Yes it’s true. The Providence Daily Dose is celebrating ten years of uninterrupted operation! Ten years of art, music, progressive politics, and anything else we found interesting. (For those wishing to honor our efforts with gifts — the 10th anniversary is tin or aluminum.)
I recently called a meeting of the founding fathers for a celebration. Seen here, left to right, are Dave Segal, Tim Blankenship, and Eric Smith. We met for beers at the E&O Tap on Knight Street which happens to be where Dave and Eric first dreamed up the idea of starting a local blog. (We should put up a plaque.)
Back in December of 2007 these ambitious young men threw a holiday launch party at Local 121 — the Dose had been up since September — and the Providence Journal considered it newsworthy enough to send a reporter and photographer to cover the event. This was only ten years ago and yet, the ProJo headline writer seemed completely unfamiliar with the url format and protocols we all now have tattooed on our brains, coming up with the strange-looking header, “wel.com.to.our.blog.”
[Side note: I would link to the article but the ProJo archival feature doesn’t go back that far.]
In the beginning: To start, Dave had recruited a sizeable crew of twenty-somethings to create content; he was a state rep by this time and had a wide network of friends who had worked on his campaigns. Eric was hooked into the local music scene as a DJ, and as a guitarist with his band Cold War, and he was anxious to write up the local scene. Dave also recruited Tim, a high school friend from Maryland, who knew how to design, launch, and host a blog.
Among our early contributors: Matthew Lawrence, lover of libraries and host of the annual spelling bee. Matthew had writing and publishing ambitions of his own and has since launched his gay art magazine Headmaster and the Law & Order Party website. John Taraborelli (Johnny Tabs) came on as a self-styled ombudsman with his hilarious ‘Malcontent’ column, and soon had moved on to whip Providence Monthly into shape. He is currently an organizer of Pecha Kucha.
Will Emmons is now an attorney with the Kentucky Workers League.
Ariel Werner and Ari Savitzsky, who met at Brown, moved to New York City where they also became attorneys, married, and had a baby.
Dave invited me on board in 2008 — he knew me from Scrabble at Julian’s and I worked on his campaigns — and blogging turned out to be a pretty good fit for me. Turns out I have lots of opinions. And I like barging around town forcing myself on interesting people and making them like me. I have met musicians and artists and activists and bar owners and all sorts of great people.
So, as the initial cohort aged out and moved away, I became the primary contributor. That in a nutshell is the problem with a blog full of bright young contributors — they start having jobs and families. Not to mention that new platforms have emerged and there are now many more efficient ways of finding out where the party is.
Most popular posts: In the beginning we had a regular feature, “The Jersey Girls,” an advice column written primarily by our provocative and wise sexpert, Shara Spelkoman (she is seen in the ProJo group shot in the leopard skin). These posts blew all others out of the water, so I started making occasional references to tits and dildos in my own pieces . . . didn’t help.
In January of 2008 Ariel Werner wrote “An Open Letter to Gloria Steinem” which went whatever-we-used-to-call-viral. That post was widely shared. Then Tim’s dog Bean went missing and I had to write that up. We do not normally handle missing pets, because where would it end, but this was Tim’s dog. Bean was finally found and returned back home.
Another popular post was about the “Good Night Lights” at the Hot Club. Every Wednesday night the neon Hot Club sign is flashed to the kids across the river in Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and then the kids flash back. Check it out some night. (Disclosure: Hot Club owner, Senator Josh Miller, is a Dose favorite. He and I have been working on marijuana reform for years.)
Nostalgia has been big: Posts about Dan Gosch’s famous mural at Leo’s and the closing of Lupo’s were widely shared.
Weirdness: For a brief time a few years back, we were getting hacked by pranksters in Poland. Our front page would open onto a mass of what I assume was Polish text. Tim was always able to go in and straighten things out, but what the hell?
Things we have outlasted: The Safari Lounge, Aurora, Lupo’s, Benny’s, the Decatur Lounge, Local 121, the Map Center, and even the New York blog, the Gothamist, mentioned in the ProJo article.
Our Snowden moment: Since our very first post on September 5, 2007 (when Dave wrote up a Jobs with Justice fundraiser, natch) we have published 10,597 items. Of all those posts, only one has ever suddenly evaporated into the ether: On May 6, 2013, I wrote about the Frontline show “Top Secret America” and the enthusiasm our own state police were showing for expanding the surveillance state. That post simply disappeared. The next day I wrote up that disturbing event, “But Are We Any Safer, Redux,” and that post is still there.
One last thing — I love these guys!
First there is Tim who has worked for WaterFire for as long as I’ve known him, now as interactive media manager. Tim has been so patient with me — and all the other contributors to whom he had to teach WordPress. I am always writing to him in a panic when I think something is screwy. And not only is he a tech ninja, but he has excellent design skills. Without Tim . . . well I can’t even think about that.
Eric moved on from the Dose, writing music reviews for Providence Monthly and the Agenda, but not before creating an excellent style guide for Dose contributors. I was shocked when I first came on board to find that someone cared about such things. And I have agreed with all his choices. We still use all caps in the headers — that was Eric. With Tim’s design and Eric’s style guidelines, the Dose looked really great from the beginning. These days Eric works at Avatar, in Cranston, where he coordinates a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. Eric can also be found working at Bayberry Beer Hall, the E&O Tap, and Nolan’s Pub.
Dave Segal has maintained a more public profile due to his political activism. Following four years in the R.I. legislature, he made a very credible run at the congressional seat held by David Cicilline. After that he switched gears and formed Demand Progress, a progressive advocacy group that has garnered national attention in the SOPA and net neutrality fights. So while Dave no longer has time for contributing to the Dose, I think he is a regular reader. And he is one of my favorite people.
So there you have it — that’s our first ten years in a nutshell. We are so grateful for our readers and commenters, and I have never forgotten those local business owners who advertised with us in those early years. I have no idea what the future bodes. That damn net neutrality thing looms ominously.
I will leave you with one of Tim’s comments from that ProJo article, discussing how quickly their original blog idea became a reality.
“The longest part was picking a name—after that it was like a week. ‘Providence is alright’ was the big competitor.”
Well, I like our name just fine, but Providence really is alright.
When we first started out ten years ago, there was no such thing as a selfie.