Monday, June 04, 2007


Well, this weekend, something I've feared for weeks happened. My favourite blogger passed away.

Regular readers of Steve Gilliard's The News Blog have known for the past few months that the site's primary author, editor and manager was seriously ill and in the hospital, suffering from heart problems and related complications. Many fans and readers, led by Steve's usually silent partner Jen, kept the site going with donations, and most importantly, truckloads of new content. While he was still conscious, Steve was appreciative and embarrassed at all the support.

Steve Gilliard began as the first "front-pager" on Dailykos, an American Democratic partisan blog that was one of the first avenues of progressive thought in the blogosphere, and is now the most popular political blog on the internet. (Dailykos frontpagers are appointed by Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, the site founder, to contribute content to the blog's "front page", although any member of the Kos community can write "diaries" on the site.) Gilliard's contributions to political writings on the World Wide Web go back to at least 1999, however, and unlike many political bloggers he was never anonymous.

After a couple of years at Dailykos, Gilliard left to start his own blog, The News Blog, and it became very popular and influential in its own right. Ostensibly a political blog, it was so much more. Politics was certainly at the forefront, and although Gilliard clearly leaned in a left-wing/Democratic direction, he wouldn't hesitate to call bullshit on Dems and liberals who were out to left field. But Steve was a voracious reader with myriad interests. He would blog about sports (hating the Yankees and cheering the Mets was a constant pasttime), and predicted that soccer would soon become the third largest sport in the US. He had several relatives in the US military and was greatly informed on military history, and his posts on the Iraq War showed a depth of knowledge and understanding that most pundits and bloggers could only hope to aspire to. Through it all, he supported the boys and girls in uniform, while he knew before it began that the war was doomed to fail.

As an African-American from a journalist background, Steve pounded home a perspective that I as a member of the privileged white straight middle-class male had never really thought of before. Through his posts, he explained to me and his other readers the significance of the New York transit strike, "macaca" and Katrina to the black community.

But Steve was also a man who enjoyed living, and he would also blog about food, drink, relationships, education, and videogames. My tribute pales in comparison to the numerous ones all over the internet, but nothing speaks like the man's words himself. The main site is black in deference to Steve's passing, but the original site is still up and running.

RIP, Steve Gilliard.

UPDATE (June 6, 2007): Gilliard's obituary in the New York Times:

Steven Gilliard Jr., 42, Dies; Founder of Liberal Political Blog
Published: June 6, 2007

Steven Gilliard Jr., a political journalist who found his calling as a combative and influential blogger on the left, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 42.

He died after having been hospitalized at Lenox Hill Hospital since February because of heart and kidney failure, said his cousin Francine Smith, a spokeswoman for the family.

From his perch at The News Blog, whose advertisements and donations paid for his modest living expenses, Mr. Gilliard offered his powerful readership a blunt and passionate take on the events of the day. He was one of fewer than a dozen liberal political bloggers to make a living from his blog, said Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, the founder of the Daily Kos Web site, to which Mr. Gilliard had been an early contributor.

Mr. Gilliard was born in Harlem and attended Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School before graduating with a degree in journalism from New York University.

After working in print journalism, Mr. Gilliard migrated online, working for a Web site, Net Slaves, that chronicled the lot of the tech worker during the dot-com boom. His involvement in online political writing received a critical boost when Mr. Moulitsas chose Mr. Gilliard to help create material for the Daily Kos site at a time when it had 4,000 visitors a day; it now has 500,000 a day.

Mr. Gilliard eventually left Daily Kos to create The News Blog.

Mr. Gilliard’s survivors include his parents, Steven Gilliard Sr. and Evelyn Lillian Gilliard of Manhattan, and two sisters, Valerie Gilliard and Roberta Smalls, both of Massachusetts.

In what is a now-familiar story among Internet collaborators, many of the thousands who posted online reactions to Mr. Gilliard’s death wrote that they had known little about him, even the fact that he was black. Others, though, mourned the loss of an African-American voice in the liberal blogging world. Those closest to him offline similarly knew next to nothing about his life as blogger.

“Most of the family didn’t know what he was doing on the Web site,” said his cousin, Ms. Smith, who said his parents did not own computers.