sad day on the LA Times blogosphere

today we say goodbye to Countdown to Crawford

Crawford was one of my favorite LAT blogs. not just because it was one of my first new blogs at the Times that blossomed into something far better than i ever imagined. not just because for a little while there was a blogger on Air Force One writing several times a day for the LA Times. but maybe because it was such a joy watching two seasoned journalists, Johanna Neuman and James Gerstenzang, take to blogging like they had been doing it all their lives.

at first Jim was concerned that he would have to spice up his posts with “spin” or “attitude” like our other political blog Top of the Ticket, but i assured him that not every blog needed humor or snark or sarcasm. i suggested that the Bush Administration was fascinating enough all by itself, that all he needed to do was tell us as much as he could about it. all this blog needed was a mirror, i said, not a circus mirror, but a clean one. they both played it straight, and once they got comfortable their sense of humor seeped through in a respectful way. it was perfect.

because of delays the first week (or was it two) was written primarily by Johanna because the launch was pushed back to right when Jim was to go on vacation. but even while he was on vacation he helped Johanna from the road. immediately they were a great team. two very different writing styles that proved that the idea of “voice”
was oftentimes overrated in terms of blogging, that indeed a good blog could be a duet or a chorus that could create a union a little different than the individual parts.

each month Crawford became more and more popular. always in the top 10 of our blogs (usually in the top 5), last month “the bush blog” attracted nearly 1 million pageviews, its all-time high. quite a testament to Jim and Johanna because think about October… all the news was about Sarah Palin and that black dude with a funny name. to be able to get almost 1 million pvs while covering an administration that noone was talking about, one that wasnt generating any news, is a damn miracle. keep in mind, they were able to blog multiple times a day, finding and posting photos, as well as moderating nearly 10,000 comments, all while maintaining their original responsibilities of filing different items for the newspaper.

i will miss working with Johanna and Jim a great deal, and we will all miss their terrific blog.

i must also thank two additional people for helping make this blog happen. the first credit should go to my boss Meredith Artley. she was the first person who i pitched the idea to. she has heard many blog pitches from me and many of them have gotten the thumbs down, rightfully. but when she heard this one she started brainstorming, she knew who should write it, and she knew who we should talk with to get it going. she believed in it immediately and without her support it wouldnt have happened.

the other person is National Editor Scott Kraft. when i went to Scott, a man i had never met before, i felt really uneasy because i didnt want to come across as disrespectful. i said, i liked the coverage that was often on the front page of the paper about the Bush Administration, but many of us news junkies wanted more. was there more? wasn’t it interesting that this group was flooring it as the clock ticked down whereas other administrations typically went on cruise control? arent there more stories than the one or two that hit the paper each day? could two or three people from the DC bureau write two or three posts and tell us some of the stuff that the paper would print if it had unlimited pages? thankfully Scott said, “im not sure, but lets see. lets try.”

so often people will say, “i dont see the possibilities, so, no.” Scott said, “i dont know whats there, but lets go for it anyways.” i have so much respect for that sort of attitude, and if Scott had said no it wouldn’t have happened. so major props to Mr. Kraft.

i only got to meet Jim and Johanna once. Johanna was out here during her summer vacation and Jim came to LA last month. both of them were blown away by their experience on Crawford. they both had the same wide-eyed thrill that you see from The Ticket’s andy malcolm. there is something about blogging that can energize veteran journalists in magical ways, and it was a total joy to see that in jim and johanna. i wish them both all the luck in the world.

please hold for the president

before the academy awardstony pierce?


tony, how are you, i dont think ive spoken with you for a while?

i’m doing pretty good, sir, i just got back from aruba.

aruba? where’s that, in the tropics?


sounds expensive.

it is. but the readers to my site all chipped in and got me out there.


yeah, then my brother in law flowed me with first class upgrades.

aruba. do they still have those little grass umbrella huts inches from the water, where theres enough room for two young lovers, one who looks hauntingly similar to anna kournikova, the other who looks remarkably unworthy. where the waiter asks you if you’d like anything to drink and you say yes a mai tai for the lady and liter of coke and a bottle of rum for me. and the sandpipers peck at a coconut tree, and theres music coming from the resort and you wonder, how on earth do i deserve this?

yes, they still have those huts.

because that’s funny because someone told me that you were saying bad things about me, and i said, i thought pierce just got back from “aruba”. i wouldnt think a guy who just got back from there would be running his mouth so soon after being treated to such luxury.

sir, nothing in here is true.

you didnt just call me a liar yesterday?

calling the president a liar goes all the way back to calling the king a liar. and no offense, but picking on you, mr. bush, is like throwing water balloons at the traffic, punching a woman, robbing a grave. it’s too easy, and completely unrewarding. why would any one want to do it?

because i’m not a liar.

come on, everybody lies. especially people who have to be in front of cameras and reporters all the time. it becomes flourishes in a new language. it’s accepted. it’s okay.

seriously, ask me anything.

have you ever seen an adult movie?

of course.

can you name a porn star?


name one.

kelly o’dell.

is that really one?


did you know about 9/11?


do you know about 9/11 now?


that’s funny.

we’re a great team, tony. but you have to be nice for it to work.


nixon and sammy davis did a lot for each other. sammy told nixon to sign the farm bill.

food stamps? really?

of course. not everyone is as bad as they appear. and some arent as good. do you lie, tony?



no, always telling the truth has its disadvantages. girls cry. feelings can be hurt. things are much more complicated. but im too lazy to lie. i barely remember the truth.

only reason i’d even make something up would be to make a cute girl in the corner smile when im trying to ask her to the fair.

at the oscarsi love fairs.

im sorry for the things i said, george bush.

do you have any idea how hard of a job i have?

you have all these smart people around you, though.

still, it’s like, hard.

hard? just say, pull me up the live feed of the spy satelitte north north west of kabul. and one in pakistan somewhere.

okay, first, youre talking out of your ass. second, dont you think channel k isnt on every monitor in the building. fuckers hiding. uv cameras, heat sensitive cams, one purple spot in a cave looks just like another. we might have blown him up on the first night of bombings and they took away his body. he could be anywhere. you dont think that frustrates me. dont you think i see the irony of once owning the texas rangers, who are also big time losers despite having money, a new stadium, the best catcher and the mvp in the league and still finishing last place. dont you think i know that im the sherrif in town and i have a wanted man who i cant find?

once again, im sorry sir.

dont you think when i look at the new york skyline, i dont feel completely responsible?

well, you shouldnt. dont be so hard on yourself.

please just leave alone on this. i’ll give you money.

i cant take your money.

i’ll get you a pretty girlfriend.

im surrounded by pretty girls.

yeah, where do you think they came from?


ehnnn, guess again.

i dont want any of those ill gotten girls. im getting old. i think im ready for true love now, please.

well i cant help you there.

ok, help get tsar to play for my birthday then.

only if you promise not to start selling the “bush knew” tshirts.

thats so funny you say that because i was thinking about selling tshirts. simple white ones that said “busblog”.

thats a great idea, i’d buy one.

i’d like to sell 100,000 of them.

thats why i like you, tony. you’re not afraid to dream big.

i dont think conservatives would buy one though.

sure we would. it would be a symbol of this truce we’re making today. like the rainbow that symbolized the new covenant struck between the lord and mankind after the flood.

twenty bucks. free shipping. made by pink cookies dot com. payments by paypal.

thing is, tony, i dont think liberals would buy one. they would be upset that youre easy on me.

all liberals are easy on you. we have absolutely no expectations from you. how could you disappoint us?

the libertarians would buy one.

ive never met more libertarians in my life than before blogging.

fine, two large ones then, and mark down that two were bought by a republican. that way we can keep track of who’s more generous to the plight of a young black american independent writer, conservatives or liberals.

ok, thats dumb.

who cares? i think it would be fun. and i think people would have fun with it.

okay whatever.

thanks. have a good weekend, tony.

aloha, mr. president.