Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fall of the Blogs

Two of Maryland’s most prominent blogs stopped publishing last week. We remember both of them today.

Free State Politics was a member of the first wave of left-wing political blogs in Maryland. Founded in March 2005 on Blogger, it was eventually taken over by contributor Isaac Smith and moved to a separate site. From the beginning, FSP was intended to be a community blog. Any reader could start an account and begin writing. If the content was really good, the blog’s moderators had the ability to promote it to the front page.

And the content was often a cut above. In addition to Isaac, the site featured MCEA Board Member Eric Luedtke, Annapolis blogger Paul Foer, Crablaw author Bruce Godfrey, the impish “Gilbert” from Takoma Park and the virulent “Lefty” from parts unknown. Through the fall of 2007, FSP was often the most-read political blog in the state. And it spawned a direct challenger: Red Maryland, a conservative multi-author blog with its own roster of dogged and occasionally deranged bloggers.

But on Wednesday, Isaac Smith posted this:

I've been doing this unofficially for a while now, so I might as well make it official: I'm putting this blog on hiatus for the foreseeable future. Free State Politics has been a labor of love for me for the last year and a half or so, but it's not something I can attend to with anything near the level of commitment it deserves. It was easier when it was a side project I was doing during grad school, but trying to fit in blog posts (and good ones, at that) with my current work situation -- i.e., underemployed and trying to find a better job in the midst of a world-historical recession -- just isn't feasible anymore. I want to thank my other co-bloggers, in particular Eric, Andy, OnBackground, and Bruce, for all their contributions, which usually were better than my own. Hopefully soon I (or someone else) can give this site a reboot; until then, enjoy Maryland Politics Watch, Lost on the Shore, and other Maryland political blogs out there.
Thanks for the news, views and fun, Isaac.

PolitickerMD ceased operations last Friday. As we wrote a year ago, PolitickerMD was started in late 2007 as part of a network of state political news sites owned by New Jersey real estate millionaire Jared Kushner. These sites looked like blogs, but actually functioned more like online MSM sites complete with paid staff.

According to Politico, the Politicker network is downsizing from seventeen states to six states. One of the lost states will be Maryland. Politico reports that the dropped sites will remain online but not be updated. Kushner is even leaving open the possibility that one or more of them might be revived if justified by financial considerations.

PolitickerMD had great potential but never lived up to it. On the positive side, it was truly a statewide site. Its reporters went into every corner of Maryland and reported on events from Annapolis power struggles down to town council elections. On the negative side, its stories rarely contained any perspective. Many of them were little more than short snippets, quick quotes or links to Post or Sun articles. But they did provide fodder for commentary by others.

And so not even the blogosphere is safe from the historic dislocations in the media that we are witnessing. For-profit sites are buffeted by the same economic forces that are battering print and television journalism. Amateur sites are plagued by the demands of time, work and real life that consume the rest of us.

Goodbye, FSP and PolitickerMD. We’ll miss you. But we also eagerly look forward to the next generation of Maryland blogdom.