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Back to the Future of Memphis: Blogging to Inform, Engage, Inspire and Unite!

January 29, 2014

Sometimes, the best things that happen to you are those you never planned.

Next month, Back in River City will celebrate our second anniversary.  Three years ago, living on Monteagle Mountain, neither Eddie nor I imagined we’d soon be  blogging in and about Memphis.  Now our shared life largely revolves around Back in River City.  It’s our platform for exploring and ministering to our home town, encouraging our fellow travelers to be informed and engaged, offering our own musings, and searching for solutions.

We are deeply grateful for your support, encouragement, and above all, your time.  Life’s a fast and bumpy ride for most everyone in 2014. It’s a privilege to be awarded ten minutes of your day when you read Back in River City. We know you have other pressing things to do with that ten minutes, so we always try to make it worth your while, either by:

  • informing you of new public policy that will affect your life,
  • provoking your thoughts and reflection about how to improve life for all Greater Memphians,
  • inspiring you to join like-minded Memphis-lovers to change what needs to be changed, or
  • just giving you something to smile about.

smile coffee

If you are a new follower (WELCOME!), here’s how this blog works.

Eddie’s the outside guy –  the field worker, the extrovert, the  bear hunter, the public policy wonk who attends meetings all over town, soaking up current events, Memphis lore,  and political machinations. He identifies the top issues facing Memphis and interviews people with the power to influence them. Then he brings the bear back home for both of us to skin. I’m the inside person – the principal writer, additional fact hunter/gatherer  (and Eddie might add, The Editor from Hell), who usually fleshes out the final product.  I join Eddie at some events and meetings and conduct additional interviews on my own, but more often, my work tethers me to my Mac.

We have daily discussions about the issues we want to cover on Back in River City.  These “editorial meetings” frequently look something like this:

200219289-001   Two colleagues arguing in office

Except we’re older and not as thin.

We both conduct voluminous research, especially on topics that are complex, layered, debatable, or contentious. It often takes awhile before we publish our findings. For example, Eddie has been attending MATA board meetings and conducting research on the agency for over a year. Our first post on the subject will be up soon. Our research has also led us to change our position on issues.  Common Core, which I have been researching  for a year, is the most notable example. 

So, even when we are not posting frequently, we are working behind the scenes, just flapping our little duck feet like crazy.

duck paddling

2014 will be a busy and  important year to discuss Memphis public policy.  Our primary focus will be on city and county elections (and the Ninth District Congressional race); public transportation/MATA; public education (especially school reform and Common Core); and local government financing. We also followed these issues in 2013, but  (ever the cockeyed optimists, we) hope to publish more of our findings this year.

Eddie and I have been researching the causes and effects of chronic poverty in Memphis  – and potential lbj quote on opportunitysolutions – since our return in 2011. Initially, we thought we could cover the issue in an ongoing series of blog posts, but the scope, complexity, necessary research,  and time commitment quickly convinced us that writing a book was the only way to give adequate treatment to the issue of most concern to our beloved hometown. “The Book” is a continuing project behind the scenes at Back in River City. With 2014 marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, however, you can expect us to add food for thought to local discussions and comment on the endless commentary by talking heads, bloggers and journalists that is sure to come.

Here’s our Big Announcement for Back in River City’s third year:

shelbyinform-737482Eddie and I are proud to announce that Back in River City is officially in cahoots with Joe Saino: native Memphian;  respected, retired businessman; well-known citizen activist; and longtime blogger at  MemphisShelbyInform is a non-partisan, not for profit organization of local citizens and taxpayers that monitors local government, reports on its activities and expenditures,  and campaigns for its greater transparency and efficiency.  We urge you to follow and actively engage in discussion on the MemphisShelbyInform blog. Yesterday’s post, “DROP, The Pension Bomb,” is a must-read on an issue we all need to understand. We are collaborating with Joe on several specific issues that you will hear more about in the weeks and months ahead.

Through our work on Back in River City, Eddie and I have been honored to meet and get to know people from all parts of the mosaic that makes up our city. We’ve met leaders and followers, get-‘er-done folks and whiners, the well intentioned and the well heeled, the clueless and the powerful. We know that people who otherwise walk different paths, cheer for opposing teams, and vote in separate primaries yearn to find common ground when it comes to improving our shared lives here in the far southwest corner of Tennessee.

It’s our city – yours, mine, ours. Ask your  friends to follow Back in River City and join us here or on our Facebook page. (Please LIKE us while you’re there.) The more Greater Memphians who stay well informed about public policy, engage in civic matters, and unite to make a difference, the greater Memphis will be.


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