The Future of Mitchell News

by Staff on February 18, 2012 · 9 comments

in Local

A few days ago, Mitchell News (or what later became Mitchell News, to be more accurate) turned five and a half years old. I’m not sure if it will survive to see its sixth birthday.

The future of Mitchell News is something I’ve been thinking about for a month or so and this article was inspired by a post to the Mitchell News Facebook page this morning:

I’m a bit disappointed that Sally hopes that I’m not on another vacation, since I would really like to be. Unfortunately, I don’t get to return to California again until next month, but I digress.


In August 2006, the City of Mitchell was much different than it is now.

We had a different administration and a different police force and many Mitchell residents weren’t happy with the actions of either.

I wasn’t happy that traditional media wasn’t covering issues that I felt were important to Mitchell residents.

One Mitchell police officer had been made famous by his overzealousness which resulted in a lawsuit against himself and the City.

Mark Kern, then clerk-treasurer, had the City’s finances in total disarray. He told the City Council at a budget meeting that personal use of city vehicles wasn’t “a cost that affected the budget”. When I asked him for “documents detailing expenses, either itemized or aggregate totals, incurred from the ‘personal use’ of City-owned vehicles”, he replied:

“I have no records for personal use of the city owned vehicles. They are supposed to be used for city business.”

“…supposed to be…”, yet he had zero documentation that they actually were being used solely for city business even though he told the City Council that the costs involved were ineffectual.

Later, a State Board of Accounts audit revealed just how messed up the City’s finances were. In addition, it was discovered that “The City Attorney [Byron Steele] received compensation in the amount of $15,000 without payroll deductions for taxes and no Form W-2 or Form 1099 was issued.”

It must be nice not to have to pay taxes on an extra $15,000 of income.

For what it’s worth, Mr. Kern later e-mailed me stating, “The fact that no 1099 was issued to the city attorney was an error, and has been corrected with a 1099 being issued to him for 2006″.  It’s up to you to decide if you want to believe that, especially in light of the letter from Mr. Steele that recently surfaced.

They Tried To Get Me Fired

When the web site was just over six months old, I was over at a friend’s house after work with some co-workers, sitting on the deck and enjoying a cold beer on a warm, spring day. My friend — who also happened to be the head of Human Resources where I worked — then let me in on something that had just recently occurred.

A certain “Detective” from the Mitchell Police Department had contacted the HR department at the educational institution where I worked. His premise was that his wife and, possibly later, daughter, were considering enrolling in classes and that he was worried for their safety because I (working in I.T.) would have access to their personal information.

Ultimately, he had “teamed up” with a now-former Lawrence County police officer and their goal was to get me fired for things I had written about them on Mitchell News. He denied it to me, but I got to listen to every voice mail he left and read every e-mail he sent. His goal was quite clear.

Fortunately, I was told “you didn’t give up your freedom of speech when you came to work here”, asked not to write about the incident, and that was that.

We Changed The City

Mitchell News continued on doing what it had become notorious for and, in time, we succeeded in getting a new administration elected.

Over the next few years, that new administration took over and lined out many of the issues that had plagued Mitchell. The budget got worked out, “rogue” policemen were dealt with, and now, things, in general, have calmed down.

With help from many of you, together we succeeded in bringing to light many of the wrongdoings that had been swept under the rug for far too long.

Mitchell News was often the first to break big stories and, in many cases, stories that were simply never covered anywhere else, for whatever reason. By steadfastly refusing to ever reveal any of my sources and giving everyone the opportunity to say exactly what they wanted (as opposed to deleting your comments like a certain newspaper is known to do), I earned your trust and we made public things that would never have been otherwise.

There came a point when I became less devoted to Mitchell News and began writing fewer articles. Things slowed down tremendously.


Then, last June, Mitchell News became much more active again, albeit with a “new attitude”.

See, the great majority of you weren’t around then, but “back in the day” Mitchell News had a much different demeanor than it does now. It was a “no-holds-barred, anything goes” web site. I’ll be the first to admit that things often got “dirty” very quickly.

Between June 23 and November 27 — about five months — I wrote a total of 156 articles here on Mitchell News and changed the “attitude” of the web site completely. It was during this period that many of you first discovered Mitchell News. The number of “fans” of the Facebook page jumped from around 150 to 1,032 today.

The thing is, it just wasn’t fun anymore. It was work. The only reason I was able to write so many articles in that time period is because I had quit my nice, cushy, office job in May. I had plenty of free time spent sitting at home on the couch and was spending some of it writing articles here.

A New Job

In late October, during one of my trips to Silicon Valley, I received an e-mail asking if I was interested in a job. I wasn’t looking for a job and wasn’t much interested in the position, but I told my friend that I’d at least meet up with the owners of the company and talk with them.

I did that shortly after returning from California and found that the position was much more interesting than I had expected it to be. They had things they wanted to do, but no one on staff who had the skills to make it happen. By the end of our meeting, they had offered me the position and I had accepted. I started the next Monday.

For the first few weeks, things were slow as I become accustomed to their processes and began to learn their environment (as well as their customers). I continued on writing articles for Mitchell News and posting the police logs every day. As I got much busier, however, the level of writing dropped off like the mercury on an Indiana winter night.

The last few months, I’ve wrote barely anything on Mitchell News, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.

My Efforts Are Focused Elsewhere

I created my first web site over 15 years ago and, as of today, own 20 domains (“”, for example, is a domain) — and the majority make me money — with plans to add a few more in the next month. The amount varies: a few relatively new sites currently earn only a few dollars a month (I still have a lot of work to do on them) while the most popular one brings in much, much more.

As an example, this month, Mitchell News has earned $9.48 so far. The most it has ever earned in a month was $38.39, in September 2011, when I wrote a total of 18 articles. If we assume that I spent 30 minutes researching and writing each article, that works out to about $ 4.27 per hour.

On my most popular site, I’ve written one article in the last month and that site has earned $268.73 in the last 30 days. I spent about an hour writing that one article, which works out to $268.73 per hour.

Notice the difference?

I never intended to make money or get rich from Mitchell News. It wouldn’t matter if I had, as it wouldn’t have happened anyway. Working full-time, I simply can’t devote enough time to researching and writing to make it worthwhile. And, with this extremely low level of writing, I certainly couldn’t charge anyone for it.

Mitchell News has become the red-headed step-child.

I don’t have much free time anymore, now that I’m working full-time again, running a business of my own (which is projected this year to earn income orders of magnitude higher than any of the web sites), managing several web sites, and, just recently, I started writing a book. Perhaps it sounds greedy, but Mitchell News simply isn’t a priority for me anymore and, from a business standpoint, is operating at a loss. Mitchell News earned $141.22 in 2011, yet cost me $250.

So, What Now?

I don’t want the site to go away completely and I won’t let it. The content that is already here will remain for the foreseeable future. I’m just not certain I’ll be adding much to it.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been struggling with what to do with the web site.

I could just let it remain like it is and continue to neglect it.

I could “jump back in”, begin writing again, and attempt to make money from it one way or another.

I could set up forums where visitors can create their own discussions and talk about whatever they like.

I could recruit others to write articles for Mitchell News, but that likely wouldn’t turn out well.

There are a number of options I have at this point, but I’m not sure which one I’ll end up pursuing.

What do you think?


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