Food Safety News is six years old this week. We are not planning on gathering around a birthday cake at some undisclosed location. I think we tend to think of it less as a birthday and more as a beginning — of our seventh year, to be exact. What I would like to do is to take a moment to thank our readers. I was reminded of how valuable they are when we were in Portland, OR, for the better part of a week last month for the annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection. It seemed that almost everyone there was a Food Safety News reader, and they gave us such “rock star” treatment that it was a little embarrassing at times. I had much the same experience earlier this year when I was a panelist at the International Farm Expo in California. Food Safety News has published more than 10,000 original articles by talented writers and editors since we began in 2009. This “Letter From the Editor” column has been posted 312 times. It was originally conceived as a forum for communicating with our readers, which at the time we thought would be mostly about technical or policy issues. When things go smoothy, as they usually do, the space has been available for my deeper thoughts. For what I think is only the second time, we’ve just completed a reader survey that is in the process of being analyzed. I am looking forward to the discussion that will follow once we have reader opinions tallied from that survey. I think everything should be on the table. We just exceeded 20,000 subscribers to the Food Safety News daily email, we’re nearing 30,000 followers on Twitter, we’ve collected more than 150,000 Facebook “likes,” and we’re building a daily base readership that has moved beyond 200,000. Like they say in politics, knowing and feeding the base is important, probably the most important thing we can do. Don’t get me wrong. I am talking about evolutionary steps that we might consider taking in year seven, not a revolutionary shakeup. But it makes no sense to listen to readers if we are not willing to change. And, while we are not necessarily competing with other news sites on the web because of our narrow focus, we do need to pay attention to the changes occurring in the outside world. At a time when six corporations — General Electric, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS — own and control 90 percent of the media, independent news outlets such as Food Safety News are needed like never before. We have only been able to scratch out a place in the remaining 10 percent because of our readers. Please join us this week in raising a glass to Food Safety News, including publisher Bill Marler and our growing list of advertisers. Wish I could be there to pick up your tab, but they are keeping me in seclusion until my swelled head returns to normal from that Portland trip.
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