Oh no, Pam Spaulding is closing down "Pam's House Blend"
Just because the bombshell wasn't all that surprising doesn't make it less of a bombshell, or less of a cause for sadness. Today Pam Spaulding made it official: "Goodbye Pam’s House Blend: after nine years, closing the coffeehouse July 1." ("Pam's House Blend" is currently hosted at FireDogLake.)
All good things must come to an end, even after numerous awards and accolades, it’s time to acknowledge that I cannot continue to run on fumes alone. The Blend could continue limping along, but my health and well-being come first; over the last few years burning the candle at both ends with a full-time offline job and PHB. It has taken a severe toll -- most readers have learned that I am dealing with chronic pain conditions -- fibromylagia, and in the last couple of years, aggressive rheumatoid arthritis.The outpouring in response has been tremendous, understandably and deservedly. There really is no way to overstate the contribution Pam has made in all these exhausting years of covering LGBT issues from the standpoint of a Southern woman of color and lesbian. As she herself puts it, "looking back,"
My decision to close the blog is just as reality-based as its content has been. If I cannot produce material at the frequency or with the same level of quality, enthusiasm and effectiveness, it’s really time to close the doors to this coffeehouse -- and work to ensure it continues to have a life as an archive, a snapshot in our digital political history. Pamshouseblend.com will redirect to archives.
I churned out pieces at an incredible pace -- up to ten posts a day -- many long-form pieces, commentary, curating news articles I thought my audience should check out, and occasionally (and increasingly) doing citizen journalism at news events and conferences. All of this while holding down a full-time day job with no connection to politics or activism. And most of of those posts were done in the wee hours, so I didn’t get much sleep over the lifespan of this blog.Along the way Pam found time to encourage and cultivate generations of younger would-be citizen-journalists
As we keep learning (it's a lesson that demands to be learned over and over), "outsiderness" can be an invaluable tool in casting a critical eye on established society, and nobody illustrates it better than Pam. She also clearly has outsize supplies of conviction, determination, work ethic, and -- what else to call it? -- charisma. The fact is that it wasn't just all that hard work that got her listened to; she developed a voice that people wanted to hear.
Political blogging changed mainstream journalism in many ways. Save for a few who were able to monetize their blogs or who were cherry picked to help traditional outlets get their feet wet in new media, the vast majority of citizen journalists and opinion-makers toiled with little hope of quitting that day job. The LGBT movement was energized by the speed and reach of new media, and at times appeared quite threatened by it — mostly because it was a venue where Beltway orgs, and even the White House, didn’t see any possible way to co-opt or control what was being produced by this first generation of online political rabble rousers and activists. I’ve made a lot of great friends and met a lot of people along the way, and hopefully opened a few eyes, particularly with my posts about the intersection of LGBT and race.
The Blend sat in a unique place in all of this -- I brought the perspective of a black lesbian living in the South to the dialogue -- broadcasting a voice certainly not represented in the power structure of the LGBT movement. It was the first major blog to feature a transgender contributor, and it was important to me to bring talent to the blog from under-represented regions and voices.
Which makes it all the more enervating -- to Pam herself, no doubt, but also to the rest of us who wonder how to make a useful real-world contribution -- that beyond the earned respect there was so little tangible reward for all her efforts.
Pam's decision has already occasioned a round of soul-searching among friends and colleagues. A lot of the colleagues know only too well the frustration, if not futility, Pam talks about. Once again there are cries that we have to figure out -- or, still more discouragingly, "someone" has to figure out -- a way to make independent blogging pay well enough to sustain life for the would-be independent blogger.
However, at a time when ever larger segments of the mainstream media are trying to figure out the same thing, I have to wonder whether this isn't one of those questions to which there isn't an answer.I'm not sure I'm ready to hold my breath for anyone to figure out any such thing. We're rarely taught in school that there are many such questions (most questions?), but there are.
Like all of her colleagues, I'm happy to hear that Pam is making a priority of taking care of herself. What could be more important? It's also great to know that not only will she "still be active in social media" and especially that she plans to "make time to mentor folks as I can." Excellent! However, she says, "It’s just time for someone else to pick up the ball and run with the daily activist grind, and forge new ground in an ever-shifting new media."
Speaking of which -- on FDL, a rebranded blog will debut on the channel with my talented current contributors Laurel Ramseyer, Alvin McEwen and Autumn Sandeen. Look for more information on that effort soon.
I'll have a "goodbye" post on July 1 that takes a look at some of PHB's nine-year history.