When Rock City Times launched quietly in 2012 it was a world where thought provoking satire was a good way to approach the world around us. It was, after all, the era of The Daily Show, Colbert Report, and others that taught us to tackle tough subjects by taking a different look at it and learn to laugh a bit. That world has changed. When reality starts to mirror satire, then it sort of loses its impact.
This is not the first time we have toyed with the idea of dramatically changed Rock City Times. I have known for a while that if the site is going to continue then it has to happen. I’ve mentioned it a few times in these type of letters. There is not a better time than now to make the transition however.
Back in 2012 when we launched I was working under contract for a state agency in a public relations and marketing role. I had a lot of dealings with the government and a lot with the media. The situations that inspired me at the time was that strange grey area between the two. There were things the government wished they could laugh about with media, and things media wished they could say and laugh at about the government.
Rock City Times grew out of (and greatly exaggerated) a lot of these thoughts and ideas. It gradually extended into other areas of local life. We wrote about things that we could collectively laugh together at because even in a completely fake story there were nuggets of truth.
The problem with operating a fake news site, even if it is satire, is that there is a shift in people, even at the highest levels, simply labeling anything that does not match their world view as fake news. In the past we have been able to take on very serious issues like crime, homelessness, equal rights, politics, and others through the lens of satire. The impact of our work on those issues is greatly diminished by the fake news banner while, at the same time, those issues are even bigger than ever.
So we are making a shift, we are turning our logo the other direction, and we will begin producing coverage here that addresses real issues with facts, research, and expert opinion. We will still deal with very local issues and things that matter to Arkansas, because at the end of the day that is where our focus needs to be. We want to showcase people doing amazing things like we did during our Vilonia Tornado coverage, we want to talk about the racial divide in Little Rock like we have before, we want to show cases of inspiration, and hold local politics accountable.
Satire is still fun, it is my absolute favorite form of writing. When we started it was what the city needed, and hopefully in the future it will be again. I do not want to rule out writing satire again because it is fun for me and fun for you. We still want to have fun and laugh together occasionally, but we feel like we can embrace the city and the state better by approaching it head on.