Steve Gilliard's Powerful, Controversial Voice
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
The Web is not just a space for technology but emotion. People who have never met in the flesh become friends, enemies and even lovers over the space of a few exchanges. The Web's ability to build community was underscored this week by the death of a prominent African-American blogger, Steve Gilliard. He was just 42 years old. Gilliard had been hospitalized since February with heart and kidney failure. In Internet years, Gilliard was a veteran. A journalist by trade and education, he began in the late '90s as a powerful voice for the Silicon Alley Tech site, Net Slaves.
A few years later, he became the first featured blogger on the now mammoth liberal Web community, DailyKos. Site founder Markos "Kos" Moulitsas Zuniga has credited bloggers like Gilliard for his project's early success. In 2003, Gilliard struck out on his own, setting up a news blog with a friend. It quickly grew into one of the most popular blogs in the progressive blogosphere.
Gilliard was your basic no-B.S. blogger, quick to argue and unwilling to suffer fools lightly, but he also had an expansive curiosity. He wrote about elections, video games, military history, whatever struck his fancy. Like the Internet itself, he could sometimes offend even his friends.
Gilliard's first newsblog post in 2003 easily sums up his style, quote, "Welcome to my new blog. If you've read me at DailyKos and Net Slaves, then you know what to expect. If not, it's really simple. I say what I mean, and mean what I say."
Gilliard was an African-American pioneer and often difficult and sometimes lonely role. The New York Times recently remembered Gilliard as well, the first Times obit ever for a Web blogger. The paper noted that most of his family didn't know what Gilliard did for a living.
His elderly southern parents didn't even own a computer. If the digital divide has narrowed, it's in part because of people like Steve Gilliard, who lived and worked for so long in the breach. For more on Steve Gilliard, visit our blog News & Views. Just go to npr.org/newsandnotes and click on News & Views.
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