Sunday, July 3, 2022

Looking Backward to See What Lies Ahead: Notes on the Past & Future of Blue Hog Report

Full disclosure: I am going to ask you for a fundraising donation at the end of this post. I just wanted to be up front about that. Even if you don’t have any plans on signing up for our Patreon, however, hopefully you’ll read this post and find some story that you missed the first time around.

When I first started Blue Hog Report back in April 2010, I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going to go with it. Initially, it served as a standard blog, with short commentaries on various news items of the day. This was in the midst of the 2010 campaign season, and there was plenty of news to talk about, all the way up through the terrible election results that November.

After the first of the year in 2011, however, I had to figure out a new approach for the blog when there wasn’t going to be political news every day. We’d had some good traffic with some FOIA-fueled dives we’d done into then-Republican candidate for Sec. of State Mark Martin during the campaign, so I figured we might be able to use the FOIA to research other issues and write about whatever we found.

Then came the legislative-reimbursement scandal, followed shortly by the Arkansas Republican Party trying to get me and Jeff fired from our state jobs in early June 2011, and the blog went dark from June 2011 to May 1, 2013.

In the lost times, I would occasionally think about whether and how I would bring Blue Hog Report back from the beyond. When I finally left the Arkansas Supreme Court to go into private practice in 2013, I already knew that I was going to focus on research and long-form reporting, rather than trying to have something every day. After all, that kind of research had clearly struck a nerve with some folks in the past; I wanted to see if I could get that reaction again.

Since then, while the number of posts has waxed and waned considerably, I’d like to think that we’ve broken some pretty important stories over the years. In roughly chronological order:

While BHR is never going to make anyone forget about Woodward and Bernstein, I think it’s fair to say that this blog has had an impact on Arkansas over the years. When I look back at the posts listed above, however, I am struck by how much more time I had to research and write when I first started the blog and when I first brought it back. Until 2017–and even picking back up again in 2018–this blog frequently had five or six or ten posts in a given month.

Unfortunately, as these things tend to do, real life got in the way and ate into the time available to do the leg work needed for the more in-depth posts. And some of them take a tremendous amount of time: the post about legislative reimbursements back in 2011 had roughly a dozen hours of combing through records and making it all make sense big picture; the first post about Mike Maggio and the LSU message-board postings took nearly 20 hours over the course of a weekend, just tracking down posts, screen-shotting, and organizing them; the Darr and Ballinger posts about misuse of campaign funds each required well over 10 hours; the Garner stuff over the past few weeks has been well over 15 hours; etc.

Now, as I’ve said many times, I do this blogging stuff because it interests me and people seem to enjoy it. I am not saying–or even suggesting–that I need to be paid an hourly rate to do this, because I will (obviously) do as much as I can for free, just like I have for roughly a decade. That said, I have realized over the past month how much stuff comes across my desk that I just don’t have the bandwidth for, even when it’s potentially a good story. But I could

Remember when I said at the start that I was going to ask for money at the end? Well, as much as it makes me feel like an NPR pledge drive, here comes that ask: if you have enjoyed Blue Hog Report, either as someone who has been reading for years or someone who just found the blog recently, and you find value in this kind of reporting, please consider subscribing to our Patreon account.

By subscribing, you will be helping out in multiple ways. First, as I alluded to above, the money will allow me to justify spending more time on the blogging and the background work necessary to do the blogging well. It will also defray some of the costs associated with the blog, such as yearly hosting fees and the like. But, perhaps most excitingly, your contributions will allow us to hire specialized nerds from time to time to help finish some much larger projects we’ve been tinkering with for years but lack the deep-data-science knowledge to efficiently reach conclusions.

In the event you are still reading and considering subscribing, let me give you a broad overview of what that subscription gets you. There are four tiers for subscriptions–originally, there were three, but a few people asked about a $5 tier, so I added that after the fact–at $5, $10, $20, and $50/month. All tiers will receive my undying gratitude, an email containing a photo of one of my two basset hounds, and the ability to comment on posts both on Patreon and here1

At the $10/month level and up, you will also receive the ability to see posts on Patreon roughly 12-24 hours prior to when they go public on Blue Hog Report. Signing up at $20 tier or above adds an entry in the monthly drawing for a BHR t-shirt. And signing up for $50 per month gets you an additional entry in the t-shirt drawing, a second basset hound photo, VIP/free access to any future BHR-related events that we might do, and an email address to have your own specific AFOIA-related questions answered, on or off the record.

Point being, there are plenty of options to fit what just about anyone might wish to do.

Regardless of whether you subscribe, I hope you at least found this post to be a useful refresher for long-time readers or a way for new readers to get up to speed about BHR, depending on which scenario applies to you. There were even a couple stories that I had forgotten about, and I wrote 95% of what’s here, so I have to assume pretty much anyone who scrolled through that list of highlights found something they missed the first time. As always, thank you for reading BHR.

Thank you for reading.

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  1. Once we get the commenting set back up here, which is a whole thing at the moment, because limiting comments to only paid users is harder than I expected.

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