In April 2011, a friend called me with truly surprising news. "Are you okay?" he asked, as if I lay in a hospital bed. I told him I was fine and wondered why he sounded so worried. He asked if I was upset because a local Web site had written a story claiming I was a drug addict and that I was extorting a bribe of tens of thousands of dollars from a local politician.
That was my introduction to PoliticsNY.net. I had heard just a bit about the Web site and it's putrid purveyor, but I had never bothered to visit the page. Needless to say, I visited the site that day and was stunned at what I saw.
Within hours, a respected Albany media outlet called me to ask about my alleged drug habits and claw for cash. I discounted the blog post with the reporter, but she still ran with the story. I ended up answering questions about the blog post from Buffalo, Albany, New York City, and Washington.
In my business - international political campaigns - this kind of low rent rumormongering is commonplace. I've been called much worse in Moscow, Mongolia, Miami, and Manchester. But for the story to be repeated by reputable media? That was a first for me.
Nobody believed that I had a drug habit or that I had demanded cash from a politician. But I was shocked that real reporters with ethical boundaries were reading the pamphleteer behind PoliticsNY.net. It was an object lesson for me: in the new media, anything is news.
Fast-forward to 2012 and cancer sent the sleaze ball behind PoliticsNY.net to his maker earlier than he had hoped. Soon, rumors abounded about who would buy the Web site. No matter how much you hated the abusive rants on the site, there was still good political news there that people craved.
I thought: what if a partisan bought the Web site and intended to keep the same low standards as his predecessor? That was a disturbing idea - so I bought the URL from a domain name broker with every intention to put a stake in its heart and assure its demise.
That was the plan. Then, I checked the metrics: even though it was no longer publishing stories, thousands of people were checking the Web site every single day. Thirty percent of them checked it multiple times. I did the math and realized killing off PoliticsNY.net was a waste of income and influence potential. Clearly thousands of readers wanted a one-stop shop for political news - especially Western New Yorkers who find precious little political news from their own perspective.
I write about 15,000 words each week for clients, sometimes more. I thought: why not write a bit more for PoliticsNY.net and relaunch the Web site? Even better, I recruited a prolific Democrat blogger to help me shoulder the load and provide readers with a bipartisan perspective. (Politically, I am to the right of Genghis Kahn, except on the issue of poisoning one's own son. I'm against that.)
As Democrat Peter Herr and I thought through the new PoliticsNY.net, I realized the Web site must look better than the previous iteration, which looked like an eye-crossing backgammon board. So I hired a professional Web design firm to organize the Web site you have before you.
As a communications consultant and political commentator, I read an average of 42 articles a day. I know, because I counted them and averaged it up. I find these articles across the Web, in newspapers delivered to my door, in magazines in my mailbox. Starting at sunrise, I spend three hours every weekday reading. About 40 percent of that time I'm not reading, I am trying to find articles about the political issues that matter to me.
Surfing. Clicking. Googling. Binging. That's about 70 minutes of my day just searching - six hours each week. I might cut some of that short by visiting some reliable Web sites based in Albany, New York and Washington. But finding the political news that matters to a Western New Yorker has been manual drudgery.
That's why the BREAKING column is featured on the new PoliticsNY.net. Interested in politics and want the most important news? Visit PoliticsNY.net and you'll find I've sorted out the best stories from my morning routine and delivered them up in the left hand column of the Web site. I add to this list a few times a day and leave 3-4 days of stories posted at a time. Been on vacation and need to catch up? Read every article in the column.
The center FEATURES column is devoted to our original content - articles by me, Peter Herr and a few other regular contributors. Most of these contributors will post under a consistent nom de plume because they work in Erie County Hall, in Albany, in Washington, or other offices originating political primordial ooze. They are Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Independence Party members, and more. I won't agree with much of what they write, but I'll publish it to keep this place somewhat balanced and reliably lively. Want to join this growing team of raconteurs? Drop me an email!
The RUMOR & INNUENDO column will provide the gossipy content PoliticsNY.net always provided. Edited by old political hand Oscar Folsom, the column will be crowd sourced - good quality gossip gathered from "stringers" who sign up to provide regular R&I content. Interested in writing for R&I? Sign up as a stringer!
Finally, the GUEST COLUMNISTS section will feature regular articles by elected officials. We hope Congressmen, State Senators and Assemblymen, County elected officials, and more will take advantage of this unique opportunity. Want to inform the "grass tops" who read PoliticsNY.net? We will feature your column on a regular basis.
So, as we launch a new and improved PoliticsNY.net, I ask you to indulge our team as we work out the kinks and do our best to give you a better source for political news from a Western New York perspective. Thank you.
PS: Yes, I do take great pleasure in the fact that the previous owner once libeled the present owner. That's revenge, baby. La vendetta é un piatto che va servito freddo.