Scholars & Rogues turns five: thanks for joining us
On April 16, 2007, Scholars & Rogues went live, featuring a post by Gavin Chait (Unlearning helplessness: how donors reinforce poverty and dependency) and one by me on Joe Wilson’s speech at the Conference on World Affairs (where he said that Fred Thompson belonged to the “treason faction of the Republican Party”).
- We have published 5,099 posts (this makes an even 5,100).
- We’ve fielded 36,020 comments.
- As of 12:01 this morning we’d had 3,161,729 visits and 3,472,633 pageviews.
- Our most successful day ever, in terms of visitors, was 25 October 2008, when a post from the day before (FOX declares McCain campaign dead, consigns them to the racist scrap heap of history) spurred a 15,440 visit / 17,825 pageview day. Ironically, that post was authored by our house agitator, Dr. Sidicious Bonesparkle, a man known more for sparking bewilderment than traffic.
It did illustrate our undying commitment to fairness and objectivity, though, ending with these immortal lines: “We salute FOX News and look forward to eight more years of honest, good faith journalism from them.” No, seriously. Go read it.
- 2008 was easily our best year for traffic. This owes in large part to the energy we devoted to the election cycle.
- We were also, in 2008, credentialed to cover the Democratic National Convention in Denver. No fewer than nine S&R staffers were in the house the night of Obama’s acceptance speech.
- We launched a literary journal, featuring poetry, fiction and non-fiction.
- We’ve interviewed a number of people – some famous and some who aren’t but ought to be – including Matt Taibbi, one of the few people out there who truly merits the title of “journalist” these days; a couple of our rock star heroes, Graham Parker and Don Dixon; pioneering poli-blogger Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog; and comedian/activist Lee Camp, a man we’ve compared to George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce (parts 1 and 2). Lee now contributes his Moments of Clarity videos to S&R two or three times a week.
- In 2010 Mike Sheehan spearheaded a collaboration with some of the nation’s premier cartoonists on a tribute to the pride of Cleveland Heights, American Splendor creator Harvey Pekar.
- Our work has been linked at just about every significant online news/commentary site you can think of.
- Along the way, our masthead has always featured tributes to artists and writers and politicians and athletes and journalists and other luminaries who in some way contributed to improving the life of the culture. Mark Twain, whom you see at the top of the page right now, is our 50th “scrogue.” The first was George Gordon, Lord Byron. I encourage you to review this list of honorees. It features some exceptional writing, because none of us wants to bring our B game when we write about our heroes.
- And we’ve always had that same motto at the head of the page: Think. It ain’t illegal yet.” If you’ve wondered where it’s from but were afraid to Google, that’s another of our music heroes, funk legend George Clinton.
And on and on. The traffic numbers are no big deal, I suppose – lots of blogs cover that much ground by lunch every day. But we’re not lots of blogs. For one thing, we’re a relentlessly all-volunteer force, with an advertising structure that, in a good month, barely covers our hosting bills. Also, our mission emphasizes depth of analysis in ways that mean by the time we wade in a story may not be hot anymore. We favor quality over quantity and are just fine with the fact that the S&R brand isn’t, and never will be, much for mass market appeal.
We set out to be a political blog with a strong culturalist base, but in the aftermath of the elections we shifted gears a bit, and have since become…well, the semi-official line I tend to use these days (which you’ll see at our Facebook page) is “an online journal of progressive culture.” We still write about politics, but also music, and sports, and poetry, and arts and the environment and popular culture and media and journalism and international affairs and nuclear disarmament. You’ll find photography and videos and political cartoons. We sometimes write straight-up personal narrative and we take the occasional shot at humor. We tend to believe that most everything is ultimately political, and while we passionately believe in fighting for a better world, we understand the difference between battles, which can be over quickly, and wars, which can last generations.
Most of the core group of founders are still here – myself, Dr. Denny, Brian Angliss, Mike Sheehan, Gavin Chait and Jim Booth were in the building on day one. Some have moved on and we have added a variety of wonderful fellow travelers along the way – Russ Wellen, Lex, Wufnik, Otherwise, Wendy Redal, Cat White, Lisa Wright, Chris Mackowski, Terry Hargrove and the n00b, Frank Balsinger, are all members of the sacred initiates of the 32nd order insider cabal of dues-paying members, and we’re also fortunate to have a talented crowd of regular contributors pitching in, as well.
I don’t honestly know what everybody’s expectations were five years ago. Did any of us think we’d last five years? Did we think we’d be rich and famous by now? I have no idea. Mainly I was trying to figure out what to write next and once I did, how we might go about attracting an audience. And not just any audience. We didn’t want millions of readers, we wanted the smartest readers, thoughtful, intelligent folks who would value unconventional ways of looking at the issues of the day and who could populate the comment threads with equally insightful takes of their own, responses that would teach us all and enrich the life of the community.
Obviously that’s not how it always goes down, but I think I’m safe in saying that my fellow scrogues and I are awfully proud of what we’ve accomplished. We thank you for reading and sharing your time and energy with us, and with luck April 16, 2017 will find me back here reporting on even greater successes.
Maybe the world will even be more of that “better place” we all dream of.