I’ve come to the decision that I’m stepping away as of February 28th.
It’s been an incredible run at the helm of this site and I’m extremely proud of the community we’ve built together, but the recent business decision by the suits who own the framework on which we’ve been built has left it very clear that in order for the community to continue, evolve, and thrive, it’s going to take the passionate work to build a new path forward and I don’t think I’m the right person for that anymore.
I didn’t even start out wanting to be a blogger. I started out as a loudmouth commenter on Abel to Yzerman, where 19 of the most-degenerate, inappropriate, loving and fierce Red Wings fans you’ll ever meet gathered to share our love for the team. Back then, the commenting system asked your name and where you’re from and I’ve never been anything but J.J. from Kansas since then.
Eventually, my desire to run my mouth longer than a typical internet comment should run led me to join this site under then-manager Casey Richey. Casey gave me the start, took me under his wing, supported me and then when he moved on to do other things, passed the reins of this site over to me as his successor.
When that happened, I knew I liked being a blogger and wanted to keep doing that. We had an entire sphere of Wings blogs and we’d regularly treat the internet like our favorite sports bar. We had an audience, a stage, and the support of some really great people who always backed us in our quest to remain fan-focused and irreverent.
As time passed, so did the tone of the entire blogosphere. Social media exploded and the monetization of this organic network of sports blogs grew from conceptual, to actual to scalable. We got sold to what could truly be known as corporate overlords and you could sense the tide changing. Despite that, we were able to keep our own niche carved out as a place where a person who wanted to just vent about how their favorite hockey team could break their heart could share with another person trying to cut their teeth in an evolving journalism industry.
During the time of increasing monetization (and increasing pay for bloggers), I saw fan-focused blogs started and run by people who weren’t fans of the teams they were covering. I saw the line between journalist and blogger heavily blur. I also at some point became the true “managing editor” of this place and, to be honest, stopped blogging.
I always knew that the pay I was accepting for ensuring that WIIM had sufficient articles posted was not enough for the amount of work actually asked. I always knew that the pay we were offering to the people who wrote those articles was not sufficient for the amount of time asked and that the act of trying to capitalize on any of our love for sharing the Red Wings fan experience was going to end up diluting it.
Despite that, we had something great here. We had a community where people could watch the same game, come to different conclusions and then spend some real time actually figuring out a way to agree-to-disagree in a way that’s honest; not that smarmy asshole thing where people say it because they’re done arguing with you, but rather because they’ve built a mutual understanding that two people can have access to all the same facts and come to a different conclusion based on their own perspective.
I don’t have to tell you how rare that is even in person-to-person conversations let alone across a keyboard.
We had a whole stable of passionate, dedicated writers who wanted to share in the community, who have been consistently great in what they’ve written who I feel never took for granted the responsibility to serve the people of this site with the level of respect they deserve.
I think this is what can, will, and should live on.
I also think that rebuilding, shepherding and evolving these things is something that could potentially make somebody even more money than the site was budgeted for prior to the announcement that we’d be demonetized. I do not feel like I’m the right person to lead that evolution. My intent is to run this ship until the end of February and during this time, to work as a facilitator and perhaps a mentor to folks who will try to carry on. I’m currently working with Kyle as my right-hand man to ensure that I’m passing information, ideas, and help on to him.
I still don’t know what’s going to happen to this site when March 1st rolls around. We’ve been asked for our opinions by the people shutting us down. My goal is to fight for the URL and for the archives of this site, but I don’t intend to provide them free labor.
Keep an eye out for more information later on. I’m not saying goodbye right now, but I do want to let people here know that I’ve made this decision because I don’t want to be a roadblock in any way for what’s to grow out of the ashes being left by Vox Media.
Thanks and LGRW