Saturday, December 29, 2007

Steve Gilliard, Jr.: 1964-2007

Matt Bai has an appreciation in the New York Times Magazine section about Steve Gilliard, Jr., the much-loved and admired political blogger who died earlier this year:

Steve Gilliard was born into this Harlem and took it all in, but he wouldn’t find his voice on the corners. He was quiet, bookish, overweight. He won entrance to an elite high school, where he passed his time reading obscure military histories, then studied history and journalism at New York University. He found his true calling, though, on the Internet. In 1998, when he was 34, Gilliard joined a new site called, whose blogger-reporters chronicled the misadventures of the new high-tech work force, and there he discovered his own kind of incendiary oration. It was by the dim light of a computer screen, rather than on the sunlit corners of Harlem, that Gilliard took to expertly excoriating the moneyed establishment.

By 2003, Gilliard had become one of the first official “guest bloggers” on Daily Kos, then on its way to becoming the most influential of the new liberal political blogs, where he informed his indictments of the Iraq war with detailed references to the British occupation of Mesopotamia. Eventually he created his own site — “Steve was a big personality, and it was clear he needed his own stage,” Daily Kos’s creator, Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, later wrote — and became one of a small group of early political bloggers with his own devoted following (and a self-sustaining, if modest, income from ads). On Gilliard’s “News Blog,” along with the partisan attacks on Republicans that made him a hated figure on the conservative blogs, he specialized in applying history to the present day, which made him an unusual and distinctive voice. In 2004, he banged out a remarkable 37-part series, the equivalent of about 200 typed pages, chronicling the foibles of European colonialism.

Bai's piece is short and well-worth reading in full. Even more remarkable, though, is the blog post that led me to Bai, by Jesse Wendel:
God, I miss Gilly.

Every day, every week.

There's a tendency to put the dead up on pedestals. It isn't like that.

I'll be writing an article, reading a comment, talking to Hubris, Sara, LM or Jen... and suddenly Gilly is there, so real, so present, so alive.

He always knew what to say, what to post, and his writing came from his heart.

Jen told me earlier this month I'd written something which was the most Gilly-like thing I'd ever done, that she could hear his voice... and I burst into tears. Couldn't stop crying for almost ten minutes.

He guides us every day. We write, because he gave us space on The News Blog to grow and develop. In our talking with him, what of ours he posted or didn't, he taught us all editorial judgment.

Now The New York Times has recognized the worth of this good man, with an article in the Sunday Times Magazine in "The Lives They Lived" series. I encourage you to go read the entire article.

I did not have the privilege of knowing Steve Gilliard, Jr., personally, or even of being familiar with his blog. That is my loss. But through pieces like Jesse's, I can get a sense of the kind of person and writer he was, and his work and life can continue to inspire. That is a kind of immortality, and I hope that the many bloggers and other friends and relatives for whom Steve's death is a deeply personal loss can take comfort from that.

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