Dear Gentle Reader,
It is with mixed emotions and a slightly muddled mind that I bring to you the final edition of The Nicaragua Dispatch.
I, your humble editor, reporter, photographer, and Internet innkeeper, have been offered a journalism fellowship in the United States. I am taking leave after nine unutterably wonderful, infinitely maddening, and deeply rewarding years in Nicaragua—the last two of which were spent in the dizzying and relentless embrace of The Nicaragua Dispatch.
The Nicaragua Dispatch prided itself on being fiercely independent. We had a healthy irreverence for power, an intolerance for injustice, a thirst for the truth, a suspicion of authority, a passion for wordplay, a penchant for long sentences, and unflappable fondness for Nicaragua. We admittedly got carried away from time to time, but that goes with the territory around here.
The Nicaragua Dispatch was launched in 2011 with the intention of being a “community publication for a digitalized, global era.” We wanted this to be a big-tent exercise in democracy—one that encouraged all readers to participate and contribute articles, proposals, ideas and criticisms. As we said in our first editorial, published on Oct. 16, 2011, “We want The Nicaragua Dispatch to be as diverse, engaging and quirky as Nicaragua itself.”
Launching an English-language news site in an unproven, small-market country like Nicaragua, where less than 10% of the population is online and the government obstructs independent journalism, was perhaps a quixotic endeavor. But in the land of windmills, sometimes a frontal charge is the best strategy.
You, dear reader, responded to our efforts. In the first year of publication, our readership grew steadily every month. Last June was Nicaragua Dispatch’s most-trafficked month to date.
Alas and alack, we were far more successful as a journalism project than as a business. Though we experimented with several different revenue streams—Sponsorship, media partnerships, reader donations and traditional advertising—we were never able to lift our head high enough out of the water to figure out which way was land.
One of the goals of my fellowship year will be to huddle with minds far wiser than my own to see if there’s a better way to finance online media, with the aim of relaunching Nicaragua Dispatch in the future. You, gentle reader, have proven that there is still a need and thirst for independent journalism, even if the economy doesn’t recognize that yet. We still believe in the inherent value of reliable news coverage and the cohesive and necessary role that a newspaper can play in the community—even when that community exists online. Someday the economics of journalism will catch up to the needs of society. Democracy depends on it.
In parting, I want to thank everyone who made this project possible. Thank you to Cesar Zamora and Arturo Cruz; you two were there in the delivery room the day Nicaragua Dispatch was born, and your encouragement, support, guidance and friendship have been invaluable to its success. Thank you to our loyal and brave advertisers, especially AEI, Milagros del Mar, Montecristo, Garden Café, Grupo Pellas, AMCHAM , and Seaside Mariana. You and dozens of other local companies that advertised with us supplied a financial lifeline, without which we would have drowned long ago. You supported our webpage and freedom of expression in Nicaragua, even when you disagreed with the articles that we published. That is a true testament to your character.
Thank you to Carlos Fernando Chamorro and his dedicated team of journalists at Confidencial. Your support for and endorsement of Nicaragua Dispatch was an honor and a privilege.
Thank you to our sales director, Vanessa Marenco, whose years of loyalty, dedication, honesty and resilience in a difficult market are deeply appreciated and admired. And thanks to our interns, Eleanor Klibanoff and Claire Luke, for providing solid reporting, fresh perspectives and youthful energy to the site.
Hugs and kisses to my wonderful wife Cecilia, for tolerating my two-year affair with The Nicaragua Dispatch and for supporting me fully in this addlebrained and intrusive romantic fling. The Nicaragua Dispatch proved to be a fickle mistress who kept me up late at night, interrupted many of our meals together, and forced us to temporarily live in different time zones. But not only did you allow me to chase my dream, you helped me stay out of trouble on numerous occasions with your wise proofreading and gentle nudges when I got carried away on editorials and articles, which was often.
Thank you to The Bajopata, for your friendly company and compassion. You are missed.
And thank you to my gentle readers and courageous contributors, who embraced Nicaragua Dispatch from the beginning and made it a worthwhile endeavor. Without your daily visits to our website, your frequent contributions of blogs and community stories, and your incessant posting of comments (both thoughtful and unintelligible), The Nicaragua Dispatch would have been a completely boring and meaningless project. Without readers, I would have been just another crazy person muttering to himself about politics, which is probably how I’ll end up anyway, but thanks for postponing my descent into madness.
My intention is that this is more of an “hasta luego” than an “adios, pueeee.” In the meantime, The Nicaragua Dispatch website, with its more than 1,200 articles published, will remain online as a free reference source on Nicaragua and a chronology of the events during the past two years.
So until we meet again, thank you for reading and supporting The Nicaragua Dispatch.