I am hardly disappearing, much less retiring, as Seguin native and nationally respected journalist Beth Frerking prepares to take the helm of the Rivard Report Monday morning after a distinguished 30-year career in Washington, D.C.
I will become publisher of the site and keep my voice in the community with my weekly column, but it’s Frerking you should be watching. We shared a few years as young reporters at the Dallas Times Herald in the early 1980s, the now-defunct daily that first brought quality journalism to Texas. This is a reunion of sorts neither of us ever imagined.
Frerking’s work as a Washington correspondent for the Denver Post, her years at the Newhouse News Service there, her selection as one of the first editors of Politico, and most recently, her time as the top editor at the National Law Journal, all add up to something remarkable about to happen in San Antonio.
My new job is to make sure we continue our amazing five-and-a-half year run so Beth has the resources she and our news staff need to serve this fast-growing city.
I am excited about her arrival Monday morning, yet more than a bit nostalgic about handing her the editorial keys to what my wife, Monika Maeckle, and I first published on Feb. 13, 2012. Every founder of a business, small or large, I have learned, needs to know when the moment has come to bring in new talent and pass the baton.
The moment is here for me in a city that my family and I have come to love fiercely since our return to Texas in 1989 after years abroad and in New York. Such transitions, however exciting in terms of the potential, are never easy.
We are now a team of 15 professionals here, with many other wonderful community contributors. Everyone’s welfare inside our now overcrowded office on East Houston Street is on my mind. And I know so many of you readers from every walk of life in San Antonio. It’s important to me that you continue to regard the Rivard Report as your trusted news and information source, and continue to show up as we host civic engagement gatherings in the city.
In times like these, you can’t help but think back to the beginning.
Graham Weston was the first person to call me six-plus years ago to kibbitz about my future place in San Antonio after I stepped down as the longtime editor of the Express-News.
I left the newsroom on a Friday, and Graham waited all of one day to call me. Monika and I had retreated to the Texas Hill Country for the weekend, but a call from Weston always merited a quick call back, even when cell phone signals were much less certain.
We talked Sunday morning, if memory serves, for several hours, he at home in New Braunfels, me standing on a hill overlooking the Llano River. Weston was then serving as Chairman of Rackspace and co-director of SA2020, and incubating an idea that would become known as Geekdom. He knew San Antonio was ready for a digital media platform that presented the city in a different light than the one offered by the mainstream media.
San Antonio, if you watch television news, is a city that loves its crime stories. Far too often the news comes with flashing police lights in the background. Real depth and substance takes a back seat to sensationalism. Weston thought people living and working here needed a different view, and he knew his efforts to recruit tech talent here depended in no small part in convincing people they weren’t moving to a city enveloped in yellow crime scene tape.
I felt the same way, and had long been frustrated by the “man bites dog” and clickbait profile of mysanantonio.com, the Express-News‘ free website controlled by corporate suits in New York. Weston had protected the name bigcitysmalltown.com, and for a brief period, that was set to be the name of the site that launched as the Rivard Report.
Our growth since then signals it is time to change the name again. Younger readers think we should keep our name, while older readers want a more institutional name.
Sustained growth and out-of-market awareness dictate that we change the name. As we prepare to do that, we will be sure to ask for your help. We will make it fun. The name change is necessary because the site long ago ceased to be a reflection of my own take on San Antonio. The new name also is important because we believe our nonprofit, nonpartisan community news site will be here long after I am gone.
We hope that makes it more appealing for those of you who read and appreciate the site, but have yet to become business or individual members. We hope you decide now is the right time. Consider it a vote of affirmation for Beth’s arrival.
We are the only nonprofit news enterprise in San Antonio that does not receive federal or local government funding. We exist strictly on the strength of our journalism and our ability to connect readers with advertisers, to stage civic engagement events, and to attract sustaining support from generous philanthropists, foundations, businesses, and individuals.
That’s been more than enough to keep us growing, and we want that growth to continue. With a new editor taking the lead, we believe there will be ample opportunity to win the support and loyalty of more of you in the months ahead.
Thank you for your readership and support over these years. It has been a great journey. Everyone should experience the joy and terror of creating something new, something needed, and something enduring.
A special word of thanks to our incredible board of directors and my great colleagues on staff, particularly Managing Editor Iris Dimmick, our very first full-time employee. They, like me, are here because of you. We aren’t going anywhere, except up.