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May 17, 2007

One year, 804 posts, and 10,906 comments later ...

Posted by David Postman at 8:10 AM

Postman on Politics launched a year ago today. Before I could get my initial post up, Eli Sanders at the Stranger had announced the blog was coming and raised the first of many questions and doubts people would have about it.

Postman tells me his blog will be more analytical than opinionated, and that when his opinion enters into his posts, it won't be ideological. Here, I think, lies the biggest question about the Postman on Politics experiment: Given that most successful political blogs these days are highly ideological, do web surfers really want a non-ideological blog that covers politics from an "objective" perspective? We're going to find out.

When I got a chance to post my own welcome I said:

I'm certain whatever preconceived notions I have about blogging will change as I do this every day. I want to be as open with you as possible, tell you how I do my job as well as why I do things a certain way, admit mistakes and be open to constructive criticism. (My editors would tell you that doesn't sound like me.)

So how have I done? I will let you judge whether it has been interesting. I do want to say how much I've enjoyed blogging. The past year has been one of the toughest of my career but also one of the most exciting. I'm still new at this and still have lots to learn.

It's tough in part because blogging is so much more personal than writing newspaper stories. Criticism stings more, mistakes are left for all to see and by design readers are given an avenue to say whatever they want, and to do it under the cloak of anonymity.

I've had to learn not to take things too personally. But I also have enjoyed the chance to respond and even argue on occasion. I've learned, though, not to respond to everything -- whether it is something in the comments or something in another blog. Lately I've written a few posts and comments and held on to them until the urge passed.

By the numbers of people who read the blog everyday I would say I was right that there was a niche for an "objective" political blog. (I've learned "objective" always has to be in quotes because few people believe such a thing really exists.)

I also think I've been right to try to maintain a standard of civility in the comments thread -- or at least try to do that. I wish it were better. The ideal would be that the many readers who don't leave comments would at least want to read them. I can tell you that non-commenters can look at the comment threads like it's the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Nastiness is one thing. But what has been surprising is the level of what reads like anger. And it comes from all sides of the political spectrum.

But most often, the community aspect of the blog has worked and I appreciate all the regular readers, the corps of commenters and other bloggers who often provide a quick and thorough challenge to what I write.

Of the 804 posts that have come before this -- an average of about three every day of the working week -- there are some I wish I hadn't written, many I wish I had done a better job on and a few that stick out as what the blog should aspire to be.

One in particular I want to mention is from last June. It was about Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick's criticism of Sen. Maria Cantwell's record on fuel economy legislation. I titled my post

McGavick's shot at Cantwell falls short

I got started on it because of a post written by Darryl at Hominid Views, who had picked up on a brief item in the Yakima Herald-Republic. Darryl clearly opposed McGavick, but I thought he had some interesting and important things to say about what seemed to be an erroneous attack on Cantwell's record in that regard.

I added to his reporting, researched the Congressional Record to get more details on what Cantwell had actually done, and interviewed McGavick. What I posted built on what Darryl had written and added, I think, the sort of thing I can bring to the blog.

It was something that would have been far different if it were a newspaper story. The blog makes that sort of collaboration -- unwitting as it was on Darryl's part -- through links and attribution.

It goes back to something I know I've written about before but is important for me to remember. As a former editor told me, the truth does not necessarily sit half way between two lies. It's not enough to say one candidates say one thing and another says something different. There can be a truth to be discovered and what's when this job is its most rewarding.

One last note: The post that got the most traffic over the last year was the one I wrote about Newt Gingrich saying we were in World War III. It also has gotten the most comments. Since last July 15, 269 people have left comments, as recently as April 9.

So thank you all for reading and thanks for the questions, comments, criticism, occasional compliment, the conspiracy theories, the copy-editing, the links, and everything else.

Now to celebrate the anniversary of Postman on Politics I'm off to the dentist.

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