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It’s our 12th birthday and we’re having a party

By Doug Thompson
October 1, 2006

Saturday morning, October 1, 1994: With a cup of coffee in hand I sat down at my computer in the den of our condo in Arlington, Virginia, and logged on to the Internet to check my email.

A message from my Internet Services Provider, Heller Information Services, caught my eye: An offer of 5mb of free space for a web site.

I checked it out. With a few keystrokes, I created a basic, no-frills web page with the URL: www.his.com/~dougthompson and, viola, had a web site.  I wrote about 500 words of commentary about the upcoming midterm Congressional elections, called it "Capitol Hill Blue," and sent out emails to some 50 people asking them to take a look.

Thus Capitol Hill Blue was born as a weekly raving from a journalist-turned-political operative in the midst of turning back to journalism.  I had, for the past several months, been writing an occasional commentary on Compuserve, one of the original consumer-based on-line services that predated the Internet, but that Saturday morning in my den marked the beginning of this enterprise that has dominated so much of my life for the past 12 years.

In October of 1994, online political news sites didn’t exist. The Raleigh News & Observer had a site called NandoNet but that was pretty much it. The Washington Post was experimenting with a computer-based site that didn’t use the ‘Net. Online services like CompuServe, Prodigy and America On-Line offered wire service stories through their proprietary interfaces.

In 1994, Matt Drudge sold t-shirts in the CBS gift shop. Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga was a student at Northern Illinois University. The Hotline, a popular daily political tip sheet, was produced on a handful of personal computers in an attic in Falls Church, Virginia, printed at a local copy shop and distributed by messenger.

I didn’t see Blue as any kind of pioneer in web-based journalism. I was just a former reporter trying to find a way back into writing about current events on a regular basis.

Each Saturday morning, I would sit in my den and churn out a new edition of Blue, each larger than the previous week’s output, each containing more features. Within two months, my email list had grown to several hundred names and Blue had outgrown its free web space with my ISP. By that time, I had leased web space for a business enterprise so I made Blue a subdirectory on it. By the end of 1994, Blue was getting 25,000 hits a day. We also had an online forum called ReaderRant, staffed by dedicated volunteers.

We continued to grow in 1995 as some journalist friends offered to contribute stories. Like other volunteers they did so without pay.  Our traffic grew and computer publications began to write about the site. PC World called us a "fresh new idea in web-based news." Lycos named us to the web’s "Top 5 percent" listing. On January 1, 1996, Blue went from weekly to daily publication. I would get up at 4 each morning, edit submissions from others, and write summaries of the day’s news. I also began writing a three-times-a-week column called "The Rant."

In 1996, we gained attention for our aggressive coverage of the Presidential and Congressional elections. The Washington Post featured Blue in a story about DC-based web sites and later in a magazine supplement called "Fast Forward" and called us a "must-read" in political circles. CNET featured us on their syndicated TV show. Our web traffic topped 25,000 visitors and 100,000 hits a day. I registered capitolhillblue.com as a domain name in January 1997 and moved the site to its own servers.

Traffic and attention declined a bit in 1997 but took off again in 1998 with the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal. Our tough coverage of the White House brought the wrath of liberals who called Blue a "right-wing scandal sheet," even though we routinely questioned the actions of the Republican-controlled Congress.  Felicity Barringer of The New Work Times wrote that Blue has become "an early warning system" that mainstream media sources checked for "developing news stories."

At the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, Blue logged more than 10 million hits a day from more than 100,000 visitors. We had offers every month from larger outfits that wanted to buy our little web site. I sold it but took the site back after the new owners failed to meet a clause in the contract. I tried walking away from the site several times but always came back.

In 2000, when other actual "right-wing" sites trumpeted the candidacy of George W. Bush, we asked critical questions about his qualifications and his avoidance of service in Vietnam. Conservatives accused of "selling out." That was fine with us. A city editor I once worked for taught me that "if you piss off both sides you’re doing your job."

After Bush’s election, we continued to scrutinize his actions. After 9/11, we questioned his motives and rationale for pointing the finger of blame at Iraq. Others called us "unpatriotic’ for raising the issue. I wish now we had done so even more.

As I look back over the past 12 years and more than 25,000 stories and columns, I can think of many times to be proud, including:

We’re outlived many other sites. NandoNet is gone. So is Politics USA, which came along after us, along with a number of other political news sites. Other latecomers to the scene have larger audiences and pander to specific political points of view. Today, Capitol Hill Blue is read by some 600,000 people every month. But we would continue publishing if only 600 dropped by.

The right-wingers don’t trust us because they think Blue sold them out by not embracing Bush and the GOP takeover of Congress. The left-wing remembers our scathing coverage of Clinton and wont’ forgive us for that.

We’ve made some mistakes along the way. We’re human. You can’t write as much as we have and not screw up. When we do we try to acknowledge it and move forward.

With luck and hard work, we learn from those mistakes and the result is a better effort.
Blue is not a business. Never has been, never will be. This web site is, and always will be, a labor of love. Nobody here draws a salary. Like most news web sites, Blue does not make money. I make up the difference out of personal resources.

We do this because we want to and we will continue to do it as long as the passion remains.  That passion is what we celebrate on this day – our 12th birthday.

34 Responses to It’s our 12th birthday and we’re having a party

  1. Kaine

    October 1, 2006 at 7:22 pm

    Happy Birthday Capital Hill Blue. Your doing great so far. I hope it will continue for a long time to come.

  2. Garry Puffer

    October 1, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    Wow. 12 years. I don’t know how you manage to do it, but I’m glad you do. You’re one of my daily “newspapers,” and I enjoy your site even when you’re wrong (see 9/11 opinions). Congratulations and happy birthday, Blue.

  3. Jeffery Haas

    October 1, 2006 at 8:21 pm

    I turn to CHB first and I will continue to make it my first stop for information as long as it is available.
    CHB has reinvigorated my belief in the town square.
    I’m proud to be a small part of this. Many thanks, Doug.

  4. Jay Green

    October 1, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    Doug,

    If the so-called main stream news media today were half as honest in reporting the real stories that impact our world as you guys at Blue we would not be in the terrible mess that we find ourselves.

    Happy birthday to you, from one born and raised southwestern (Franklin County) Virginian to another. Keep up the good work, and as my old military unit motto expressed: “non illegitimus carborundum.”

  5. JP

    October 1, 2006 at 8:52 pm

    Happy Birthday Blue. Keep hammerin on the traitors we call our government, on both sides of the aisle.

  6. OldFart

    October 1, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    Happy Birthday CHB.

    Thanks.

  7. carol

    October 1, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Happy Birthday Doug to CHB, and please don’t you stop writing.

    I live in a small town in MO where, at this point, most of the people are still flag waving, Bush supporters. What a breath of fresh air to come here and get more open honest writing, views, and even debate, as opposed to the spoon fed crap I see on the mainstream corporate whore news.

  8. John

    October 2, 2006 at 12:18 am

    Happy Birthday and keep it up. There aren’t that many sights where you know you are reading the truth, yours is one. Thanks

  9. Kent Shaw

    October 2, 2006 at 1:00 am

    GO BLUE! GO BLUE!

  10. Susan the Neon Nurse

    October 2, 2006 at 2:25 am

    Hope you keep up the good work for another 12–or more!

  11. Larabelle

    October 2, 2006 at 2:40 am

    Wow, only 12? and I was going to send you some suggestive IM’s and emails! But I’M no pedophile!

  12. South Point Man

    October 2, 2006 at 3:09 am

    Nothing like that sweet, sweet pleasure of being the fly in the ointment of evilness and its insanity and corruption.

  13. Miss Grace

    October 2, 2006 at 5:52 am

    Doug

    Happy Birthday!

    Long may you comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

  14. Ron DeYoung

    October 2, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    Doug, I’v only been at it a year and often get weary and wonder how I’ll keep going. Then I take a look at the Rant and am reminded if it were easy to attack the corruption, everyone would do it, thereby ending it all. And I think it would be great if there was no need for us to do what we do. You continue to be an inspiration and a catalyst for change. Thank you and happy birthday!

  15. Robert Chinook

    October 2, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    From the bottom of my heart, Thank You Sir!

    Robert

  16. David S.

    October 3, 2006 at 4:14 am

    Happy Birthday CHB!!
    Even when I think you or your co-horts have gone just a liiiitttle bit out of line with a story, I still say you’re better than most of the other news outlets and I wouldn’t have it ANY OTHER WAY!!! (BTW, I still think you were right to publish the articles on the Commander-in-Least’s “condition” back when you did. I trusted you then, I trust you now) Thanks for everything, Doug!

  17. Rosie

    October 3, 2006 at 6:23 am

    Like many Utahns, I start my day without coffee. But unlike most of my neighbors, I can’t face the day without Doug. Must have proof through the night that the Blue is still there.

  18. Mike Nelson

    October 3, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    Happy Anniversary, Doug! Keep pissing off both sides.

  19. John Hyatt

    October 6, 2006 at 6:44 am

    Dear Doug,
    Glad to hear you sounding so chipper.
    Go get ‘um

  20. eidelwise

    October 8, 2006 at 6:56 am

    Happy Birthday and right on, Doug & Co.!! First time I’ve posted here, but I’ve had many fond moments browsing this great, independednt, important, and …juicy site! LOL, I’m a Dem-leaning indie, and I love to see anyone exercising intellectual honesty!! You guys rock!

  21. Bob Arnold

    October 8, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    Happy Birthday. I have been reading Blue for a number of years. I read until I get sick of it—not the writing but the creeps you write about. I write a weekly column but not expose’. It doesn’t seem to make much difference as the crap seems to get worse each year. Keep it up. It might help somehow.

  22. Helen L. McShane

    October 8, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    YOUR COLUMNS ARE GREAT–HAVE A PROBLEMS WITH MICROSOFT OR OUR SERVER WILL NOT FORWARD OF INTEREST YOU WRITE TO MY FRIENDSSOUNDS LIKE GOVERNMENT RULING—-

  23. Helen L. McShane

    October 8, 2006 at 8:40 pm

    MY FIRST COMMENT TO YOU —YOU POST TO ME TOO MANY COMMENTS FROM ME-NEVER BEFOREYOUR COLUMNS ARE GREAT–HAVE A PROBLEMS WITH MICROSOFT OR OUR SERVER WILL NOT FORWARD OF INTEREST YOU WRITE TO MY FRIENDSSOUNDS LIKE GOVERNMENT RULING—-

  24. Roddy

    October 9, 2006 at 9:48 am

    http://www.rense.com/general73/hast.htm

    Hastert covered up Foley because Hastert is also gay.

  25. nikelir

    October 13, 2006 at 5:20 pm

  26. David Williams

    October 1, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Happy birthday Doug and Capitol Hill Blue,long may you wave.You are a must read every morning.Never give in to the powers that be,never stop ranting.Thank you so much for what you and all your staff do.Hopefully,you’ll have another 12 years,though with W in charge,who knows. David Williams in NC

  27. meowomon

    October 1, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    Happiest of birthdays to you and your rant! Keep it coming because there is sooo much to rant about in Washington these days.

  28. Ray

    October 1, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Congrats Doug

    Where else can one find truth in the news these days? Nowhere. Stay the course as this country needs truth more than ever.

    Ray

  29. Sandy Price

    October 1, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Happy Birthday Doug. You have indeed outlasted many other political sites. In 1996 I was watching CSPAN and saw Scott Hogenson of Conservative News Service announce the opening of his discussion forum and I jotted down the URL and before Scott was off the air, I had joined up. Months later I began to ask around for other forums that promised both sides of the aisle and somebody sent me your URL.

    The exposure to both forums showed me the dangers of the religious right and what they wanted in the way of a Republican President. I went into a coma of shock as I was a Goldwater Republican our our mantra was for a limited government.

    I learned the true nature of the GOP at both of these sites and realized I could not support the GOP any more. I thank you for opening my eyes and have been a Libertarian ever since. I do tend to slip into a dream world of another Goldwater type of candidate but soon slip back into the LP.

    I think all interested politicos should get on a couple of discussion forums to fully understand how the American public wants no responsibility but plenty of welfare handouts.

    I hope your health is 100% because you are still the best non-partisan site on the ‘net.

  30. Teresa

    October 1, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    Happy Birthday, CapitolHillBlue, and thank you, Doug, from the bottom of my Libertarian heart. Your site is a must read in my morning routine. Your humble ability to tell the truth, even when it’s against yourself, is so refreshing. Keep up the good work.

  31. LizB

    October 1, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    Happy Birthday, Blue! Thanks, Doug, for binging us political commentary that make sense. I visit the site a few times a day, and I bolster posts I make on a Sarasota online forum with links to CHB articles. Thanks for the ammunition, you help me keep the zealots from both sides on their toes!

  32. scroff

    October 1, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Happy Birthday from the “far left”. I have been reading Blue for a bit over two years now and have found a voice of sanity in your pages. While I don’t always agree with what is written here, I can always expect a well reasoned argument for the points of view expressed.

    Thanks and Happy Birthday!

  33. Rich

    October 1, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    If it drops to 600, I’ll be one of them.
    Good job, thank You, keep it up!

  34. PETER

    October 1, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    congratulations, Doug I am surprised you still have the stomach to do this.
    BTW Hal Turner (i know) says he has info about a false flag op to start the Iran phase of the war to subjigate the brown people(hint sinking a aging nuke warship)
    it may be bullshit but lets get it out there and take away one of the neocons potential ruses.