This will be my final Hayride post of the year, as tomorrow I’m hopping a flight to see the folks for Christmas and next week I’m off for a battery recharge. For the next several days I’m turning the conn over to Kevin Boyd, who has lots of interesting things planned for the Hayride until after the new year begins.
That being the case, I have a few thoughts on the year which is ending, and some for the year about to begin, from the perspective of the publisher of this site.
We’ve been publishing here since the end of 2009. In the time the Hayride has been operating, I’d have to say 2016 has likely been the most challenging year from a journalistic standpoint. Our traffic and audience here has been growing, though – in 2016 we had 15 percent more traffic than any of the previous years we’ve been in operation, and our social media presence has greatly expanded – from this time last year we’ve got about triple the following on Facebook, for example. And it’s more consistent traffic than we’ve historically had, which is welcome. Our previous years have been marked by a few posts that went viral and were shared all over the place for several days or weeks, and lots of others which weren’t seen a lot, but this year we had a lot more consistent following because our everyday readership has grown.
And I’m told our influence is growing as well. I’m not sure I believe it, but to the extent we’re doing good work I hope it’s true.
I continue that hope because as I said this has been the most challenging year we’ve had from a journalistic standpoint.
It started with Louisiana inaugurating a new governor we knew was a fraud. John Bel Edwards was one of the most partisan Democrats and left-wing ideologues in the Louisiana legislature, despite his cornpone conservative act (pro-gun and pro-life as a substitute for limited government and market economics) – and yet he managed to take over as the governor of a state we know is as conservative as any in the country because of a combination of trial lawyer-driven soft money, GOP dysfunction and a 15-year old scandal the major media were bound and determined to dredge up in order to defeat perhaps the most successful conservative politician in Louisiana history.
Reporting on that campaign last year was discouraging. Reporting on the aftermath of it this year – amid legislative session after legislative session in which Edwards has demanded economy-killing tax increases to fund an ever more bloated state government – has been more so.
And while that was going on in Louisiana, things have been no better nationally.
So far, Donald Trump has been considerably better as a president-elect than we ever would have expected. Our judgement on Trump was, from the very beginning, that he was ego-driven and unserious – little of which has changed. That said, we have to give him credit for a far better political eye and considerably better management skills than were apparent for most of his campaign.
Posting about the presidential campaign has been very difficult for us at the site – Kevin Boyd, for example, swore off the election over the summer. I myself had one foot in the Never Trump camp, and maintained a critical stance toward him I have every intention of keeping when it’s warranted. What got me on board with him, such as I was and am, was the continuing descent of Hillary Clinton into the gutter. She’s the worst presidential candidate I’ve ever seen, and the Democrat Party she represented has become little more than a criminal syndicate. Our support for Trump has been mostly a shot in the dark amid an understanding that to give Clinton the White House would entail allowing America to become a banana republic in a real sense.
It’s difficult to get up in the morning knowing you’re to chronicle the political life of a country in such straits, particularly when you see little more reason for hope at your state capitol.
But amid all of this, there is reason for affirmation as 2016 ends. In this year’s elections Louisiana confirmed that Edwards’ victory in 2015 was a mirage for the Democrats. Nationally, Trump’s victory looks fairly clearly to be the rejection of leftist politics and culture, particularly as it’s represented in New York and Hollywood, that America so badly needed.
And we’re hopeful that maybe the point of view this site represents does have a future. If we can play a role in shaping that future and assisting it to grow, well…that’s why we’re here.
So in 2017, we have some changes planned. Our current readers will notice an evolution of the Hayride next year, though we’re going to take our time and do things in a deliberate, prudent fashion.
First, we’re planning a site redesign. Many of you who read us on a mobile device have told us we’re a bit of a slow download and ads can sometimes get in the way of your reading experience, and we’re going to address that. We’re evaluating options, but when the redesign goes live it’s going to be much more mobile-friendly and considerably faster to load, with a better interaction between ads and content.
The site redesign will also interact with something else that’s coming, which is an expansion of the Hayride’s mission.
We will remain a site which covers Louisiana politics and culture, with an occasional foray into national content. We will no longer be limited to that box.
Starting next year, the Hayride will grow to include coverage of Southern politics and culture. We will do in Texas, for example, what we are doing here. In Mississippi. In Tennessee. Florida. Georgia. Alabama. North Carolina, and other states in the region.
We’ll be staffing up with writers to cover those places from a local perspective. We’re also adding writers here in Louisiana as well. If you’re interested in participating, feel free to let me know.
As I said, though, we will grow in a deliberate, prudent fashion. We’re aiming to build on what we’re currently doing, rather than dilute or detract from it. And as part of the site redesign, the aim is for a reader from Louisiana to see more or less what you currently see on the site – but a reader in Texas, for example, will be presented on the front page with content relevant to Texas and not Louisiana.
It’ll be an interesting, and hopefully fun, transition. With 2017 being something of a political off-year, it’s the perfect time to give it a try.
We hope you’ll stick with us along the way, and we promise to continue providing the news and analysis you’re accustomed to.
But that’s for next year. For now, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and I’ll see you after New Year’s Day!