Photograph by Steven Higgs

Bloomington Alternative readers can expect to see more multimedia features in 2008, as well as new projects like The Alternative Traveler, which will chronicle in words and image the travels of editor and publisher Steven Higgs. This image was captured in Brooklyn.

It feels odd to be welcoming readers to the first edition of The Bloomington Alternative in the new year, given that it’s mid-January and all. But we’ve been on a much-deserved break and haven’t been around much since the calendar flipped. So, welcome.

I’ve been doing this too long to call what I’m about to share a “preview” of what’s to come in 2008. Far too much can happen in 12 months to be so presumptuous, and the year is already 1/24th gone. But I will give you some insights into our general bearing, anyway.

In terms of Web presence, I’m pleased to report the Alternative is growing rapidly. In December, we averaged one page being opened somewhere on our site every 20 seconds of every day. And now that folks have settled back into their daily routines, traffic thus far in January is up 35 percent over December.

And, as promised, we are multimedia bound, with several projects in various stages of planning and development, even if it barely shows yet. One that was supposed to be in the can already, and which segues nicely into a new 2008 feature, is an interview with former Hoosier and CounterPunch co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair.

The St. Clair project was going to include a video interview with him, a story about life in the Pacific Northwest and a Photo Album of the Oregon coast. CounterPunch, which St. Clair co-edits with Alexander Cockburn, is one of the largest Internet news sites on the Web.

The reporting was supposed to happen on Jan. 2 and 3. And the trip to the Pacific Northwest was to spawn the first installment of a new feature called “The Alternative Traveler,” an outgrowth of some new opportunities I have as the father of an airline employee.

My progress on any trip, however, is dictated by my standby status, which wasn’t very strong on New Year’s Eve. As a U.S. Airways parent, I fly cheap, but only if there is room.

“It can even happen that an employee traveling standby takes his seat on the aircraft but is then asked to vacate it to make way for a regular passenger,” Wikipedia explains in its “Standby (air travel)” section.

I was on the plane to Oregon and had to get off because it was overweight.

That’s a long way of introducing my latest writing project and explaining why our first multimedia project hasn’t happened, yet. After spending the night in the Philadelphia airport, I ended up flying to New York (where my daughter lives) and posting a taste of what’s to come in the second Photo Album from my Big Apple explorations.

The other multimedia project that is far along enough to talk about is a conversation between Alison Hamm and James Alexander and Dark Rain Thom on writing, art, life, whatever. Alison will write a story, and we’ll produce and post a video of the interview and a Photo Album.

We’ve also been in discussion with WFHB about collaboration between our news-gathering operations, and there’s a good chance we’ll do an audio for radio broadcast, as well.

Another project worth mentioning is an interview with Lisa Sorg, former editor of The Bloomington Independent and now editor of The Independent in Raleigh-Durham.

There are several more.

2008 will be a critical year for those who understand the connection between politics and quality of life, at the county, country and planetary levels. High on our list of 2008 accomplishments is to make the Alternative a key portal between Bloomington and the world.

Our online readership has always been more regional, national and global, and our goal is to let those readers know what we think and are up to in Bloomington, and vice versa.

To that end, we have added a new section on the section fronts called “Front Page News,” where we plan to post more timely news items about and from Bloomington’s grass roots groups and movements for social, environmental and economic justice.

As Mark Stoops’s announcement for County Commissioner in the News section shows, 2008 is going to be a pivotal election year at every level of governance, from county commissioner to governor to president. And the Alternative will have plenty to say about them all.

(For those who don’t know, the county is where the important action takes place in Bloomington. And the county has long been a wholly owned subsidiary of the developer class -- see Travis’s column in the News>Columns section -- much more so than the city.)

As I said in my Dec. 6 piece “The Alternative evolves to new media”, the potential on the Internet is limitless. So is the Alternative’s.

In 2008, we’re going exploring.

Steven Higgs can be reached at .