Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Looking Back: The End of Second Life Newspaper
By Bixyl Shuftan
Three years ago this month was when my writing career in Second Life faced it's moment of decision. At the time, I was working at Second Life Newspaper, with Grey Lupindo, Gemma Cleanslate, Shellie Sands, and Breezes Babii as coworkers. Our boss was Dana Vanmoer, the longtime editor, and recently the owner of the paper.
The past several months had not been easy ones for Dana, or the paper. One of our major sponsors, BNT landholdings, had suddenly went bankrupt. Besides the significant loss of revenue and a private island, Dana had to put up with a lot of grief from people who sent her angry messages due to our advertising of them. She had to deal with them by herself as the founder of SLN, JamesT Juno, had left Second Life due to real life troubles. He and Dana had grown closer and partnered, so his leaving was doubly painful for her. Also, over time several writers had dropped out due to real-life situations, leaving us a smaller paper than when I came aboard.
As the office manager, I would update the paper when Dana couldn't. This didn't happen often for most of the time I had the job. But in 2010, it fell to me more and more often. It wasn't a big matter to me as I wrote a lot anyway. Whatever was bugging her, I felt would soon pass.
It was in April in which our Editor called for a staff meeting. I was still looking back at our "April Fool" article with chuckles, so I went in with fairly light spirits. Little did I realize what was ahead. After her greeting, Dana dropped a bombshell. She couldn't keep up the paper any more due to real life problems. Despite that James had made her the CEO, she didn't feel it was really "her" paper to give to someone else. So not only would she be resigning, but the paper would be closing as well, in June.
Our reaction was stunned disbelief. We urged her not to call it quits for good, but to take a break. Her response was that she didn't see her problems going away for a long, long time. Gemma urged her if she had to go to hand the paper over to me, or even a merger with another SL media company. But Dana's decision was final. The paper would continue on until June to finish off our sponsorships. Some would be getting a little extra time for free. We were also asked not to tell anyone else about this, not even our sponsors.
With the paper's fate sealed, we did the only thing we could, keep writing. Well, almost the only thing. We chatted among ourselves about options, and came the idea of forming another paper. It would not be an easy task. We would be in effect starting over. But there just was no other option on the table.
Dana did feel we should at least throw one final bash for our friends and supporters. So in a press release she announced some "big news" would be forthcoming at a party on Saturday June 5th. James would be able to make it that day fortunately. We looked to the day with a mix of anticipation and dread.
Finally the day came, and the staff gathered early. We greeted James, happy to meet the old boss, at least for today. The party started off well enough, with others happy to see James as well. I think someone thought the "big news" was James' return. But it was not to be. Eventually, James himself called everyone into chat range.
"It is with pain in our heart that we salute you tonight. It is with pain in our heart we leave this place. It is with pain in our heart we allow the final curtain to fall. For us as avatar, and for our beloved newspaper, its time to end it."
"The sl-newspaper will end."
It must've been a true shock to the audience. A number expressed their sadness in sad sighs and tears. I did announce a few minutes later the rest of us would be setting up another paper. But as expected, it did little to ease the sting. Instead of the new paper, people kept IMing me asking why the paper was closing down. It was an outwardly happy party, but on the inside, we were sad that this would be the last we'd be all together.
Eventually, James and Dana had to go. And their avatars faded away. And the staff and I stood there, knowing that the end of SL Newspaper had finally come, and what lay ahead was an uncertain future.
Dana's final article went up shortly there after. She explained that with their real life problems becoming too much to handle, or "our real lives taking over" as she put it, she and James just couldn't run the paper any more. She thanked the staff and her friends, such as 10 Goosson and the Skybeam community, for their support. She also gave a parting warning, "One thing I would hope for the future for SL is that the Lindens go back and realize what they are destroying with their policies. The sheer creativity, communication, and … impact … is being eaten away by the Lindens stupidly ignoring the content creators with their ill thought out policies, which help no one, except their own pockets." There was a small irony here as days later, the Lab laid off a third of their staff.
Soon afterwards, the front page of the paper changed, announcing it was closed. there were a couple banners up for Skybeam and M and M Creations, in addition to a link to the archives, at least for the front page. But most of the other sections were closed down, for reasons known only to Dana. Fortunetly, we found the "People" section was still up.
Dana had also left a link to the new newsletter, so readers could find it. One last favor.
Over the next few days, I continued to get messages, asking why SLN had folded. Some expressed their sympathies, but I also got a couple angry responses from sponsors, "Why didn't you tell us?!" I never heard a word about the free month of time some got. The porn director who complained earlier about an article was also upset. Among other SL media outlets, the "Herald," the tabloid that Dana joked was our arch rival, made a brief announcement that was an overall complement to her.
As the weeks and months went by, I heard more about Dana's real life situation. While I can't disclose what it is, I can say it was about to make running the paper impossible. I can only assume she continues to communicate with her SL family in some way, but her days of running a media outlet are behind her.
Perhaps someday, hopefully someday soon, she and James can be happy together again.
In the meantime, we at the Newser in June prefer to look back at June as not so much the end of our old newspaper, but the founding of our new one. As the original Second Life Newspaper began as one man's dream, others who shared the dream would carry on with Second Life Newser.
But that, is another story.