With Jack and Susan Goertz announcing their retirement as Editors of DoubleTalk, the leadership of the Tandem Club of America convened a series of teleconferences to plan a transition. Our first order of business was, of course, to thank Jack and Susan for exemplary service as Editors. Thirty years and approximately 180 issues of DoubleTalk is no mean feat! And truly a labor of love. Thanks to the Goertzes again! Coincidentally, Al and Sue Berzinis, who have acted as our Treasurers for many years, are also stepping down. Several years ago, while on tour with us in the Canadian Rockies, Al suffered a cycling career-ending injury, a crushed nerve that made it impossible for him to continue to ride. So while Team Berzinis remain advocates of cycling, their personal involvement ends. We thank them as well! Jack and Susan, not wanting to fully step away from the TCA, have graciously offered to take on these tasks, and will become our new Treasurers. I’ll be returning to an active role as we transition the TCA and DoubleTalk to what we hope becomes a more viable path. Judy and I launched the TCA in 1976 with $150 of our personal funds and mailing lists gleaned from personal friends and two tandem rallies. I served as Editor for the first eight years, from ‘76 to ‘83, and then as the membership Secretary for an additional decade. With Jack and Susan stepping down, I’m reengaging as a change agent to assist in transforming the TCA and DoubleTalk into a new and hopefully stable future format. In the short term, I’ll take over the responsibilities as the new managing Editor.
With change comes opportunity! We’d like to hear from you, our membership and readers, about the changes we propose below, as well as other paths and actions the TCA could take. We’ve created a TCA survey [since completed -Ed.] – that we invite you to take so your voice can be heard! Our most immediate and pressing issue is to find a way to transform DoubleTalk, whose original mission – to provide a means of communication amongst tandemists – has not changed. Concurrently we hope to inject new energy and mission to DoubleTalk and the organization.
TCA’s DoubleTalk newsletter has been printed copy, and like magazines, it runs on a subscription model. Unlike magazine subscribers, whose only sense of community is that they read the same paper, our objective is that the Tandem Club of America continue as a community of tandem cyclists, bonded by the Club and our common, team experience using these wonderful machines. DoubleTalk has been the Club’s sole means, the past 37 years, to communicate amongst ourselves. But DoubleTalk is not the TCA. DoubleTalk is a means to an end, a way to exchange information among geographically widely and thinly dispersed tandem enthusiasts constituting less than 0.5% of cyclists. Some of us believe it’s too narrow to think of DoubleTalk as a paper newsletter. It’s a means of communication, and as such it needs to either keep up with revolutionary media changes since its inception, or risk being roadkill. Faced with a declining membership over the past 15 years, the TCA faces the possibility of DoubleTalk’s relegation to the recycle heap if it doesn’t change and keep up with its readers and contributors, most of whom we believe have kept pace with an internet-enabled world.
Thus we propose to change our focus. Rather than writing a printed, bimonthly club newsletter with a faint drumbeat echo on its website, we propose to gradually reverse the paradigm and write a periodically updated DoubleTalk website that, depending on feedback and economics, will periodically continue to publish part of its content on paper.
This as an experiment, albeit one running in real time in a very real world, suddenly lethal to print media. We are going places we haven’t gone before, and we don’t have a good roadmaps to follow, either. We now live in a world where we have routine access to quantities of information only dreamt of in 1976, and, perhaps more importantly, in a world where when some general survey respondents, when asked to choose between food and high speed access, choose the latter! Parts of our valued membership, many now departed, perceive us as two months stale, or at least two months late. We are. How many of us are going to wait for a bimonthly publication in this day and age?
Complicating this is the fact that we don’t have a new fully formed financial model. The old TCA model was essentially a DoubleTalk subscription service, supplemented by some paid advertising. While we have assets exceeding our outstanding liabilities, and could sustain ourselves for several more years, increasingly, our membership and subscribers are dropping away. While we acknowledge a cadre of individuals who value the TCA’s physical manifestation, the paper DoubleTalk, slotting into their mailboxes, we fear becoming irrelevant, unread except by a few, swept aside even while the tandem community continues to grow, and in fact has never been larger. So we are changing, even though it isn’t easy or fun, and our final end-state remains uncertain.
Additionally, we seek to continue to differentiate ourselves as a Club and hopefully maintain our position as the community of tandemists. We don’t aspire to become another listserver or an individual’s blog. DoubleTalk will remain edited and moderated, perhaps by not one individual, but a small cadre of editors. It will not be a site for unsupported speculation, but will make an honest attempt to verify what it reports. Secondly, DoubleTalk continues to seek to avoid becoming a soapbox for rants. Where controversy opines, we seek balanced opinion.
So again, we’d very much like to hear from you, our membership and readers, about these proposed changes, as well as other courses of action the TCA could take. Please take the TCA survey at http://tinyurl.com/tca2013survey [survey has since closed -Ed.] – we truly value your response and your comments. We have also published the Survey questions in the September copy of DoubleTalk. We’d prefer you to respond online, since the results are collated there automatically. But since one of the core questions revolve around the value of the paper newsletter, we also invite those without internet access to respond via paper. Perhaps the number of paper responses we get will in itself be telling!
So tell us what you think! Thanks for reading and wish us luck as we transition the TCA and DoubleTalk going forward. As alway, we look forward to your comments and feedback, which you can also send us via Jack Goertz, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll see you up the road.