My name is Matt Johnson, and I’m the editor (to the extent such a thing exists) of Room Eight. This title is essentially ceremonial; I don’t really do anything except keep the server running and occasionally answer questions about the site for the writers. I agreed to take over the site from the founders, Ben Smith and Gur Tsabar, in 2013. Room Eight has a colorful history, reaching back to 2007 when the landscape of online publishing was dramatically different than it is today. The site has passed through many hands, and I’m afraid mine will have to be the last.
On December 31, Room Eight will most likely shut down, unless someone else is able to take it over. The site will disappear, not simply stop publishing.
The reason for this is that Room Eight is a serious legal liability. It has recently been the recipient of very real legal threats relating to the material published here. Such threats implicate me, my employer, and my family. Room Eight has never made any revenue and has no other resources with which we could respond to legal action against us. The fact is, Room Eight is not journalism; it’s an unmoderated forum. While the “about” page makes it clear that opinions published here do not represent those of Alley Media Ventures LLC, that doesn’t stop someone from suing us anyway and requiring us to respond legally.
Furthermore, the virtue of offering this type of forum is not what it was in 2007. Room Eight is a small site with an obviously identifiable owner (me). Sites like this used to be one way to establish respectability on the Internet as an independent writer. This is no longer even close to true, as platforms like WordPress.com, Medium, and Blogger let people with interesting or controversial ideas put them out to the world, for free, and provide better community support and discoverability than a single, self-hosted WordPress site ever could. Most importantly, these platforms are owned by huge companies with a legal department that can effectively refute the claim that an author’s content is not the platform’s responsibility. Although I obviously feel the same is true of Room Eight, I cannot realistically defend it from such claims.
I’m not issuing any sort of moral judgment or argument about this situation, I’m just telling anyone who still enjoys Room Eight what’s happening and why. To the writers past and present, I know many of you cherished this forum, but reality is what it is and this is what needs to happen. I will not destroy your content and if you want access to it privately so you may post it elsewhere, I will assist you in doing that; please contact me.
To anyone out there who feels they have the financial, technical and temporal resources to become the next caretaker of Room Eight, you’re welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss. However, I’m not really holding out serious hope of finding a new home for the site, and if it doesn’t happen by December 31, then we will have to go dark.
Thank for for your support and understanding, and for being readers of Room Eight.