A happy, belated, birthday wish to my mistress

Damn, I missed her birthday again!

Not my wife’s birthday. The fact that I’m sitting here with unbroken fingers and able to write this proves that.

Not my mother’s birthday either. She stopped having birthdays a long time ago.

No, I’m talking about the birthday of my mistress, the other woman who keeps me up nights, takes me away from wife and family, dominates my life like no other and demands more and more of my time.

She turned eight this month and I missed her birthday – again.

Before you pick up the phone and call the cops to report an adulterous pedophile, I’d better explain.

She is what you are reading right now. This publication. This Internet site. The mistress who owns my life, drains my resources, saps my energy and demands more and more of my soul.

She is Capitol Hill Blue.

Even at the tender age of eight, Blue is an old lady by Internet standards. She came into my life on Saturday, October 1, 1994. I was sitting in my den on that morning, reading my email when I came across a notice from my Internet Service Provider (the long-since departed PSI-Net) telling me I had 5 megabytes of free web space to use any way I wanted.

So I wrote a one-page rambling newsletter on politics and life in Washington, gave it a title (Capitol Hill Blue) and posted it on my new web site. I sent a note to about a half-dozen friends and acquaintances asking them to give it a read and, if they thought it worthwhile to pass the word to others.

Remember that 1994 was still the Wild West of the Internet. Few web sites existed and the only people with Internet accounts were computer geeks, information junkies, some college types and a few spooks down at the Pentagon. Matt Drudge was still selling T-shirts at the CBS gift shop, Joseph Farah still worked for newspapers that printed news on processed wood pulp and the Washington Post thought the Internet was something crab fishermen used in the Chesapeake Bay.

Each Sunday morning, I wrote a new diatribe, mostly whatever came to mind, sometimes with some inside information I might pick up from here and there. In December, PSI Net sent me a terse email advising me the site was consuming too much bandwidth so they were terminating my free web space, effective the end of the year.

Faced with loss of my free web space, I found a web hosting service that would give me sufficient space and bandwidth for about $50 a month and moved Capitol Hill Blue to a new home, gave it a facelift, and went daily on January 1, 1995.

I was traveling a lot at the time and found, to my delight, that this new technology allowed me to update Capitol Hill Blue from far-flung locales – the Artic Circle of Canada, the Philippines, even on a 747 over the Pacific.

By mid-1995, our hosting provider kicked us out for using too much bandwidth and I was forced to buy a server and use a co-location service. Blue was getting more than 500,000 “hits” a day. The Washington Post featured us in their “Fast Forward” magazine and listed Blue as a “must read for political junkies” in a Sunday story about the growth of web sites in the area.

And we had competition: Politics USA, a web site from the founders of The Hotline; another from ABC News, Newsweek and The Washington Post as well as independent sites from someone in LA named Drudge and an ex-newspaperman out west named Farah.

Keeping Blue updated on a daily basis consumed more and more time. My wife said she wished I had a mistress of flesh and blood rather than one of 1’s and 0’s. “At least then I could shoot the bitch,” she said.

But it was fun, my ego enjoyed the attention, and things were going along pretty well until a star-struck White House intern got down on her knees, gave the President of the United States a blow job and then told her best friend about it. When the story broke (on Matt Drudge’s Internet site), it seemed everybody turned to ‘Net news sites for all the latest salacious details on Bill Clinton and his intern girlfriend. While the mainstream news outlets struggled for ways to describe oral sex, we told the whole story without euphemisms. On some days, our servers groaned under the load of 12 million plus hits a day.

And while Bill Clinton’s mistress threatened his presidency, my mistress threatened my health and energy levels. I would drag myself into my day job, wiped out from a night at the computer, trying to satisfy my mistresses’ lust for more and more news.

At the height of Monicagate, I sold Blue to a group of newspapermen who said they wanted to make it bigger and better. After three months of watching them abuse my mistress, I exercised an option to buy her back.

Clinton’s inability to keep the First Member in his pants brought us both fame and infamy. The New York Times called us “an early warning sign site for breaking news stories.” Others called us sensationalist and tawdry. Some newsmen and women working in Washington came to us when their editors refused to run their stories. We gladly gave them a platform, often publishing their works under pen names so they could keep their day jobs.

But Blue was riding the crest of the Internet wave and that wave was about to crash, drowing much of our competition in the undertow. Politics USA folded, closing suddenly with a terse announcement on the home page that simply said “Good bye.” Others soon followed. The information superhighway turned not into a road to riches but a path to bankruptcy.

Still, the independents remained: Drudge, WorldNet Daily, Capitol Hill Blue. Large media conglomerates like The Washington Post and New York Times continue to pour millions into their web sites, but don’t show a profit. The Post has lost more than $100 million on washingtonpost.com.

Yet Blue survives. Why? Because this site never was, and never will be, a business. It’s a labor of love. The news side is still a one-man operation (the one man being me), assisted from time to time by some newspaper friends who pass on stories or lend a helping hand. Last year, Sharon Hosenfeld volunteered to take over the ReaderRant bulletin board and has turned it into a popular debate forum. She has assembled a good team of moderators who work long hours for no pay and nowhere near as much praise as they deserve.

Our readership has settled into about 100,000 people who visit our site each day and read our mix of news and opinions, look at our photos, view our videos and debate the issues of the day in our forums.

My mistress turned a year older this year. She still demands too much of my time, drains my pocketbook and invokes jealously from my wife. It remains to be seen if Internet sites, like wine, improve with age.

But we’re still here, which is a lot more than we can say about a lot of other Internet sites. And we’re not going anywhere. Capitol Hill Blue is, and shall remain, the oldest daily news site on the Internet.

Happy belated birthday honey. Sorry I forgot. I’ll try to do better next year – if my wife doesn’t kill me for spending too much time with you.