sad day on the LA Times blogosphere

today we say goodbye to Countdown to Crawford

Crawford was one of my favorite LAT blogs. not just because it was one of my first new blogs at the Times that blossomed into something far better than i ever imagined. not just because for a little while there was a blogger on Air Force One writing several times a day for the LA Times. but maybe because it was such a joy watching two seasoned journalists, Johanna Neuman and James Gerstenzang, take to blogging like they had been doing it all their lives.

at first Jim was concerned that he would have to spice up his posts with “spin” or “attitude” like our other political blog Top of the Ticket, but i assured him that not every blog needed humor or snark or sarcasm. i suggested that the Bush Administration was fascinating enough all by itself, that all he needed to do was tell us as much as he could about it. all this blog needed was a mirror, i said, not a circus mirror, but a clean one. they both played it straight, and once they got comfortable their sense of humor seeped through in a respectful way. it was perfect.

because of delays the first week (or was it two) was written primarily by Johanna because the launch was pushed back to right when Jim was to go on vacation. but even while he was on vacation he helped Johanna from the road. immediately they were a great team. two very different writing styles that proved that the idea of “voice”
was oftentimes overrated in terms of blogging, that indeed a good blog could be a duet or a chorus that could create a union a little different than the individual parts.

each month Crawford became more and more popular. always in the top 10 of our blogs (usually in the top 5), last month “the bush blog” attracted nearly 1 million pageviews, its all-time high. quite a testament to Jim and Johanna because think about October… all the news was about Sarah Palin and that black dude with a funny name. to be able to get almost 1 million pvs while covering an administration that noone was talking about, one that wasnt generating any news, is a damn miracle. keep in mind, they were able to blog multiple times a day, finding and posting photos, as well as moderating nearly 10,000 comments, all while maintaining their original responsibilities of filing different items for the newspaper.

i will miss working with Johanna and Jim a great deal, and we will all miss their terrific blog.

i must also thank two additional people for helping make this blog happen. the first credit should go to my boss Meredith Artley. she was the first person who i pitched the idea to. she has heard many blog pitches from me and many of them have gotten the thumbs down, rightfully. but when she heard this one she started brainstorming, she knew who should write it, and she knew who we should talk with to get it going. she believed in it immediately and without her support it wouldnt have happened.

the other person is National Editor Scott Kraft. when i went to Scott, a man i had never met before, i felt really uneasy because i didnt want to come across as disrespectful. i said, i liked the coverage that was often on the front page of the paper about the Bush Administration, but many of us news junkies wanted more. was there more? wasn’t it interesting that this group was flooring it as the clock ticked down whereas other administrations typically went on cruise control? arent there more stories than the one or two that hit the paper each day? could two or three people from the DC bureau write two or three posts and tell us some of the stuff that the paper would print if it had unlimited pages? thankfully Scott said, “im not sure, but lets see. lets try.”

so often people will say, “i dont see the possibilities, so, no.” Scott said, “i dont know whats there, but lets go for it anyways.” i have so much respect for that sort of attitude, and if Scott had said no it wouldn’t have happened. so major props to Mr. Kraft.

i only got to meet Jim and Johanna once. Johanna was out here during her summer vacation and Jim came to LA last month. both of them were blown away by their experience on Crawford. they both had the same wide-eyed thrill that you see from The Ticket’s andy malcolm. there is something about blogging that can energize veteran journalists in magical ways, and it was a total joy to see that in jim and johanna. i wish them both all the luck in the world.