Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Brief History of Rational Review News Digest

Actually, I guess, a long rambling history is more like it. We've been publishing RRND for almost nine years now, and it occurs to me that the history of how it came about, etc., goes back 20 years or so and may never have been put in "permanent article" form. So, I'm going to get down the bare basics, for posterity and such.

In the beginning -- before the World Wide Web, really -- was something called Libernet, a daily email news roundup by and for libertarians. I wasn't involved with that, but it was good.

Circa late 1994/early 1995, I started my own first web site, the now-long-defunct Freedom's Home Page. Articles, essays, what have you. At some point, in order to try and get some traffic to the site, I started an "award" program called "Freedom Home Page of the Week." The idea was that if I gave a bunch of high-traffic libertarian sites an "award" graphic, they'd put it on their sites, link to mine, and the traffic would flow from them to me like Milwaukee's Best flows from frat boys into urinals. And that worked, kind of.

One week, I chose a fairly new but already popular site called Free-Market.Net as my "Freedom Home Page of the Week," and its proprietor, Chris Whitten, asked me if I'd be interested in doing that feature for FMN. That seemed pretty cool, so I started doing that, and Freedom's Home Page died on the vine (and disappeared when its host, my ISP at the time, went out of business).

So anyway, I worked -- first as a volunteer, then as a paid part-time contractor -- for Free-Market.Net from 1995 to 2002 in various roles. During that time, it went from commercial to non-profit (under the umbrella of the Henry Hazlitt Foundation), began publishing a daily news and commentary roundup called Freedom News Daily, and eventually bought Libernet and rolled it into FND.

At the end of that roll, I was managing editor of Free-Market.Net, which made me largely responsible for publication of Freedom News Daily (I was not its editor-in-chief, that was Sunni Maravillosa; I was not Free-Market.Net's top boss, that was Louis James). I supervised a staff of part-time editors, gathering news and commentary items for FND, and more permanent items for a large resource archive. And so on and so forth.

So anyway, on Friday, December 20th, 2002, I got up, got dressed, had my morning coffee ... and discovered that I couldn't log in at FMN to get to the day's work. A phone call to Louis brought the news that the evening before, the Henry Hazlitt Foundation's board of directors had voted to shut everything down and declare bankruptcy.

Without going into great detail on the bankruptcy, I do want to note that it was unrelated to the daily operations I was involved with. HHF/FMN was doing a whole bunch of things, a lot of really forward-looking things ... that unfortunately just weren't paying for themselves yet, and never got the chance to (FMN/HHF took in more that year than it ever had -- it just spent faster). The board, to put it bluntly, panicked.

But anyway, back to the main story here: Freedom News Daily was, in an instant, defunct. Myself and several of its part-time editors (all of whom also worked with me on a completely separate e-zine called Rational Review) decided that the one thing that must not die was Freedom News Daily -- the freedom movement needed its daily newspaper. We were going to keep publishing.

Those editors were (in alphabetical order by last name) Mary Lou Seymour, Steve Trinward and R. Lee Wrights. A short time later, when we had time to think about the tech side of stuff, Brad Spangler also joined us.

Since FND was an asset of FMN, and tied up in the bankruptcy, we needed a new name. Since we already had the Rational Review webzine, we went with Rational Review News Digest.

We commenced publication on Monday, December 23rd, 2002 (FND had been absent for one business day) ... and we've published every non-holiday weekday since, without a missed edition, with the exception of a pre-scheduled/pre-announced one week all-staff vacation in 2008.

Some time in 2003, the International Society for Individual Liberty bought some of FMN's assets out of the bankruptcy sale, and re-commenced publishing Freedom News Daily with Sunni Maravillosa editing.

In late 2004, Sunni decided it was time to move on, and ISIL approached us about taking FND over. So we did. But we didn't stop publishing RRND. Rather, we continued publishing RRND and "re-branded" it each day as FND for their web site and email list. And that's how we still do it.

Via our descent from Libernet and our incorporation of FND, I'm given to believe that we are the oldest daily libertarian newsletter on the Internet, serving up "the freedom movement's daily newspaper" to several thousand web readers, email subscribers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers each day.

So, there you have it. Thanks to those readers, and to Mary Lou, Steve, Lee and Brad for sticking to this!

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