imageAlmost five years ago, my 20-year journalism career hit a crossroads, and I had to make a difficult decision: be a puppet or stand up for my values and this community. I chose this community.

I believed you deserved a better news vehicle, not one dictated by bean counters. Money shouldn’t determine how the Fourth Estate does its job. I believed in being a watchdog of the government, telling people’s stories, informing the community. I wanted to adapt the traditional newspaper to meet you where you were, while still upholding journalistic integrity.

I was told I had a lot of good ideas, but, ultimately, the man in charge was in charge. That was the third and final time the company had slapped me in the face for being a woman. I left the meeting and turned in my notice of resignation. I served my final weeks there and walked out the door on October 19, 2009. Rodney followed me.

We had an idea and a dream. We named that dream This Is Brown County, and we tagged that dream, “Life is different here.” It’s an odd name, but descriptive of what we wanted our focus to be. We got the words from a longtime Brown County native who no longer lives here, Mark Wayt. He is a legend in Brown County emergency medical field. Rodney worked with him more than 25 years ago. Mark often said, “This is Brown County. We do things different here.” That sizes up what we wanted to achieve.

On October 20, 2009, I woke up with a new freedom. I skimmed through my Facebook feed and saw friends talking about persimmons. And then I had an idea. I found a persimmon picture. I called IGA and asked if the store had pulp in stock. I posted my findings, created a website and found a new mission in life.

Rodney and I quickly brought Kim Woods-Owens into the mix, because she loved Brown County even more than we did. She got it. She understood what we wanted to do.

Taking on such a mission came at a cost for both our families and for each of us personally. Not only were we trying to do something big for this community, but we also had to survive and endure changes in our families. We took on multiple jobs, just to barely pay bills. We watched our children grow up and leave home. We realized the hours spent on TIBC and how many of those meant we deprived our children of time with us.

I can’t speak for the Owenses, but our family suffered financial ruin because of this decision. We lost our home. I nearly lost my mind. At the same time we were spending so much time with TIBC, my children graduated high school, went to college hundreds and hundreds of miles away and endured devastating life chances that I couldn’t help them overcome.

I couldn’t hang on to my sanity and TIBC. Kim stepped in and saved it. Finally, a year ago, I left TIBC. Unfortunately, that move and my ridiculous outburst before it happened cost me something so valuable that I suffer a permanent hole in my heart. I lost my friend.

The financial sacrifice we all made to keep TIBC going came to a climax last year when the decision was made to transition TIBC into a subscription-based site. We didn’t know what else to do. Everyone loved TIBC, but we couldn’t survive. Kim was putting in between 160 and 200 hours a month for about $200. And that was after we started subscriptions. Before that, she was putting in the same number of hours for nothing. Again, people loved TIBC, but only if it’s free.

TIBC has more than 10,000 fans on Facebook. If every single one paid just a dollar a month, imagine what we could have done with this community news portal. Yet, so many, maybe 2,000 to 2,500 people still pay a dollar a week for a news vehicle that provides so much less.

That fact is one that still baffles me.

How many people at that other news organization make between $25,000 and $45,000 a year? At least four. To provide you with less. On the low end, that’s $100,000 a year. And you supported that. Kim struggled in the last year to make $2,400?

In that five years, did anyone step up and start a fundraising effort to help us? We were presented with an idea or two, but those would have taken more time to research and implement than we had to give. The ideas were free, but we would have to do all the work. And yet, you said you loved what we were doing.

If I sound a little harsh or bitter, maybe I am. I loved TIBC just as much as Rodney and Kim, but I would have closed the doors long before they made the decision to do so. The sacrifice we gave TIBC was too great for me. We gave and gave and gave, and I hoped, eventually, the community would rally together and help us survive.

When that didn’t happen, it destroyed me.

It’s taken a very long time for me to recover from that and be in a good place. I will miss TIBC, because I remember why we started it. It was a venture I believed in with my whole heart. I saw the support come in the beginning, and I knew I had made the right decision to throw my long-fought-for career away.

But the support was only words. We didn’t do it for money, but I think we thought people would realize the value of the product we provided and help us find a way. Some of our very faithful followers and advertisers did all they could, but their efforts weren’t enough to make the sacrifice anymore.

As I say my last goodbyes to you and to TIBC, I want to leave you with a mission of your own.

Demand more from your community news sources. Demand more.

Journalism and a free press is what keeps us free as a nation. If we can’t question and hold accountable our government, then the First Amendment is raped and discarded.

Demand to know what is going on in your community, and not just the meager offering exerted by $100,000 a year. Remember, always, what Kim did for you for nothing. If you take that last year’s income for Kim and divide it by the five years she served you, she made less than $500 a year. And look what she did. Demand more.

Don’t let anyone get by with lip service. Demand that they do their jobs.

When you see a dream fizzle away, it takes a bit of you with it. I am heartbroken over this one. The only part that makes this closing bearable is knowing that we did the best we could to provide you with the news you deserved.

We made a difference.