In the latest installment of our ongoing series of EIC reflections in celebration of Bwog’s big birthday, our second-ever Editor-in-Chief, Lydia DePillis, remembers life back when Gmail was new. Lydia remained a journalist, and now works for the Washington Post.
Few things have made me feel older than the realization that Bwog, this little project we started in the basement of St. Paul’s chapel in the early spring of my freshman year, just hit double digits.
Struggling to bring shape to the mental miasma it’s become, I searched “Bwog” in my Gmail, and clicked back through 14,950 emails to March 30, 2006, a few months after the founding, which is when I got Gmail (previous UNI-based correspondence is lost to history). On the way there, I breezed past controversies, faux-controversies, painfully naive exhortations, torrents of free food tips, and a fair amount of wrangling about how this new operation of ours ought to be run.
The thing is, there weren’t really any rules back then in the early days of the consumer internet. Lots of us had gone through formal news training at Spectator and wanted to stick to basic journalistic ethics, but we moved faster than Spectator and trafficked in gossip — the models we had to follow were Gawker, Gothamist, and TMZ. The authorities didn’t know what to do with a publication that would report the news and poke fun at them at the same time. We had multiple meetings with administrators and student leaders demanded to know: What are you exactly?
We weren’t really sure. Originally, we were a repository for the extra writerly energy that couldn’t fit in the pages of The Blue and White — a way to try prospects out before entrusting them with print. We quickly grew into an addicting classroom distraction, creating a virtuous feedback loop of information from our audience to our editors and out to the world. Eventually, we became a source of competition in what had been basically a one-outlet town — which I think made the Morningside media ecosystem faster and stronger overall.
For me personally, Bwog was all-consuming. (I can still barely type “B” without following it with a “w.”) I had never thought of myself as an internet-savvy person, but Bwog and I learned together, trying out new forms of coverage and obsessing over traffic metrics that never grew as fast as I wanted. And the site helped foster a kind of journalism that’s become increasingly common across mainstream outlets today: Writing that’s not afraid to have voice and make arguments, when the facts are there to support them, with a few jokes and gifs to keep you there through the end.
It’s been a pleasant surprise to see this thing we started stick around as long as it has — flexible enough to change under new proprietors, but essential enough to keep serving its purpose.
So happy birthday Bwog. Never go away, but please never get old.
Beginning Bwog via Lydia DePillis/Facebook