Maybe it’s not worth it

It’s dark outside when I make the first pot of coffee for the day and venture into the den to start work on each day’s “edition” of Capitol Hill Blue.

Yeah, I know, this is the Internet, where news is a 24/7 cycle and we are supposed to be updating things around the clock.

But I’m an old newspaperman who started his career pounding hard on a manual Underwood typewriter so the output would show up on the last page of a three-page carbon pack. I worked the police beat on a daily in Roanoke, VA, back then. Went in at 6 p.m. and wrote my last copy just in the time for the final city edition at 3 a.m.

Nowadays, news is instantaneous, posted at the speed of megabits, on news sites, broadcast sites and blogs. Everyone rushes about to be the first online with the latest — be it an important story on Capitol Hill or the latest shenanigans of a drugged-up celebrity.

News organizations pour millions into their web sites. Many have separate staffs that produce “web-only” content that often scoops the print edition.

Blogs are no longer the province of an anti-social geek working in his or her pajamas. Huffington Post has more than 50 full-time paid employees operating out of a loft in SoHo. Those who try to compete as one-person operations find themselves losing sleep, time and, in some cases, their lives.

Something to think about from the weekend New York Times:

They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.

“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

Capitol Hill Blue is, and always has been, a volunteer labor of love. On the news side, I’m helped by three volunteer columnists (Hal Brown, Phil Hoskins and Rob Kezelis) who do a great job of providing extra, much-need perspective to the site. We have a talented team of volunteer moderators who run things at ReaderRant, our popular discussion forum.

The rest falls on me. I review the stories, design the pages, post the articles, fix database problems, select photos, write headlines, decide story placement, tweak the servers to keep them running and — when time permits — write this column. Capitol Hill Blue is updated each morning between 4 and 7 a.m. and I keep an eye on the news throughout the day and add updates when necessary or possible.

But I have other obligations. I cover news and shoot photos for our local paper here in Floyd, VA. I have a studio, a web hosting business and a web design operation to run. Somewhere in the midst of all that I also try to spend some time with my wife and enjoy the country life that Amy and I came here to experience four years ago. The Web is an impatient, hungry monster that requires constant feeding.

We recently opened the site up to allow readers to blog. The result has been a mixed bag with a lot work than I anticipated to correct technical errors, spelling and other problems. The jury is still out on the future of the reader blogs.

And the jury is out on how much longer I can keep this up. My health is not as great as it could be, I don’t sleep as well as I once did and, frankly, I get tired of the bitching, moaning and anger that dominates so much of the Internet today.

I’ve been doing this for 13-and-a-half years.

That’s a long time.

Maybe too long.


  1. Ladywolf55

    Ha, Sandy, funny you should mention public schools. Don’t get me started. My first three children went to public school. My last child has been home-schooled all the way. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for the education the US public schools are giving these days. It’s not worth it.


  2. Grizzly99

    Well, Doug, you could always track down old McTavish to give you a helping hand and take the heat off…

  3. Sandra Price

    Excellent Rant Teresa! Luck plays into the equation! But the public schools are supposed to even the playing field. Money should never be the endgame and education is the only way out of poverty. Also American children always seem to run in groups and gangs and are often overlooked in the schools and playgrounds. These gangs often set standards of crime over achievement. Until the public schools get into academics, our next generation will be ignored. Too many parents have failed to teach individual morals and tend to send the kids to Sunday School and figure that is all they have to do.

    I did some animal training with dogs and even they can be trained not to put themselves into danger. I used that tool with my own kids and we took it down to a simple recognizing right from wrong. Stop! Think! before you Act!

    In my retirement neighborhood, I see many grandchildren visit from all over America. Too many act and look like freaky animals. Is it to get attention or are they simply wild? Discipline is apparently dead. We do them no favors by allowing this wild streak to take over their brain development.

    Gosh, I’m beginning to sound like my grandmother….

  4. Ladywolf55

    One thing I can see, Sandy, is we agree on a lot of issues. If you are over 75, you are of my parent’s generation. That is the last generation which wasn’t into drugs and “anything goes”. I’m a person who was born into the wrong generation, imo. My kids say I was an old timer even when they were children. lol

    One thing I do see, as I have children who are in their twenties and thirties. There are some very politically aware young people in colleges today. They are mixed with the party animals, true, but rational, thinking, caring young people do exist, and hopefully they will make changes for the good as they come into the working world. It would be my dearest wish come true if our country would get out of being a two-party political system. That, along with greed and avarice, is what is bringing this country to it’s knees.

    I read somewhere yesterday (don’t know if it was this site or not), that America was the most compassionate country once upon a time. I beg to differ there. From my vantage point (having been one of the poor masses), I always saw America as throwing it’s needy to the wolves, kicking them to the curb, so to speak. When our citizens, children and adults alike, must do without health care, dental care, vision care, clothing on their back and food in their mouths, we cannot call ourselves a compassionate country.

    Many say that it’s because people choose not to work for an education when they’re young, and that’s the price they pay. Well, maybe so, but what about the computer engineer, highly educated, who loses his job due to downsizing, and loses everything he owns, including his good credit, ending up a homeless beggar on the streets? He’s kicked to the curb as so much refuse, his family left to fend for themselves and beg for food or a bed to sleep in. He’s not lazy, nor uneducated, just unlucky. It happens in America, folks, make no mistake about it. No other first-world country in the world treats it’s people like this, leaving their own citizens to die under a cardboard box over a sewer grate, with no food, shelter, healthcare, etc. We are NOT a compassionate country. Not to our own.

    Okay, rant over. 🙂


  5. Sandra Price

    Teresa. I can’t think of another site as good as this one. We must start discussing the fixes that need to debate. That has been my wish for many years. I’m tired of blaming the “other party” when we continue to vote them into power. As a long time Republican, I find it impossible to accept the corruption that we found in Bush/Clinton/Bush terms.

    I do not want Socialism or a Theocracy and find that there are very limited options coming up in November. Bob Barr is considering a run as a Libertarian but he is stuck with his GOP programs where he signed up with the social conservastives to ban abortions, same sex marriages and, I assume, death with dignity. I feel as if the Republicans want most of us out of the party. I’m no democrat and have no desire to redistribute the wealth but simply to educate our next generations on how to make wealth themselves. We cannot do it with the current schools academic curriculum.

    American politics seems to go in cycles and I hope that we can get through the end of the current group before we can get into honest and rational political decisions, and a return to academic studies in the schools.

    I live in a senior development and our retirees are in a panic as our well-laid plans of investments are in bad shape. So many second homes are on the market and cannot hold their value much longer. I made money in real estate but with the dollar losing its value, that money is only worth half. Many think we seniors are bleeding the government dry and they don’t realize how much we paid for Social Security and are paying for Medicare. I have down-sized my lifestyle without feeling resentment as it was my plan to do so that when I hit 75, I would no longer have to worry.

    I think we owe Doug a positive attitude. He has given us a stage to form our plans complete with links to help us.

  6. Doug Thompson

    I appreciate the many thoughts, suggestions and expressions of support here. You’ve given me a lot to think about over the weekend.

    The offers to help are also appreciated and I will be in touch with those who made the offer. Please give me a few days to sort through all of this.

    Again, many thanks.


  7. Ladywolf55

    Hi Sandy,

    Yes, I’ve been around here many years, but I just don’t post much. I read this site every day, though, and see the ups and downs everyone goes through.

    I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of America. I just wish there were enough of us who see what is happening to be able to do something about it. However, apathy is still a huge problem in this country. Only when they lose their bread and butter and have to go back to beans and potatoes will they finally listen, but it will be too late. We’re almost there.

  8. woody188

    Don’t quit Doug. You give me hope that there are a few with journalistic integrity still out there.

    I’d be happy to help. In fact, I’ve tried to contact CHB repeatedly to offer proof-reading assistance but your mailbox always bounced the messages back saying the mailbox was full.

    Contact me at:

    woody188 at (change the “at” of course)

    if you want me to help out. I also run a hosting and web design business and could possibly help with those burdens if you let me. I’ve been building sites since 1994 and have working knowledge or Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl.

    I’m probably already on the no-fly list, so that’s not an issue. I’ve had some not so nice words with my “elected” representatives.

    Let me know via email. I’m ready to start right away!

  9. JudyB

    Doug you gave birth to this site because you seen a need, felt you could fill it and were right on both counts. we all want you to be both healthy, happy but also fulfilled. You must do what you have to do to see these come about in your life, and I am sure you will. I am concerned that if you ever decided to quit CHB and became well rested, you could find yourself with more idle time than you know how to deal with…then wind up missing your baby (CHB).
    I sugguest you take your sweet time in making the all important decisions that are again rolling around in your head and will affect your life. There are many reliable, willing, able, highly intelligent like minded people who post here, with enough idle time to help you…call on them while you are making your decisions. CHB is important and valued by all of us, but nothing is more important than an ones health..with this in mind, procede with caution and do what is best for you..we can, and will live will your decision. Thank you for the untold hours you have put into this site..I will forever be grateful.

    “What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”
    Oliver Wendell Holmes

  10. Sandra Price

    Teresa, are you from the early days of Reader Rant? I think I recognize your username. You speak the truth about Doug and that is refreshing indeed.

    None of us will see the old America that brought our families across the pond as it has been contaminated by some very strange new people who feel that America owes them entitlements galore. I had been aware of this problem but had no idea of the extent until I found this site.

    I don’t know how to return to the once great nation who stood for the freest citizens on the planet. I go through the papers searching for another government plan that will return us our liberties and get all wound up and then let down by some secret agenda of greed. Individual freedoms are going out the drain and so few can see it.

  11. Ladywolf55

    This is the one news source I count on for truthful, relevant news, as well as intelligent commentary by people I have grown to appreciate greatly. It’s like an island of people representing what the USA USED to be about. I would dearly miss it if it were to disappear.

    However, Doug, you’re a workaholic, you know that. You’re stretching yourself too thin again, and we’re all aging, with aches and pains and less energy than we used to have. I do understand that you’re feeling burned out more and more, because you just don’t know how to make yourself stop and get off that hamster wheel. (Personally, I think you’re afraid if you stop running you’ll drop dead. 😉 )

    In any case, do what is best for you and Amy, and we’ll just suck it up if we have to. I appreciate your contribution to sanity in the journalism world thus far, and hope you decide to continue in whatever way makes you most content with life.


  12. 33rdSt

    I have always counseled my own employees that the appropriate priorities are:


    in that order. And a very good friend used to counsel me to ask three questions about the job:
    are you learning anything
    are you having fun
    are you making headway in life.
    When the answer to any of the 3 is no, time to re-evaluate.

    Having said that:
    I pay no attention to print media or broadcast news, local or regional. Their maddening rush toward the world of infotainment is repulsive. I check bbc news on line for a world view, cnn for a quick overview of multiple subject areas to see what I want to source elsewhere, the Post for “hometown” political news, and CHB for essential but grossly under-reported “alternative” news. Stuff that really matters that nobody else runs. Without your news page, I would feel very alone in a real but psychic (or is it psychotic) sense.

    I dabble in RR for the social interaction with others who are mostly interesting and challenging; as you note you have a great set of moderators who keep things (and me) pretty well in check. Nothing more ominous than happens around the family dinner table.

    And if there is time, I look at the blogs but I find that folks tend to use the blogs in much the same way as they use RR. It would not diminish much if it wasn’t there.

    So IMHO, if you need to cut back, do it on the blog side. You aren’t the only source there; we could live without the blog side of CHB. As one who remembers when you were very heavily involved in keeping the RR side of the house in order, I think your moderators do you outstanding justince there.

    Don’t know how we’d live without your news page(s). Though certainly one day we’ll find out.

  13. CheckerboardStrangler

    Doug, you and your family comes first. Do whatever it takes to keep that in perspective.

    CHB can function on many levels and to a fault there are members who can and will take up some of the slack.
    As to why this is still a volunteer operation in an age where there is money to be made by the bucketful I find myself wondering why you aren’t being rewarded for what has to be the BEST political site on the internet, my whiny twaddles notwithstanding of course.

    You should be raking in the dough from CHB.

    But all the bread in the world doesn’t matter if it’s killing you, or even making you depressed, so trim off what’s making you unhappiest. I sincerely hope that doesn’t spell out “kill it altogether” but if it does then at least we can all say we got to be a part of what was the greatest four percent of grandeur in a Theodore Sturgeon style ninety-six percent crap universe, and it was great while it lasted.

    Be well, be happy, be grateful as we are grateful to you, sir.

    And above all, be alive and aware that you DID create this and you were able to stop, look upon your creation and be satisfied with it for at least a few fleeting moments in the sun.

    It’s BEEN worth it, and I hope that you find something that makes it STILL worth it in the future.

    JeffH in Occupied TX

  14. Bluesman2007

    Your health has to be a paramount consideration both for you and your family. Sounds to me like it’s time for a long, quiet, restful cruise. Hey, you can always take a laptop along to keep tabs on what’s happening. But the rest will do you a world of good. Take care of yourself. You have more than enough able assistance here.

  15. Carl Nemo

    Maybe it’s not…

    It seems to me Doug that you have too many irons in the fire so-to-speak. So to protect your all important health and in order to be able to enjoy life to some degree it’s time to break out the old blueline and prioritize. List those pursuits that give you the greatest sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in one column and those that don’t or that have possibly outlived their usefulness in the other.

    Then buckup and either curtail activities that have become both tedious and choresome on a daily basis and continue with those that still give you some enjoyment. If you even feel CHB is too much then maybe you can sell the site to someone that meets your criteria for carrying the torch into the future; ie., an unbiased news forum that allows citizens to make responsible commentary concerning unfolding events.

    The blog concept is ok to a point, but overly enthused folks end up posting far too many blogbased topics on a daily basis not allowing others enough time to followup with any commentary. I’ve chosen not to create a blog because I have no personal axe to grind or agenda to push, so I feel I serve fellow participants better by trying to respond to as many posts as possible rather than letting their blog topics just flap in the breeze with no responders which is somewhat disconcerting to those that feel that have something to say. If the blogs are wearing you down because of your need to police them, then I say break out the “psychic crash axe” and chop that tentacle from the hull.

    When you simply opened up CHB to allow registered users to be able to comment on articles in the news, I thought that was quite generous and enough in itself.

    Concerning your ongoing fixation about hatred, all I can say it seems to be a time-honored state of mind for mankind throughout it’s history not always balanced or neutralized by love and understanding which always is in short supply. I’ll supply a link with over a hundred quotes from great minds throughout history concerning hatred. Maybe the quotes will help you get through your angst.

    “Hatred is the cowards revenge for being intimidated”…George Bernard Shaw

    Carl Nemo **==

  16. DejaVuAllOver

    Take care of yourself, first and foremost, Doug. The world will turn as it will without CHB, but I think I speak for everyone here in expressing my admiration for the great body of work you have cranked out. Whether that’s enough to continue, only you can rightly judge. May you be blessed, whatever you choose.

  17. Stratocaster

    Nothing is worth it when you are tired. Take a nap. Take a couple of naps. Knock the dust off. Take a shower. Put on some clean underware. Get a good meal. Take anouther nap. Then, when the question pops into your mind, what should I do now, do what you want. Enjoy your zzzz’s. Hope to see you soon big guy. You are one of few people on this earth that realize there are three sides to every story,your side, my side, and the truth. Take care.

  18. drcat

    Get some help Doug. I thoroughly enjoy your “rants” and I want you to stay healthy and enjoy life for a long time. Perhaps someone else can handle the other businesses while you take care of blue. You and this site are so important to many of us, don’t give up. Just rest and walk in the countryside and let some of the work go.

    Best wishes

  19. Sandra Price

    NYRob. I think we are all going through the frustration of seeing our world get chipped away by incompetents. We all share this frustration and we should be a team to check over our options. Doug brings in the best articles that describe what ails us and that sets off a number of people who agree with him and then come up with no options at all. I have my opinions of what is going haywire in America and I am challenged for those opinions. Some of my opinions are frank, honest and unless we make some changes in our homes and schools it won’t matter who is in the white house. I probably have more enemies than anyone you could mention because for some reason I see what is wrong.

    CHB is not unique in this respect and nobody wants to figure out why we are in such a pickle in our government, our schools and our homes. It is always the fault of the other party. I am old and cranky and wish that we could make the improvements that we see but we cannot agree on any of them.

  20. Flapsaddle

    I’m not sure if you are trying to rationalize pulling the plug on the blogs or trying to rationalize keeping them going. There is something of the “thousand meter stare” in your rant today; obviously you are being worn down physically, but perhaps emotionally as well. That being said, I’d like to offer a rationale for continuing the blogs: The sheer diversity of opinion offered in a concentrated dose.

    CHB is, as your banner says, the oldest political site on the web and one that is widely read even inside the Beltway – and you have a fiercely loyal band of both readers and scribblers. Even more important, you are not the part of the official media that acts as the advertising arm of whoever squats in the halls of power; your site maintains a cussed level of independence from the well-coiffed talking heads that natter night and day on the networks; you do not play favorites. You would appear to indeed try and exercise the mantra of your craft – to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

    I don’t know how smart you really are – that is really not important anyway – but you are very competent at what you do and you have given me no cause to doubt your honesty. And I do not agree with you much of the time. As I said elsewhere, I’ve seen things that you have written that tell me you can be as full of crap as the proverbial holiday turkey. You can be as shrill and strident and petty as the next guy on occasion, but you do not seem to be devoted to making that a lifestyle. But the really important thing to me is that you accept such a wide range of opinions from so many who obviously may not share your perspective – you are actually entitled to call your forum “nonpartisan” and make it believable. I do not agree with a few things that you do here, but – as you said in a blog yesterday – you own this “press” and the freedom to decide how it operates is your business and no one else’s. It is clearly understood by me that I am a guest who gets to post strictly at your sufferance, and if it ever becomes intolerable I’ll either walk or get booted for something I post.

    Your decision to allow all posters to become bloggers was a very good idea – whether or not it is without precedent I neither know nor care – that allows anyone with a hankering to editorialize to do so. Some others might not think it the smartest move in the world, but I’m confident that you have been told that over the years about this site and other things you have done. But, as Colonel Pickering reminded Professor Higgins about Eliza Doolittle, “You did it! You did it! Youuuuuuuuuuuuu…..DID IT!!”

    As you said, your regular columnists give you great support in terms of alternative perspectives, and the news-feeds keep this site current – but the problem is that they all represent polished writing by professionals. Varied somewhat, but still the product of the professional writer. It’s analogous to comparing Budweiser and Becks: Different beers with different perspectives, but each is still the product of a professional brewer. The blogs, however, are obviously not professional products.

    Now, the blogs here are like the home-brew from the guy who orders the beer kit from Field and Stream magazine or picks up one at Sam’s and decides to save a buck or two. The results are about what you would expect; some are not too bad at all, while others are so god-awful that you would not wish them on your worst enemy. They are still green and stinky, foaming and nauseous, with lumps of who-knows-what floating in them. But they are originals, absolutely unique in their perspective, and they may either be surprisingly drinkable or require immediate disposal down the toilet.

    That’s how the blogs here are: Originals, absolutely unique in their perspective, and unsullied by the professional touch; they can be fairly good, even great, but they can also be rank beyond belief. You have examples of people who have no idea of the difference between a fact and their opinion. You have people who have no concept of historical provenance and seem to believe that history and geography are what they say it is and nothing more. You have people who cannot pass a first-grade grammar-competency test. You have people who regard any criticism of their writing as blasphemy against holy writ. You have conspiracy freaks who think that everything everywhere and anywhere is a false-flag operation by you-know-who. You have misogyny and racism, both camouflaged and raw. You have people who have no idea how things work and you have people with no clue as to what our national charter is all about.

    But you also have people with profound yet elegant and uncomplicated insights into the world about them, people who can offer excellent analysis and even a reasonable solution. And that – for me, at least – is what the blogs are all about. Among all of that nauseous, revolting foam of as home-brewed opinion piece there is indeed the occasional exception, that intellectually satisfying quaff of opinion that makes it all worthwhile.

    That’s why I hope you can see your way clear to continue the blogs, because it should be obvious to all that the perspective from the point of view of the blogger – the opinion writer – is much different from that of the person limited to responding to the professional “brew”, no matter how varied and tasty it is.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  21. NYRob

    We really need you, Doug. CHB’s perspective is unique. And you are one trustworthy dude. I like the suggestion that you hand off the blog/posting editorial chore to some volunteers. These days, of course, volunteers can be anywhere, in any time zone. I hope you were just having one of those days when you were feeling nibbled to death by gnats. My former corporate jobs used to engage me that way. These days it’s my own gnats, and I ration them. Be of good cheer!