It was exactly one year ago today. With nothing new to write about, it was a perfect opportunity to take stock and look back at my first year of blogging.
But despite some initial reservations about establishing this website, 2006 marked a new, exciting beginning for me as a writer. For the first time, I had a regular forum. Plus, because it’s a one-man operation, there was never any possibility of having your work severely cut by an editor or even rejected for consideration. Very quickly, I came to appreciate the extraordinary amount of freedom I possess with regards to pulling together content. You can get your points across with as many or as few words as possible. Furthermore, with no built-in fanbase breathlessly anticipating entries, you can make your mistakes without attracting too much attention. (Although I do appreciate it when they’re pointed out to me. I’ve always hated screwing up and continue to try to maintain a consistent level of accuracy here.)
By the end of last year, this website accumulated over 3200 page views. Not spectacular. As of this writing, however, the overall total is almost 14000. When you do the math, you realize that The Writings Of Dennis Earl has had three times as many viewings in 2007 compared to last year. It’s still not overwhemlingly good when you think of the hits more prominent sites like The Huffington Post
and Media Matters For America
receive on a daily basis (we’re talking millions) but it’s encouraging nonetheless to see this website slowly grow an audience.
How did this happen? Well, it all began when I started focusing on Sun Media and Sun TV. After naming the former as a Loser Of The Year last December, the entry was picked up by a new blogger named Fading To Black
. After sending an appreciative email, we started corresponding on a fairly regular basis. Follow-up pieces were also noted by that site. Another new blog, The Toronto Sun Family
, which launched around the same time as FTB, would also make note of some of my entries. Over time, I was generating between 200 and 400 hits a week. It was understood that most of my readers were professional media people.
And then I heard from Bill Brioux.
In January, he was one of a dozen Toronto Sun staffers let go by the heartless Quebecor. It was very upsetting to me personally because he was one of the remaining reasons why I kept reading the print version of the paper. (These days, I stick to the website.) You didn’t always agree with his assessments but his sense of humour and his obvious skills as a TV critic kept you reading. Unlike some of the tabloid’s political columnists and its Editorial Board, you didn’t mistrust him. You always felt he was giving it to you straight. (As noted before, he now writes a weekly column for The Canadian Press and you can check out his new blog here
At any event, after complaining about his unfair dismissal and writing about his final Sun column, he sent me an email. It was so good it had to be posted. His comments were picked up by five different blogs and of all the 289 pieces posted on this site so far, it remains the most popular. Many times, I’ve checked my page view statistics and noticed that yet another person has accessed the permanent link to the original article. It’s not certain how many have actually read it but it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that it’s been checked out at least a hundred times, give or take a few. Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias told me in an email at the time, "…this post is sure making the rounds!". Nearly a year after it was published here, it’s still being read.
Shortly thereafter, I heard from Bill’s old pal and former Sun colleague, Jim Slotek. He pretty much took me and Bill to task over our views on the situation at the Toronto tabloid. He didn’t seem terribly pleased that I published his email, either, when he wrote me a second message. But it was another breakthrough. Something I wrote got a professional writer so fired up they had to get in touch with me and question my viewpoint. In the end, Jim thanked me for supporting the Sun staffers and recently wrote me a nice message about an article I wrote about Bill’s new book and blog. I praised his column on global warming back in March.
The other piece that caught the attention of readers this year was TV Ad-Scam, a rejected Hamilton Spectator article from 2005. It’s popped up in many Google searches throughout the year and, like Bill Brioux Responds, has been accessed here directly quite a few times. (It helps that both articles are always on the first page of each search, no matter the phrasing.) One site, which collected a number of articles about this duplicious Television Preview company, even quoted from it
. It’s easily the second-most read article on my site.
All in all, counting this one, there have been 127 pieces posted on The Writings Of Dennis Earl in 2007. While that number is lower than last year’s total of 162, there were far less archive offerings. (I do hope to get back to the older stuff again soon, though.) Besides writing about Sun Media’s troubles, I also wrote extensively about Sun TV and how The Canadian Media Guild was having a hell of a time trying to secure the station’s employees a collective bargaining agreement. No one else seemed to be going to bat for them as they struggled for stability in a highly competitive Canadian media market and so, an information vacuum opened up which I tired in vain to fill. Ultimately, the union pulled out thanks to a lack of employee solidarity and it’s not known now what has been happening since. As a result, the future of Sun TV remains unclear. A friend urged me to keep covering the story to see if I could learn more information but to me it seemed like a long, difficult slog. Unless people with reliable information are willing to come forward on the record to pass on their insight to me, there’s nothing new to report here. Otherwise, I’d just be banging my head against the wall. Plus, I was distracted by some personal drama.
It had been quite a while since I had a girlfriend and little did I know, my love life was about to perk up considerably this year, albeit briefly. I met a young woman in a chatroom and after two days of friendly chatter, we switched to instant messaging. In a couple of weeks, we were a couple. The next month was even better as we continued to get closer and closer. Despite some occasional phone calls (sadly, it was another difficult, long distance relationship), it was strictly an online thing. Then, her ex started hijacking her computer and it became a nightmare. She refused to seek help to be rid of him once and for all which placed a tremendous strain on me and our future together. I really cared about her and worried about her safety. It was a helpless situation and after putting up with it for a month, I reached my breaking point. She had to do something or it was over. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had actually ended the relationship and said goodbye when suddenly, she agreed to call her brother and tell him everything. He was plenty upset but one angry phone call later, her ex finally left her alone. I had to talk her into trying again but a week later, she ended it for good, just before my 32nd birthday. Nothing would change her mind, either. We didn’t speak for almost four months.
Then, she left a couple of messages in my Guestbook and we started communicating again. She explained what she was going through and it remains a mystery why she didn’t just level with me then about all of this instead of offering transparent bullshit. I would’ve been a lot less angry and sympathetic. Anyway, she wanted to be friends and after forgiving her for what happened, I realized that was better than nothing at all. Besides, the alternative of not speaking to her again was unbearable and harsh.
That being said, there is something I wish we could’ve addressed further at the time we platonically reconciled. She noted that one of her reasons for not meeting me in person was this fear she had that I would expect sex from her during our first, proper date. As I said to her countless times, when you meet someone offline after getting to know them online and on the phone it’s a very different dynamic, less immediately intimate. You don’t just start ripping each other’s clothes off the minute you see each other. You have to see what it’s like to converse with them in person first. Besides, you might be disappointed with the lack of chemistry or have a completely different feeling about them. They might not live up to your expectations and furthermore, you just can’t force something unless it feels natural and right to both parties. My feeling was if that chemistry we shared online materialized in person, the most we would do is make out and maybe grope each other. If it went even further than that, well, that would be some first date! But in the real world, even today, there’s no need to be in a rush about sexual matters when that person’s not going anywhere or looking elsewhere. You’ll know when the time is right to fool around.
Anyway, when we were getting close to setting a date and time to meet during the summer, she talked about finding a place to park her car so we could get it on and even suggested spending a couple of nights in a hotel room. Why suggest any of those things if you have this persistent worry of me demanding and expecting sex from you? My guess is she got carried away and didn’t have the courage to tell me that maybe we should take things slow, which would’ve been perfectly acceptable. Making out with her would’ve been just fine. It doesn’t matter now, anyway. We’re friends and the anger is no more. Now if only she would get a better Internet connection so we could chat more often.
Shortly after the initial break-up, I finally signed up with Facebook. It was the smartest decision. Within a very short period of time, my friends list started filling up nicely. While I’ve been able to reconnect with some of my closest school chums (and maintain that closeness), I’ve actually become closer with people I barely knew in high school. Having a number of platonic female friends is a good thing. Without this website, the summer would’ve been far more depressing.
Speaking of friends, two of them found me through this website in January. The day after I posted an old article about Simon Cowell from American Idol, Carl Richards, a DJ for the Kingston station, Fly FM, left me a message on that entry. We went to high school together and knew each other through a radio club (we were among a small group of teens who did morning announcements). Soon, we started exchanging emails and instant messaging. He made some shocking revelations that I didn’t expect but the friendship remains strong as it ever was. I hope we get to talk more often now.
And then there’s my buddy, Rob. He found my site by accident and fired off an email that, for some unknown reason, was relocated to my Junk Mail folder. After fixing Microsoft’s mistake, we started emailing and instant messaging each other for several months. By the spring, we started hanging out, getting caught up with the past, talking about various things and bonding over XBOX 360. He likes to playfully bust my chops all the time but he’s a good dude and we always have fun together. His friendship was one of many this year that helped me get through a very difficult time. And, to think, we hadn’t seen each other in 10 years prior to his email. It’s good to have him back.
As I write this, an old song has popped into my head. It’s a round we were taught in primary school. The lyric goes, "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." Corny but appropriate. Besides rekindling all those old friendships, I’ve made surprising new ones this year. Bill Brioux wrote me out of the blue one day asking me to do a story on his short film he submitted to the show, On The Lot. It was another great opportunity he gave me to do some reporting rather than just commenting on other people’s work. It ended up being one of my favourite pieces and was picked up by a couple other blogs including The Toronto Sun Family. Speaking of blogs, Bill later told me that he was planning on starting one of his own and that I would be the first to know about it as soon as it was launched. He’s a man of his word. That piece turned out alright, as well. His support and kindness has meant a lot. Look for his new book, Truth & Rumours, which is officially released in America today.
And then, there’s Elaine Loring. She was another one who discovered my site accidentally and became a fan. Because of these Bill Brioux pieces I had been doing, she figured I knew Bill’s email address. Like Jim Slotek, she’s an old friend. Essentially, she wanted to get in touch with him. Next thing you know, we’re exchanging these long, hilarious messages about our lives as if we had known each other for years. (Honestly, she’s got tons of material for a book. If only she had the time.) At any event, she’s a great lady (a saint, actually) and I value her friendship. One of the nicest people I’ve ever met. After a long absence from the media scene, she’s returning to Global on a new show called Planet Soap. (For many years, she covered daytime serials during newscasts.) Look for it in early 2008.
In between the occasional movie review and political commentary, it’s been great fun doing these multi-chapter miniseries from time to time. In January, there were three articles on one-hit wonder side projects and supergroups. In the spring, there was a three-part remembrance of the third Wrestlemania. In the summer, there was a countdown of the 10 greatest U2 singles, one of the most challenging things to put together. And recently, I’ve been going through the Winners and Losers of 2007.
However, not all the news was positive. After building a nice bit of momentum in the first half of the year, the website mysteriously started to freeze. My page views started to plummet and my output was greatly reduced. The Windows Live Technical Support Team eventually discovered the problem. I had too many blog entries on the home page. Once I reduced the number from 25 to 10, everything was back to normal. But the damage was done.
Things started to perk up, though, with Sgt. Pepper Trivia. In honour of the album’s 40th Anniversary, I put together as much interesting information about it as possible. Since then, hits have gone down again and I hope to figure out more compelling ways to reach new readers. How different things would be were it not for that annoying freezing. Oh well.
On a more positive note, in the spring, I was invited to contribute items to the Fading To Black blog. I’ve posted over 100 entries on there since April. Only one piece was deleted (the right decision, actually) and only one person left a comment complaining about something I wrote which FTB seconded. I never understood either complaint but there you go. Despite that, it’s been a good fit for me so far and it was nice to break the news about Antonia Zerbisias ending her Toronto Star stint as its media critic.
Speaking of comments, The Writings Of Dennis Earl received a bit more feedback this year than in 2006. Besides the emails from Bill Brioux, Jim Slotek and Elaine Loring, someone complained about my Ann Coulter piece, another disagreed about my thoughts on Toronto DJ John Derringer, some representatives of the CMG provided very helpful insight into the Sun TV matter while another respectfully rebutted some of my arguments in a particular story, a former journalist offered constructive criticism about my Lindsay Lohan article (too many "I"’s was one of her complaints), and Mike Jenkinson, a former Edmonton Sun columnist and editor, let me know the whereabouts of one of the many missing Sun Media staffers. My old buddy, Dave, who I’ve known since 1984, left many positive comments on various pieces over the year which was great.
Last year, it was noted here that one person had clicked on my Amazon Book List. Since then, there have been nearly 500 additional clicks but, sadly, still no orders. Also, I dropped a number of lists in favour of new ones in order to keep things fresh. And, as noted earlier, there’s finally a Guestbook for visitors to leave comments.
So, what’s to come in the new year? Well, that’s a very good question. You’ll find out the answer soon enough.
Happy New Year, everybody.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 31, 2007