On July 22, 2002, I put out the first edition of the Bacon’s Rebellion newsletter in the wild-eye hope of advancing the conversation about how to build more prosperous, livable and sustainable communities in Virginia.
Our writers explored how Virginians should respond to the challenges of globalization, the Knowledge Economy and the depletion of our natural capital. We railed against complacency and challenged the status quo. We advocated the wholesale transformation of outmoded institutions that no longer work well — from education to economic development, from transportation to land use, from energy to the environment.
Today, some six years later, do I believe we have made a difference. I take some satisfaction that my fellow columnists and I have helped change the terms of debate, even if we have fallen short in our aspiration to inspire lasting change.
But all good things must come to an end. This will be the last edition that I publish. This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the e-zine, however. I am pursuing discussions with some friends of Bacon’s Rebellion to pick up where I have left off. Hopefully, we’ll have some good news to report in the near future. (If anyone else wants to get involved, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!)
It isn’t easy letting go something in which I’ve invested so much of my time and my identity. The simple truth is, I’ve just ran out of steam. Outside the two-and-a-half years when the Piedmont Environmental Council financially supported the e-zine, I’ve put out the publication on my own dime and my own time. For 156 editions (including this one), I’ve devoted alternate weekends to writing this column, editing and formatting the contributions of others’, composing an electronic newsletter and updating the website — not including the time I’ve spent on the blog.
The rigid schedule put a big crimp on my family time. Bottom line: I want to spend more time with my wife and children, and I need more flexibility to help aging parents. Family comes first. That’s not something I would have said when I was 30 years old, when the thought of changing the world was far more seductive. But it’s something that, at 55, I do say now.
The e-zine has never enjoyed a mass audience — we can boast about 2,800 active, opt-in subscribers. Our focus of interest — state and local public policy in Virginia — is not for everyone. I’ve always joked that only one percent of the population could care less about the subject — and that assessment may be optimistic.
But in that small boxing arena, I believe, we punch above our weight. I’ve been gratified by the extent to which Virginia’s top elected and governmental officials do read us. Also — I think I can say without excessive braggadocio — Bacon’s Rebellion is a thought leader in Virginia. Our distinguishing attribute has been a fervor for exploring new perspectives, covering new ground and elevating new issues to the forefront of public consciousness.
I’ve never been a proponent of ideological purity or political correctness. I’ve made an effort to recruit talented writers who represent a broad cross-section of thinking, even when it meant airing viewpoints contrary to my own — which was quite frequently. My goal for the e-zine and accompanying blog (which I will continue to update) has been to fashion a forum where diverse ideas and civil voices could contend, and in doing so, raise the level of discourse.
Over six years, many, many people have contributed to Bacon’s Rebellion, giving much of themselves and writing without recompense. Without their efforts, this publication surely would have foundered. I wish I could thank them all. (Visit the Wonk’s page to see the more frequent contributors of years past.) For now, I will settle for acknowledging those who have stuck with me to the end.
Doug Koelemay, author of “Koelemay’s Kosmos,” gave me the courage to publish the very first edition of Bacon’s Rebellion by promising to take part as a regular columnist. Over the past six years, he has missed only a handful of issues. Writing extensively about technology and governance, he added a voice of moderation and reason.
Ed Risse, author of “The Shape of the Future,” also has been writing for Bacon’s Rebellion since year one. Of all the e-zine’s contributors, he and I have collaborated the most closely to push the boundaries of understanding. I have learned far more from him than he from me, but together, I think, we have increased awareness in Virginia of the critical importance of human settlement patterns.
Sam Clay and Patricia Bangs, authors of “Nice & Curious Questions,” added a touch of whimsy to Bacon’s Rebellion. Contributors since 2003, they have combed the width and breadth of Virginia in search of trivia and lore.
Mike Thompson, Chris Braunlich and Len Gilroy, the three amigos of the Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, have alternated writing columns since 2004. They have championed fiscal conservatism and free markets not by dwelling upon the failures of the status quo but by thinking creatively about positive solutions.
Norm Leahy, author of “One Man’s Trash,” has brought to the e-zine a conservative perspective sharpened by a ready wit and a copywriter’s gift for the memorable turn of phrase. A relative newcomer to the Rebellion, he has been writing for the Rebellion since early 2007.
Peter Galuszka, author of “Gooze Views,” has delivered a dose of liberal ‘tude aimed at keeping me and other Old Dominion conservatives on our toes for nearly a year now. A comrade in arms of mine at Virginia Business magazine and a former international correspondent for BusinessWeek, Peter roots his analysis in a much-needed global business perspective.
I’ll stack our contributors up against the editorial board of any newspaper in Virginia. I commend them all for their fine work, and I owe them a boundless debt of gratitude.
Lastly, I thank the many readers who have encouraged me along the way. Your moral support is what kept me going for so long.