One of those taking advantage of this transformation is John Warren.
Warren, a resident of Loon Lake in Chestertown, is the founder of the Adirondack Almanack, an online journal that focuses on culture, politics and history. But the largest percentage of content on the site is dedicated to the environment and the outdoors.
Warren, in fact, was honored by the Adirondack Mountain Club at the group’s 10th annual Presidents’ Dinner about a month ago. He received the Eleanor F. Brown ADK Communication Award, “in recognition of outstanding talent and journalistic achievement in building an online, independent news source about the Adirondacks.”
Warren started the blog about six years ago by himself and now has about 20 other volunteer contributors, some who write regularly and some who submit articles only occasionally. The first to join were Saranac Lake residents Mark Wilson and Mary Thill, who have since stopped writing for the Almanack.
The list of contributors includes Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown, Lake George Mirror editor Tony Hall, author Christopher Shaw and Dave Gibson of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.
The majority of contributors, at least those I’ve read, focus on environmental or outdoors writing. Some like Brown and Gibson write commentaries on Forest Preserve issues, while others, like Adirondack naturalist Ellen Rathbone, have written more educational pieces, staying away from politics. Rathbone actually just moved from the area and consequently stopped writing for the Almanack, but she was the best example of an educational writer on the site in recent years.
Warren says that his motivation for building the blog was to create an alternative to traditional newspapers in the Adirondack Park region, such as the Enterprise and The Post Star in Glens Falls.
“The reason I started Adirondack Almanack was so that (there would) be additional voices on things like Forest Preserve policy, (Adirondack Park Agency), climate change,” Warren said. “I think in the past, essentially, the Adirondacks has lived through 40 years by and large where local media opposed the APA, and if there’s no alternative voice then people just come to accept that as truth.”
Warren’s desire to promote environmental ideals appears to come from his upbringing on a farm in rural Averill Park, where he developed an inclination to outdoor pursuits. His mother ran a bait and tackle and gun store and his father operated a snowmobile repair shop. Warren said he spent lots of time hunting, trapping, snowmobiling and fishing as a child. His father was also an Adirondack fishing guide on Lake George.
But like many downstate residents, Warren has noticed that since his childhood, the land he once enjoyed as an outdoor paradise transformed into the exact opposite.
“Those (snowmobile) trails that we used to go (on) and I used ... They’re all developed,” Warren said. “They’re all housing developments.”
Warren’s fear is that the same thing could happen in the Adirondack Park.
“The problem is we’re an island in a sea of overdevelopment,” Warren said. “You need to protect that.”
But Warren isn’t necessarily a big APA supporter. He thinks it needs to be tougher on developers.
“Don’t get me wrong. I hardly ever support the APA’s actions,” Warren said. “I think the APA is a rubber stamp committee. They overwhelmingly approve projects and they’re only getting worse. So I end up being in the bizarre situation of defending a state agency, which is kind of against my nature anyway. It’s crazy but (it’s) for the greater good of defending zoning and planning.”
Warren has a varied media background but says he’s “not a journalist, really.” He has worked for local weekly newspapers and has a long history of working on documentaries.
He says he makes his income from a variety of sources. He teaches documentary studies and media production at Burlington College, and does development work for PBS documentaries. He’s authored two books and also has another blog, www.newyorkhistoryblog.com. Warren receives a small income from the Almanack in advertising revenue, though not much.
The amazing part of the journal is that the work that goes into it is essentially done for free. None of the contributors get paid for their work. Instead they do it for other reasons. Some like Brown and Hall write stories for the Almanack to drive traffic to their own websites.
The site has about 4,000 people who subscribe through e-mails and other feeds, Warren said.
In addition to the articles and commentaries on the site generated by contributors, there is also a constant stream of press releases and links to news stories from other media sources in the North Country.
“My number one thing is to link to things that people will want to read about,” Warren said. “So for instance, if it’s a search and rescue, I’m going to link to that because people love those stories. They want to hear about the great stories of human endurance and survival.”
When asked about his long-range vision for the Almanack, Warren replied that he didn’t really have one other than that he wants its readership to continue to grow. He did say he’s dedicated to the Almanack because he feels it’s neccesary, not because he sees it as a cash cow that he could one day live off.
“I would never want anything to be my sole source of income,” Warren said.
Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
John Warren of Loon Lake is the founder of the Adirondack Almanack online journal, which can be found at www.adirondackalmanack.com.