When I started this blog, in my first week as a Mass Communications graduate student at San Jose State, it was called “Big Silver Robot,” it was hosted at Blogspot, and it was anonymous. That lasted for about a month.
Pretty quickly, I signed up for a free WordPress instance at Blogsome, where I enjoyed a bit more freedom to learn html and css by fiddling with the files in the WP admin. It was ryansholin.blogsome.com, and I’m pretty sure that was the point where I started calling it “Ryan Sholin’s J-School Blog.”
Straightforward enough, right?
Of the early posts I’ve preserved, the earliest in my archives, dated February 1, 2005, was about Steve Sloan’s visit to an undergrad-level journalism class I was taking, which I believe was called something along the lines of Internet Information Gathering. Steve talked about podcasting, and smiled when I mentioned I was subscribed to a few RSS feeds as Firefox live bookmarks. Wonkette was probably on my list, and PressThink, maybe Scripting News, and possibly Romenesko.
Nine days later I got Scobleized, and that pretty much changed everything.
By the end of the semester I was taking notes at online journalism panels and blogging them as fast as I could, and Chuck Olsen said that blogs were people (Soylent Green, style, though) and I got it.
That summer, my Web-savvy mom gave me ryansholin.com as a present, and I switched over to a hosted WordPress installation of my own, beginning a cycle of design, redesign, and play.
But mostly, there was a lot of blogging. A lot of ideas. A few kneejerk reactions. Some commentary on technology. Some hopes for the future.
When I was in journalism school, I blogged a lot about what I thought journalism schools should do.
When I worked for a newspaper, I blogged a lot about what I thought newspapers should do.
When I worked for a media company, dealing with hundreds of newspapers, I realized every single one of them was different, and trying to tell any of them what they should do was a Sisyphean task of very heavy-duty proportions, and moreso, a bit silly.
I learned to take everything I had picked up about the business of news and apply it in each given situation, instead of writing manifestos about What Newspapers Should Do.
But to rewind a bit, in the middle of 2007 when I worked at a newspaper, I wrote a blog post, slowly, over the course of a few weeks, and posted it at just the right moment on just the right day, and thousands of people read it.
10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head is still the most popular thing on this blog. It’s certainly possible (and probably, given the numbers in play) that one of the Sunday centerpieces I wrote for the Oakland Tribune and its sister papers in the Bay Area in the summer of 2006 was read by more people (the first few grafs, anyway). Likely, in fact. But it was extremely satisfying to see 10,000 page views on my blog post in a day.
Pointing out the obvious to an audience that might not have spotted it yet and then repeating myself over and over again has become, shall we say, my thing.
Occasionally this thought makes me flash back to a conversation with a political science professor who explained why he used so much repetition in his lectures. He said he kept bringing the important concepts up again and again, iterating his presentation of them, using different examples, drawing different diagrams, all in an effort to make sure everyone in the room who was going to understand it, understood it. He gauged reactions with eye contact and good questions, and if he saw too many blank stares, he’d push through the idea in yet another way, or come back to it next week, approaching it from a different angle.
For those of you keeping score, this blog has been instrumental in getting every full-time job I’ve had in the news business. You don’t get to act like someone who has ideas unless there’s some evidence of your ideas out there in the wild.
So as this blog turns five years old and starts asking for bigger and better toys when we go to the store, I must admit I have a few urges.
One is to take my old “Ryan Sholin on the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education” tagline and chop off the prepositional section so it’s just me talking about the future. Of anything. And everything. I’ll do it soon, but you know I’ll keep talking about news and newspapers and publishing and reporting.
The second is to redesign again. It’s been awhile, believe it or not. I’ll get around to it.
But mostly, I’m just going to keep pushing myself to write a bit more here, as per my New Year’s resolution.
Thanks for reading.