I’m a stickler for transparency. It’s what builds trust.
As we complete our first year together, I thought it important to bring you up-to-speed on the state of Barker’s View – and provide insight on my thoughts for the future of this forum.
After all, we’re in this together, and this blog is as much yours as it is mine.
On January 1, 2016, I took a leap of faith and developed Barker’s View on WordPress, an on-line publishing platform that allows citizen journalists – or simple blowhards like me – a means of disseminating information and editorial content to the world.
But to be effective, political commentary needs an audience.
On balance, if you write an opinion blog and no one reads it, well, it would be weird to continue.
That would be more like keeping a public diary than publishing a political perspective blog. But that’s what this site is, really – a series of panicked essays chronicling my worst fears.
It is you, the reader, that makes it relevant.
An alternative opinion blog must also deliver topical content that provides a window beyond the spin and political posturing that drives our governments symbiotic relationship with the mainstream media.
I suppose that’s where I come in.
After serving over 30-years in municipal government, I know how the game is played. It’s like being a magician – once you know how the tricks are performed, it all becomes variations on the same theme.
In addition, the opinions expressed on an editorial forum must be critically analyzed by others – preferably those whose lives are most influenced by the news and newsmakers of the day – not just people who are simply validating their own point-of-view.
I have learned that the Barker’s View audience is composed of deep thinkers. The ‘watchers’ who remain focused on that which is important and are not easily distracted by government slight-of-hand.
People who are smart enough to realize that they have become disenfranchised, excluded, and marginalized by those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest.
Citizens who have come to the sobering realization that we are being fucked-over by a compromised system that only needs our money – not our participation.
Interestingly, my first Barker’s View post grew from the horror and frustration I felt over the Volusia County Council’s annual evaluation of county manager Jim Dinneen – a ridiculous exercise that naturally results in a generous bonus for his skillful channeling of our tax dollars in all the right directions.
In my view, Dinneen’s “pay raise” best exemplified all the dysfunction, insider influence and open cronyism that passes for governance in Volusia County, and I could no longer contain my outrage:
“Anyone who can read the printed word and think critically cannot help but be moved to uncontrolled rage by the Council’s continued pandering to a few wealthy and influential insiders, multi-million dollar giveaways, lawsuits against their own constituents, open bullying by the County Attorney’s office, our cartoon character of a Council Chair, the sheer arrogance of the County Manager, and the Council’s continued indifference to the needs and opinions of those they serve.”
And everything I have written since has been a riff on that same unsettling theme.
But how has it been received?
To my complete astonishment, literally through word-of-mouth and the awesome power of social media, in the past twelve-months the performance of Barker’s View has been amazing:
I wrote 132 individual posts on everything from “The Debacle in DeBary” to beach access issues, from the unrest at Embry-Riddle, to the cancer of corporate welfare and beyond.
These essays typically run from 500 to 1300 words – which drew some much-appreciated constructive criticism in the formative days of the blog.
Some readers enjoyed the longer format – others said it was unreadable at lengths over 1200 words, and urged me to shorten the articles to build readership. In the end, I decided to write about the issues as I see them – just leave it all on the page – and somewhere along the line, we reached a happy medium.
Unbelievably – in the past year, Barker’s View has had 49, 202 views by 32, 710 visitors!
Wow. How incredibly humbling.
Interestingly, the post which performed best appeared May 11th, entitled, “A Sad Day for Volusia County.” It was my frustrated attempt to make sense of the disappointing news that the 5th District Court of Appeal upheld a controversial lower court ruling on the Let Volusia Vote beach referendum question.
That single post garnered 2,430 views in just hours.
I think we can learn something from this level of interest in a local alternative opinion source here in Volusia County. Perhaps, collectively, we can put that information to constructive use as we work together for positive change.
Where do we go from here?
Earlier this year, we expanded the Barker’s View format to a regular interactive radio program hosted by “GovStuff Live with Big John” on WELE 1380 – The Cat.
At 4:30pm on the second Monday of each month, we present topical issues and take phone calls to discuss your take on the news of the day.
Per my friend Big John, we are gaining an audience, and I couldn’t be having more fun!
Our presence on Twitter is expanding as well, and if you haven’t already, please follow at @barkersview.
In 2017, I have plans to produce a weekly podcast specifically tailored to politics and topical issues facing those who live, work, play and learn in Central Florida. Stay tuned!
Just for fun, I have some Barker’s View bumper stickers (displayed above) on order – which I assure you will immediately improve the look of any vehicle upon which they appear – and we may even have some t-shirts and other swag available in the next few months.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to government access and public integrity organizations working hard to protect the citizens of Florida.
If you want one, please drop me a note – I sincerely appreciate your support!
As we close out this important first year, please know how much I appreciate each of you – the readers and contributors – who take time out of your busy day to read and comment on my convoluted thoughts.
I also want to thank the news-makers who write or call to take me to task, or express an opinion, and sometimes provide the occasional peek behind the scenes.
In my view, politicians who can accept criticism, even when its biting, and use it to better understand the mood of their constituents are practicing statesmanship at its best.
This exercise only works because of you – and I am forever grateful that you have returned purpose and passion in my life.
For now, let me end this humbling, but incredibly exciting, first year on two important words: