I have to confess that Eric's question was also my question. Still have an unanswered question though. It's not a new one.
Don, as many of us have told you many times, what you've built here with donrockwell.com is amazing. It's truly unique. It's valuable. Using only myself as an example, I don't write or post online anywhere but here. And I do it because for several years I took so much value from it, I felt compelled to give back in whatever small way I could. In no way do I think I'm "top 100" of anything here. I'm just a consumer not attached to the restaurant industry in any way other than spending too much money on it. Hopefully I'm top 4200 or so; think that's roughly how many members there are.
The core question is what you want donrockwell.com to be. The answer to that has varied at points over the past few years even since I've been paying closer attention. it's not something you can answer late at night. It's not something to answer when angry.
There are at least three options.
1. An incredible, unique, valuable and seriously robust community of serious and collaborative food people, whether of the industry or advocates of the industry. You've already done this--in spades. You should feel very, very good and proud about that. I suspect you often do; just not right now. You could reorganize as a non-profit to build more leverage (relief/help).
Pros: You can and should feel good about building something so unique; so valuable to so many who appreciate it and appreciate you. Deep satisfaction and the sincere appreciation and admiration of many people.
Cons: Lots of work. Not a lot of cash compensation. But hopefully you don't feel as if people don't appreciate you. I sure do and I'm quite certain I'm very far from alone.
2. A web-based community that throws off some cash for you and for reinvestment to build and innovate. This can be done slowly as you are already with the limited ads and with dcdining.com. Or, it might be possible to do it more quickly and significantly with investors and some serious business planning to best monetize the site.
Pros: Builds on what you've already created and maybe (but not definitely) produces some significant income and wealth.
Cons: Monetizing a website like this isn't easy and it might not work despite investing even more time, energy and money. It might also turn off some (presumably small) number of members who prefer the site not be a business.
3. Become the leading source for restaurant-related news as you've written above. To be honest, I don't think I've read that ever before but clearly it could be done. Clearly you could do it. You have unrivaled relationships, exceptionally deep and comprehensive knowledge and superlative writing skills.
Pros: You're uniquely positioned to be able to do this. It might be very cool. It might be very satisfying. Member and guest counts would probably grow much faster than they do currently.
Cons: The newspaper business sucks these days. Investigative journalism and traditional reporting are tough ways to make a living. Would it change the community in ways you might not favor? One of the main targets of your current ire, the Washington Post, has been struggling mightily for years. Most of its revenue comes not from the news but from other companies they own and investments they've made. And, as Eric said above, there are real tradeoffs to think about. I agree with that point.
Can't try to do 3 things at one time. Even two is usually ill advised. It's easiest and best to pick one direction, get the right kind of help to compensate for weaknesses that you and all of us have, and then execute a solid plan as well as can be done. It depends on what you really want to achieve; what's most important. Maybe that'll be clearer after a good night's sleep. Maybe it can be a New Year's resolution to figure out.
Whatever the future direction is, don't ever forget that you have hundreds (thousands probably) of friends and supporters ranging from leading figures in the food and restaurant business to regular janes and joes like me.
With sincere and profound thanks.
P.S., if you decide to delete your posts above, can delete this one along with 'em.