A good start in 2010 … and an appeal to S&W readers.

The first few weeks of the Spring semester have seen significant growth in the readership of S&W — 1,200 unique visitors and almost 20,000 hits in the month of January alone, most of which occurred after the start of the semester. S&W is being followed on Twitter by most of the local media, and we know for a fact that some important media coverage of campus-related issues was prompted by our first drawing attention to those issues here. Also, we note that whenever articles have been posted on topics of widespread interest, such as new developments in the Graduate School restructuring controversy or the animal lab citations, readership has briefly surged to 2-3 times the “background” level.

So, for the moment at least, we are no longer struggling to raise our profile. The readership is there. All that is needed to sustain and further build that readership is a steady supply of content that is (a) highly relevant to our readers and (b) not available elsewhere.

And this is where we face a potential bottleneck: the number of regular contributors to this site can still be counted on one hand, and all of us have, well, day jobs as busy faculty or academic staff. Over the past 2-3 weeks, there has been a flurry of new developments crying out for commentary by informed members of the campus community — collective bargaining, State financing of the University System, “smart” furloughs, to name just a few.   But, frankly, we’ve been too busy to do them justice. And we’d rather post nothing at all than try to fill up our virtual pages with off-the-cuff, poorly substantiated opinions or rumors, let alone pointless replication of what can already be read elsewhere.

Hence, our major goal for 2010: to build a base of at least a dozen regular contributors, each representing a unique (but well-informed) perspective on campus affairs.

If each regular contributor committed to submitting one short op-ed or news piece per month, that would distribute the load to tolerable levels and still guarantee an average of at least three such contributions per week, which we think would be the minimum necessary to sustain and grow our visibility and influence.

The appeal

If you believe that this site occupies a useful niche among information sources relevant to UW-Madison affairs, and if you would like to see it become even more relevant and influential in coming months, please consider whether

  • you have a useful perspective on any aspect of campus life, especially those aspects not already well-covered by Wisconsin Week, the city papers, or the two student dailies, and
  • you could imagine committing to one short op-ed piece, news item, or other commentary per month, on average.

If your answer to both questions is ‘yes’, then please register your interest by emailing the Moderator. You may post any given contribution in your own name or anonymously as appropriate.  Also, we will not select our regular contributors based on their advocacy of a particular point of view, only based on whether they are in a position to add substantively to our understanding of important campus issues.

(If you can’t commit to being a regular contributor yourself, think of someone you know whose knowledge and insight could be helpful to understanding complex issue on campus, and ask them to consider contributing.)

Summing up: regular contributions from across the campus community are vital if this site is to survive and live up to its stated mission.  We thank you in advance for your support.

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