Time lapse photo of stars at night

WinCity News & Views was start­ed by my good friend Chuck Witt and me last October, basi­cal­ly just to give us a plat­form for our writ­ing. Chuck and I both used to write week­ly opin­ion columns for The Winchester Sun. We both quit writ­ing for the Sun in 2021 for var­i­ous rea­sons, but by late fall, we were feel­ing the itch to write again.

In addi­tion to that, we both felt there were voic­es in our com­mu­ni­ty who were not being giv­en an out­let. We want­ed to get back to writ­ing about mat­ters of import to those peo­ple who were being shut out of the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion. So one Saturday morn­ing, over cof­fee at a local restau­rant, we decid­ed to start a blog.

Soon word got out on social media about our nascent project. Three oth­er cur­rent and for­mer local news­pa­per writ­ers con­tact­ed me about join­ing us. Before I real­ly had time to process what was hap­pen­ing, we had launched WinCity News & Views and were active­ly pro­mot­ing it in the com­mu­ni­ty, both on social media and on local radio.

At first, the plan was to focus on opin­ion pieces along with curat­ed news items culled from oth­er sources. We nev­er intend­ed to do orig­i­nal “hard” news and we still don’t. We’re all unpaid vol­un­teers — most with full-time jobs — and none of us have the time to do that kind of jour­nal­ism and do it right. We soon decid­ed to ditch the news part alto­geth­er, which leaves us with an embar­rass­ing­ly mis­lead­ing name. 

We don’t sell ads or sub­scrip­tions and depend sole­ly on dona­tions to keep the lights on. Thanks to a small group of gen­er­ous donors, we are able to pay the bills.

As more poten­tial con­trib­u­tors began to con­tact us about being a part of this project, we began to go in new direc­tions. We began to get pieces sub­mit­ted to us with a heavy focus on the arts: pho­tog­ra­phy, paint­ing and draw­ing, poet­ry, and fic­tion. We quick­ly real­ized that there is a need for local artists and cre­ators to exhib­it their work in an elec­tron­ic medi­um such as ours.

All this was won­der­ful, but WCN&V was becom­ing noth­ing like what we had orig­i­nal­ly envi­sioned. And we were fine with that – more than fine, in fact. We ful­ly embraced the changes. But it seemed a bit like we were adrift, with no clear guid­ing prin­ci­ples upon which to rely.

I believe any strong orga­ni­za­tion needs a “North Star” – a sense of pur­pose and mean­ing for its work. That is not to say that we weren’t proud of what we had accom­plished in so short a time, or of the con­tent we had pub­lished. But we want­ed to gath­er more smart peo­ple around us for bet­ter guid­ance because I also believe in the adage that a group of peo­ple is smarter than any one person.

So back in December, Chuck and I formed an advi­so­ry board to help pro­vide that direc­tion. Besides Chuck and me, that board con­sists of Randy Patrick, Sabrina Puckett, and recent addi­tion Lashana Harney.

Randy and Lashana have strong back­grounds in jour­nal­ism and are well-known names in our com­mu­ni­ty. Sabrina is a long-time Winchester res­i­dent who is known as some­one who has made it her life’s work – both pro­fes­sion­al­ly and as a vol­un­teer – to help those who are most vul­ner­a­ble in our community.

As a group, this board is help­ing to make our orga­ni­za­tion stronger and bet­ter attuned to our community.

Among the first orders of busi­ness for our new board was to take a step back and re-eval­u­ate every­thing we are doing. We need­ed to find our North Star and take a long, hard look at what we are doing to make Winchester and Clark County a bet­ter place for all of its cit­i­zens. And we need­ed more voic­es in the room than just ours.

As a result of that, we reached out to our reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tors and invit­ed them to join the board mem­bers in a series of “vision­ing work­shops.” For the last sev­er­al weeks, we have been doing just that. Led by Lashana (who cur­rent­ly works in pub­lic rela­tions and has strong skills in this kind of thing), we have been devot­ing a few hours on Saturdays to find­ing our mis­sion, vision, and core values.

We are near­ing com­ple­tion of this process, at the end of which we will be “reboot­ing” our site. We will prob­a­bly adopt a new name that bet­ter reflects our new­ly-defined prin­ci­ples and val­ues. Along with this, there will be oth­er changes – both vis­i­ble and behind-the-scenes. I don’t know exact­ly when this will hap­pen, but when it does, we intend to make a big splash with it.

Keep read­ing and fol­low­ing us to stay abreast of these excit­ing changes.

  • Pete Koutoulas

    Pete is an IT pro­fes­sion­al work­ing in Lexington. Formerly of Campton, he and his wife have lived in Winchester since 2015. Pete is a for­mer week­ly news­pa­per pub­lish­er and for­mer colum­nist for the Winchester Sun. These days, when not work­ing he can often be found on his back porch read­ing or writ­ing, in the back­yard tend­ing to his toma­to plants, or put­ter­ing around in his garage or work­shop. Reach Pete at pete@wincitynews.org.