Ashvegas 3.0: Picking up after the pandemic, seeking subscribers, cheering on Asheville
AshvegasDotCom celebrates its 16th anniversary this year and needs your support
Here I am, a newly hired Asheville Citizen-Times reporter, in the newspaper’s newsroom, circa 1994.
Dear Loyal Readers,
Get a load of this guy above. Optimistic, curious, happy and green. Young and green as a four-leaf clover. He’s feeling lucky to have just joined the Asheville Citizen-Times, his hometown newspaper, as a cub reporter.
Yup, that’s me. Fast-forward to today and I’m still feeling excited and blessed to be working in the field of journalism in the town I love.
Still, this past year has been tough. It’s beaten us all up to one degree or another. I feel like I’ve been living and working in this weird pandemic purgatory, moving in disjointed stops and starts. But I’m starting to emerge, and figured it’s a good time to check in with y’all. I’m hopeful for what’s ahead.
The community news and information website known as Ashvegas.com is evolving, and I’m going to need your help to keep going. Here’s a quick look at the big changes:
I’ve parted ways with the publishers of WNC Magazine after about a 6-year partnership that’s been truly supportive of my work. The change leaves me resuming ownership of Ashvegas.com and continuing my one-man-band role as writer/reporter/photographer/editor for my local, independent journalism outfit.
I’ve launched this site, Ashevegas Hot Sheet, via substack, a site that offers wonderful email newsletter management tools for independent writers. The key moving forward will be singing up paid subscribers. The cost is $7 a month, or $75 for a year. I’ll have a concentration of growth and development news here, as well as an assortment of Hot Sheet trends and tidbits you’ve seen in the past. There will be free content here, as well, but my hope is that you’ll see value in what I’m doing and support it by subscribing.
I haven’t completely abandoned Ashvegas.com. I’ll continue to update the site. I also haven’t completely set aside the business of seeking advertising. I’m thrilled to have the advertising support of Citizens Fuel Oil Co. and Citi Brands LLC, Asheville companies through and through, as my first sponsors. But the focus will be on building subscribers here.
Enough of that for now. Let’s take another brief look back.
Here I am on a hilltop overlooking Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a reporter for European Starts & Stripes, circa 1999.
After graduating UNC Chapel Hill with my journalism degree, I started working for small daily newspapers, with stints at: the Bladen Journal in Elizabethtown, N.C.; the Daily Advance in Elizabeth City, N.C.; and the Florence Morning News in Florence, S.C. Touring vast tobacco fields and tracking small town meetings, I started learning the importance of telling people’s stories.
After making it back home to the Citizen-Times, I stuck around for about five years before pulling up stakes once again to cover the U.S. military for European Stars & Stripes. My base of operations was in Spangdahlem, Germany, but I traveled the world writing and reporting for the newspaper. Meeting people from different countries, different cultures, gave me a whole new appreciation for the human story. So, too, did witnessing the ravages of war.
I returned to the mountains, and my community journalism roots, in 2000. For the next dozen or so years, the Citizen-Times was once again my home, though I left to join up with the alternative newsweekly Mountain Xpress for a couple of years. It was during this period that I jumped on the blogging bandwagon, starting up Ashvegas.com as a sideline hobby in 2005.
Like so many of my fellow ink-stained wretches, the withering economics of the daily newspaper business left me in the unemployment line in 2013. I knew that my website had money-making potential as a community news and entertainment hub, but I’m more editor than entrepreneur. I eventually connected with the magazine publishers, and that’s how I made it to where we I am today.
On assignment for Ashvegas.com at the bar-in-a-gas-station known as the Brew Pump in West Asheville, circa 2018.
As we head into the 2020s, I’m as committed as ever to keep telling the story of Asheville and its residents. This community is special and worth fighting for, as are the beautiful mountains that hold us. We’re entering a new chapter full of potential, and more than a few challenges. I hope you’ll come along, loyal readers, and keep offering your feedback, your knowledge, your voices. I can’t do this without you.