10 Years on OrangePolitics

After 10 years as a registered user on OrangePolitics I thought it might be time for some reflection. After all, a lot has happened since the 2008 presidential election year that brought me to OrangePolitics. I signed up for Blue NC around the same time and have viewed these two progressive blogs in similar lights, just with different scopes. I recently wrote a 10-year reflection piece there too.

Rather than writing a very similar reflection piece to the one I wrote there, just with more specifics about my past blog posts on this site and about my experiences in Orange County (which you can see just by reading my bio), I thought I would take a look at OrangePolitics instead.

OrangePolitics as a blog seems to be for deeper dives and online candidate forums, rather than the day-to-day or even week-to-week roundup kind of site I remember it as back when I would write about things like pet food drives and bow hunting in city limits. Though I think some analysis of the recent ICE raids and Chapel Hill's response could have been done well here.

When I was living there, there were certain places you had to go to participate in politics in Orange County. You needed to go to breakfast clubs, visit key communities, hold events at the library, get endorsements from certain groups and newspapers and the like, and more and more you needed some presence at OrangePolitics.

That was great for me in my early 20s because that made elected officials and those seeking office much more accessible and gave voice to residents of the county who might not have been able to be heard in quite the same way or had the flexibility to attend political events or official town functions.

And I admired how OrangePolitics helped spotlight issues like homeless shelters when NIMBYism was high, or push back against the notion that you could reduce housing costs and expand affordable housing while not building up or out despite the city-like growth the "town" of Chapel Hill is experiencing. From a distance, it feels like some of the more active groups these days don't do that nearly as well as OrangePolitics did.

I do wonder about the future of OrangePolitics though. I hope it is here in some form to continue opportunities for discussion and accessibility into politics for Orange County voters in 2018 and 2020, a time when we really need more and better dialogue.


Nice analysis. So why are so few folks posting now?

I'm mostly joking with that. But I know my posting suffered after I moved to Durham. I was in Chapel Hill for 8 years or so and worked in Carrboro for 3 of those. Then my apartment complex got bought out, they did a few cosmetic renovations on the outside and rebranded as luxory apartments and doubled the rent compared to what I had been paying when I first moved in. I know of some other posters on OP that moved away too.

I also think blogs just aren't as big as they used to be. I remember when everyone had a Live Journal and before social media was as big as it is now. The three political blogs I followed in NC were Pam's House Blend, Blue NC, and Orange Politics. PHB has been gone for years now. Blue NC is still pretty active on a daily basis. I've sometimes wondered if OP might ever join up with Blue NC, or maybe with the Chapelboro website in some way since they love having "the commentators" on the radio they might want it on the web too.

OP's Twitter seems to be quite active though. As I mentioned in my analysis I think OP has provided an important service in the past, and it still seems to be good with the candidate forums and deeper dives. And they couldn't ask for a more thoughtful and intelligent set of editors. I know Blue NC switched to a model where basically every blog post from any poster goes to the front page, which assumes some risk, but also gives more incentive to posting and keeps things fresher.

Since I live 75 miles away now in the state's 5th largest city my view of the politics in Orange County are pretty blurry from this distance. But we do still need that progressive beacon. Also, I was happy to see the developments with my old buddies from the 2012 DNC convention in Charlotte do well with Mark winning his primary and Matt getting appointed to a Town Board seat in Hillsborough.

I hope all my old friends in Orange County are doing well! For those who knew me and Ted, we just bought our first house in Winston-Salem last year and are both working at Wake Forest University.

I'd love to delve into this further, but I'm currently out of the country. So instead of the full answer, I'll hint at a few things I've seen as an editor and participant.

  • Demographics: Chapel Hill, and to some extent Orange County's demographics are changing is a way that is unfriendly towards many of the groups which have historically participated in blogs like this one. The cause of that demographic shift is at least a few whole blog entries by itself. :)
  • Media changes: When I started participating in OP, the barrier to entry to creating and distributing your own content was high. Not only was there no Medium to blog on, but there wasn't even a Twitter or a Facebook to share our opinions on. But more importantly, the way people consumed web media has changed. On the whole, we rely upon aggregators (social media and search) to show us what to read rather than going to news publishers directly.
  • Human factors: We're not soylent, but we are people. ;) A huge part of OP's first decade of existence was driven by Ruby, who is no longer an Orange County resident. There is no OP except for all of us. When we ask "why doesn't OP write about..." what we really should be asking is "why am I not writing about..." No one else is going to do it but you.
  • A shift in national political dialog: The way we've become accustomed to talking about politics in the past decade has changed significantly, and I honestly think that's affected us locally, too. Polarization changes how we talk to one another, and personally, I think many people are just really burned out from a culture of replacing debate and discussion with screaming matches and increased "bubble seeking." It seems many people would rather participate in discussions in a venue that best reinforces their pre-existing views. There are good and bad aspects of that: some of the most active discussion on OP in the past was heated argument, which might draw comments from frequent participants but not necessarily new voices.

I'd absolutely read that demographics blog too.

Sorry, just couldn't resist bringing back some heated argument. 

While I agree with everything you stated, there's also been a good deal of group-think in OP that has pushed people out because they didn't agree on the how even for some of our shared goals.


would rather tweet than converse. Agree or disagree at least people wre holding a conversaytion of sorts, you know points, counterpoints. There was actual information being exchanged and sometimes there was even critical thought. Now they seem to just want to broadcast an opinion or snarky emotional comment into a sympathetic echo chamber. Of course, both "sides" criticize each other for that behavior. 

I for one hope this is a temporary phenomenon, but there may be no going back.

Politics is the virus, social media is the wind.



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