Friday, November 20, 2020

Commentary: Thirteen Years of Writing The News in Second Life

By Bixyl Shuftan

Although it was December 2006 I first came to Second Life, it wasn't until July 2007 I started coming on regularly. By late summer, I had bought my first avatar following the one I walked into the grid with, and was talking to people, making friends, and exploring around. Wanting to know more about this strange new world, I started looking up blogs and newsletters. Some were more informative than others. The most interesting of them was the Second Life Newspaper, owned by JamesT Juno with Dana Vanmoer as it's editor. One day, I saw a request for some reader submissions. So I sent in an amusing picture. A couple weeks later, there was another, so I sent in another picture and a short commentary. That got the attention of the editor and owner as they asked me to meet up with them at the office for a possible job. And at the end of the meeting, I got it. 

I had been writing fiction for over a decade, mostly sci-fi, and posting it on a website. But my last story had been a little depressing. So I thought it was time for a break from it. Since I prided myself on keeping up with the news in real life, the idea of being a reporter and writing news articles myself was a welcome change. And with my avatar being an anthro fox, there was the "Fox News" pun. My second and third articles were probably the trickiest to write as I was still getting the knack of things and wondering which things made the best topics. But I never did have real trouble sending in articles an average of once a week, and often twice a week. James and Dana also wanted pictures for cartoons. With my sense of humor, I had little trouble finding at least one a week and often twice.

And so over time, I would go about the Grid and explore places, attend events, talk to people, and take a closer look at things. And I would write about numerous people, places, and events in Second Life of many kinds. While I would do a few stories about the wilder and adult areas, most of my articles weren't about them. While occasionally I would write about some kind of controversy, I wouldn't do so for it's own sake. One of my coworkers at the old SLN commented that it was easier to sell something controversial than of people acting to help others. But I didn't think those interested in how the Grid was doing was interested in reading most of the time. For entertainment I did do a little Second Life fiction and a few obvious parody articles. And of course there were the screenshot cartoons, for which James and Dana were appreciative.

I would continue to write for Second Life Newspaper for two and a half years, eventually reaching the position of "Office Manager," which was updating the paper when Dana couldn't. But James and Dana's real lives would catch up to them, and in 2010 the decision was made to close the paper. I talked to three of the other reporters, and we made the decision to form a new one, the Second Life Newser. So my position had changed over time from reporter, to reporter and assistant editor, and finally the editor and head reporter of a new publication. Things were scary in those first few months. But as the stories came in and got reported on, and both ad purchases and sponsors came in, it became clear we were around to stay.

Many of my friends and family have been more than a little critical of the real-life press. Perhaps in becoming part of the Second Life media, I was subconsciously trying to do something about their concerns. But it's also given me something of a perspective from the inside. While a reporter can express his opinion, it should be obvious that's what it is when he does so. As a reporter turned editor/head writer of a newsletter, I try not to tell the readers what to think. It's my objective to give the facts and let people think for themselves. As of my observations of much larger real life news publications and networks, yes there have been times individual newspapers and networks have acted badly. But I see no grand conspiracy among major news media productions to brainwash the public, unless perhaps it's to make more money.

As the years have gone by, there's been numerous challenges and developments in both real life and Second Life. Being part of a community, one of the landholders provided space for an office as well as the office itself. In turn, I've helped them with their Relay for Life team and helping to manage one of their clubs. I've also chatted with a number whom have been feeling frustrated or down at times. And this year with a deadly pandemic and a sense of political crisis, there's been plenty. When I have a number of anxious and worried friends that need an ear and a word of encouragement, that can occasionally mean less time to write something. But that hasn't stopped me from still delivering the news.

And I've been writing about other things as well. At the suggestion of real life family, I started a blog to write about topics other than Second Life: "Food on the Table." It doesn't get updated nearly as often as the Newser, about an article every few months. But this is were I write about things such as current events and history. I've also gone back to science-fiction writing. I've done some short stories, and have been working on a science-fiction novel, "The Corsean Encounter," about the adventures of two humans as they end up in a Medieval/Renaissance/Pre-Industrial level world and dealing with both the friends and foes among the not-quite-human inhabitants and other humans that soon discover the way to the world. I've made some good progress, and it looks like it will be a series of novels. I'll likely discuss more about it in the near future.

And the future? Well, when I started I wasn't sure how much longer Second Life would be around as it's glory days were coming to an end and Linden Lab was reacting with some questionable moves. But Second Life has continued to provide many tens of thousands a place in virtual reality. And with the Pandemic, it's gotten a second wind. It will continue to be around for some time to come. Unless something out of the blue happens, such as a traffic accident I don't walk away from, I should be continuing to write for years to come.

I'll keep on reporting on the people, places, and events here in Second Life.

Thank you all for your support,

Bixyl Shuftan

No comments:

Post a Comment