tell them, Carla in her column “My View from the Porch” and me in my column “Out in Greene County, Iowa.” We also like being able to showcase the talent of people like photographer Don Poggensee, who for years has been giving us eye-popping pictures of Iowa because he knows we display them well. We like being able to share Guest Columns from people like you, and occasionally from student writers whose work we like to boost.
Also, if we killed Offenburger.com, it’d almost certainly mean that 13 years of stories in our archives – a lot of them pretty good stories – would be erased. We thought that would be a shame. We’d like to continue to have those available, for our own reference and for everybody else who Googles them. We’ve got so much content archived that we show up very prominently on Internet search engines, as you might have noticed.
So we considered all of the above and then made a decision. We’re going to try to give the website new life, with a few changes.
First, we’re adding three new features – new ways for us to spend more money while we try to inform or entertain you!
One of those is we’re going to start featuring a poem all the time, hopefully a new one every week. We want to honor the work of poets, most of whom will have been published very little, if at all. But we like the way poets think and write. We want to give them an audience.
Another new feature is a genuine blog, “OFFENBLOGGER,” which I’ll write most of the time, with occasional pinch-hitters. In my regular columns “Out in Greene County, Iowa,” I’ll normally have stories that I’ve spent some time on, interviewing, reporting, writing and re-writing – my best work. But I also wanted to have a place where I can react more quickly to the flow of the news, where I can say whatever I want to say, and raise points that I’m not seeing raised elsewhere. And that’s the material I’ll write in the blog, which I imagine I’ll be updating almost daily. Some of my blog posts will be snippets. Some might be column-length.
The third new feature will be “A BLAST FROM THE PAST.” Since we’re going to continue to have access to our archives, we’re going to go back into them every week or so, pull out some story that we particularly liked, and run it again. It might be something Carla or I wrote, or the work of somebody else that we’ve published. They will be stories that we know were popular with our readers.
In addition, on the right side of our home page, you’ll be able to cast your votes on the always distinctive questions in our poll, “THE CONTINUOUS IOWA CAUCUS.” Also there, you’ll also be able to see my Twitter and Facebook posts.
We know people are going to enjoy a new feedback feature, in which you can comment right at the bottom of stories you read on this site. We’ll monitor comments for inappropriate language or mean-spiritedness and delete offenders.
We’ve hired Emily Brewer, of Jefferson, to lead us in the rebuilding of Offenburger.com. She works as Carla’s assistant in Community Relations at Greene County Medical Center in Jefferson. She is moonlighting in her work on our website.
Emily is building the site on the WordPress.org template that is called “Expound.” It was designed by a young Russian, Konstantin Kovshenin, who lives and works in Moscow. We’ve already been in touch with him a few times, via Twitter, to clear up questions we’ve had. It’s a new age, you know?
The site is being designed so that, hopefully, I will be able to handle most of the postings of stories and photos. We’ll be paying Emily to do the more complicated design work and the necessary fixes. We’re all learning this together.
We might be a work in-progress for a while, so we ask your patience. By all means tell us when you see glitches.
All this is free to you, of course, just as it has always been. We are not going to sell advertising. But if a good company or organization likes what we are doing here, and wants to become a financial underwriter, we can talk about some ways we could enhance a business relationship. However, our first rule is that we will never compromise our editorial independence.
If you want to help us pay for this, then hire us to come speak at your larger events. Or go on our tours, if we should decide to organize some of those again. We Offenburgers are fun. A little peculiar, but fun. And we’ve got good stories!
You can write the columnist at chuck@Offenburger.com or can comment using the handy form below here.