By now, those of you reading this are probably aware that Derby News Network is no more.
In what appears to be a final update (posted on the 9th of September, after the completion of their coverage of WFTDA D1 Playoffs), the DNN team announced that “As of today, Derby News Network is retired.”
For seven years, Derby News Network worked to provide third-party coverage of roller derby, first in the USA, and then increasingly worldwide. They brought, usually free, streamed video from bouts as they happened. They provided bout recaps for the most important bouts (without DNN, the coverage of the first ever Women’s Roller Derby World Cup, an internationally important event, would have been almost non-existent), with impressively rapid turn-around, licensed for free use and reproduction by the entire community. They provided scores and rankings and news about all of the derby that they could know about (not just limited to nations or rulesets or teams). And, most importantly, they provided a hub and a space for people to comment on and discuss these things, that was not beholden to any of the “official” entities of the derby world.
Before many of the official channels had properly noticed derby outside the USA, DNN had been providing a portal for news and engagement with the community across the world. Many leagues across Europe, Australasia and beyond owed their discovery of derby to DNN’s coverage, and were kept engaged with the “core” news and developments by the tireless work of those behind the site. (It’s notable that many of the leagues expressing public dismay at the death of DNN are in Europe.)
Reading some of the personal accounts of the DNN team members (they have been careful to keep their corporate message free of any recriminations, noting only that keeping DNN going had “also taken a terrible toll on the principals who built it and held it together”), we can see that the stress of having to deal with those who did not appreciate a third-party performing this role within the derby community, some of whom possess significant power, finally reached a tipping point. Speaking personally, and not on behalf of the blog, as someone who has written bout reports, provided photography and videography, and attempted to perform some useful journalism about the sport I love and do not play, I do empathise with their plight. I personally have experienced some (minority) of dismissive responses from individuals, especially when I was starting out, and seen as “unaligned”, perhaps, and not part of the community. We are lucky on the blog that 90% of our interactions with Scottish leagues, and those leagues outside of Scotland, are positive and effective. In our case, perhaps, this is helped by our policy on the Blog of recruiting “league reps” to provide information and positions from the skating community. DNN was too big and too widespread for this to be possible, and also too big to not be seen, perhaps, as a threat to the agendas of others who wished to control the nature of the community.
By driving out the hard workers behind Derby News Network (and it is hard work to provide as good as service as they have done for the past 7 years), the community has been diminished as a result. Their magazine format website spinoff, derbylife, survives them, luckily, but the core edifice of DNN is no more. In many ways, they represented the “true” spirit of roller derby, in their provision of content and resources openly and without restriction for the benefit of the community as a whole. “For the community, by the community”, you might say.
We at the Scottish Roller Derby Blog will of course continue to work to provide coverage of our own small area of the derby scene, but we really do not see that there is anything to replace the hole left by DNN at this point.
We hope that the impact on the derby community can be spun to positively improve the way we work as a community, and to, perhaps, appreciate what we have lost and how we can act to make derby more open and supportive of third-party media coverage, and all of the other “non-skater”, “non-official” activities that enrich roller derby as a whole.
And we, on the Blog, would like to thank our own community for being as supportive as they are of us, and to assure them that we plan to be here for some time to come.