2015 was another boom year for Slugger with record amounts of visitors. So far this year we have had nearly 800,000 visitors reading 4.3 million pages of the site.
It may not always be obvious but Slugger does not get core funding of any kind. All income comes from readers donations, our warmly supported events and a few non intrusive ads on the right panel.
This brings us an independence which allows us to seek out new voices without prejudice and provide them a valuable public platform. It also enables them to speak more freely than they might under a directly funded model.
As a result Slugger is able to provide an important challenge function that would be almost impossible to replicate if we weren’t here. Often fierce in our criticism we also value our own critics in the comments zone. We view it as a key accountability mechanism and a powerful incentive to keep improving our writers standards.
Our rigorous approach towards developing a string and robust plurality of political analyses means that for onstance our Slugger Awards are so highly valued by their recipients. Two out of three of the ‘Up And Coming’ Awards we have given out since 2009 are held by the current Health Minister and a recently elected party leader.
Thirteen years after we first started I can say with some certainty that we are a strong team. There’s Pete Baker’s faultless eye for detail, rigorous research ability and peerless capacity for following complex stories over long time frames. The high standard old stagers like Pete have set for the rest of us has a role in drawing quality new bloggers like CJohnston, and the many others who have made more occasional contributions.
More recently David McCann and Brian O’Neill have between them demonstrated that on the ground in Belfast there is a huge real time appetite for politics and sane political conversations at a number of events we’ve through the year. Through their enthusiasm and drive they have also shown that people are more than willing to put their hands in their pockets and help keep Slugger lit.
Of course we continue to have obvious gaps. Tough, smart and uncompromising women like Patricia McBride and Siobhan Fenton know how to make their mark and certainly have done that this year. But we need and want more new (and older) women to add to Sluggers plurality of voice in 2016.
We need more Unionist perspectives too. Turgon, Kilsally and Richard have been holding that fort for far too long with too few companion writers. We are not happy living with the same sort of imbalance that we also see reflected in the wider public square. And I venture that we have more than a slight liberal bent in out present set of writers. We have thrived on finding new voices and are proud that we have given several of Northern Ireland’s best commentator’s (Mr Donnelly, I’m looking at you!) their first public start.
It’s been a very good year for us, and not least because people more broadly are beginning to bench Slugger’s social value (which has been inordinately strong since it’s very early days) with the need keep putting something in the pot to keep that value both sustained and sustainable.
To those who have come out and supported us on wet nights to join our sell out crowds I say thank you. To those who couldn’t make it on those nights but who felt moved to stick £20, £30 or £50 in the pot I say thank you. To those hardy souls (like Joe and Seamus) who have never failed to respond to these small end of years appeals down the years, I say a special thank you for stepping in with us along the way. Such strong companionship is worth much more than the money itself.
To all of you (and not just those who can afford or are in a position to give) I say thank you for reading and helping in your own way for keeping Slugger lit through good times and lean.
If you enjoy Slugger please do consider donating, we appreciate all support.