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That’s right: 16. In Internet terms, that’s a lifetime…and more.
This experiment in web political journalism began on October 1, 1994: Long before the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, Politico and others. Many politcal news web sites that followed us vanished years ago in cyber ether.
Some say we’ve outlived our usefulness. Some suggest it is past time to retire and put Blue out to pasture. Friends often ask: “Why do you keep it going?”
Good question. Blue is not a business. We didn’t go out and round up venture capital money when I started this thing. It began on a cold, wet, rainy morning when I woke up at 5 a.m. (my usual waking hour) brewed some coffee and sat down in our den in Arlington, Virginia, to check my email.
A message from PSI.Net, our Internet service provider at the time, announced the availability of free web space — 5 megabytes worth — starting that day. So, on a whim, I rattled off about 1,000 words of commentary on the current political state in Washington and posted it on a simple web page with rudimentary HTML.
I emailed a few friends and asked them to check it out. They emailed their friends and we have several hundred hits the first week. The next week I added a second commentary and Capitol Hill Blue has published ever since.
Blue went daily in 1995 and began to garner attention on the web. The Washington Post called us “a must read for political junkies.” Felicity Barringer of The New York Times called us “an early warning sign” that mainstream journalists checked for developing stories.
Over time, a staff of volunteers developed. Some were journalism students, some worked in mainstream media but helped out to write stories their bosses wouldn’t touch. I appeared on MSNBC, CNN and other TV shows to talk about the growth of Internet journalism.
We broke some major stories: The expose of a “criminal class” in Congress, the exploitation of teenagers on “teen model” web sites, the use of computers to monitor the daily lives of Americans.
We also screwed up big time: A “CIA source” who turned out to be a phony, a “political science professor” who turned out to be a disgruntled Capitol Hill employee. Opponents called our advertisers, threatening boycotts.
I made changes after those flubs and we’ve evolved into what I believe is a solid news organization.
Yet Capitol Hill Blue is not a business: Never has been, never will be. It’s a labor of love for me, as founder and publisher, and those who volunteer their time to help out. That includes our columnists and the moderators who keep ReaderRant, our long-running discussion forum, functioning. I couldn’t do this without them and hope I’m never faced with that possibility.
Over the past several months, my mother’s failing health has zapped my time, energy and resources. That situation continues but it does not mean that I am any less committed to keeping Blue on the web.
Between now and the end of the year, I will be making some changes at Blue — changes that I hope will improve the product and broaden our services to readers.
We’ve been up, we’ve been down but we will never be out — not as long as I have something to say or do about it.
Thanks for reading and supporting what we do. It makes it all worth while.