I’ve loved Rock Hall ever since I was sent there to write about it for Chesapeake Life nearly 10 years ago. It’s a place that’s happily sure of itself. A hard-working town with self-reliant people who have a great perspective on life. It’s the waterman’s ethos: Enjoy life. Don’t worry about stuff you can’t do anything about. Focus on things that matter. Take care of each other. Watermen’s Day in July doesn’t mean just bragging rights for the winner of the anchor toss or work boat docking contest; the money goes to a scholarship fund for a waterman’s child or grandchild. And the regular spaghetti dinners and oyster roasts keep the fire department running.
It might have been that way all over a few decades ago, but Rock Hall’s semi-remoteness at the end of the end of the road well west of Chestertown has protected and preserved it. The yachting crowd has discovered the town, but these are mostly the sorts of yachters who enjoy kicking back with a beer at the dockside restaurants and appreciate the watermen who built the town and still earn their living off those docks.
A Jimmy Buffet song talks about the ‘coconut telegraph,’ that invisible circuit of communication that spreads news in a small town faster than a summer storm sweeping across the Bay. Rock Hall undoubtedly has that but it’s also decided to enter the digital age with the Rock Hall Wave. It’s the town’s digital newspaper. “All The News We Have Time For in Rock Hall” is its motto.
Editor Robin Kurowski started it up in September as part of an experiment on the viability of on-line community newspapers. Dave Wheelan, a veteran of non-profit and academic communications, wants to see how and if micro-local news outlets work in this end-of-print-newspapers & magazine age. He started an on-line version of The Chestertown Spy newspaper and she took to the keyboard to produce The Rock Hall Wave. As co-owner of Gratitude Yachting Center, Robin’s got her pulse on everything that happens in town. She’s also written a few books on her own, so she’s a natural as editor.
Robin sends out an e-mail blast several times a week with headlines about the main stories. Clicking on them takes you to the full story. “It’s interesting sorts of news,” says Robin. “People forget how many family stores there are and the volunteer base that’s here.” She writes up what matters to the people she sees every day. There’s a report on the nabbing of illegal rockfishers by the DNR; news that Village Hardware is adding berry plants to their spring inventory; Del. Jacobs sponsoring a bill concerning seafood harvesting; the New Orleans Festival at The Mainstay; an article about The Science of Waving in Rock Hall (as in waving to friends while driving). The articles are on a blog platform, which means readers can leave comments, and they are not shy about doing so.
Local businesses are running ads, which is what will ultimately decide the success of the experiment. In the meantime, Robin and her staff of Rock Hall natives will keep their neighbors up to speed on the things that matter in their special corner of the Chesapeake.