R.I.P. GMD

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust… Green Mountain Daily, which was for many years Vermont’s most influential political blog, has officially joined the Choir Eternal. Site founder John Odum did the honors on Saturday, in a post that recalled some of the site’s finer moments.

GMD was a group effort involving a small number of activists, political insiders and sharp-eyed observers. During its prime, GMD did yeoman’s work in keeping liberal politicos honest (well, a bit more honest) and reining down mockage on those who deserved it. The site also broke news more often than you might think. It was taken seriously by Our Betters and was widely read in political/journalistic circles.

And it had a significant impact on the arc of my own, such as it is, career.

For better and for worse, I wouldn’t be doing this Political Observer thing if it wasn’t for GMD. Way back in 2011, during a spate of underemployment, I started posting occasionally on the site. My posts were often promoted to the main page, which encouraged me to continue. (Posts by regulars automatically hit the top of the queue; posts by guests would go into a box along the side, but could be promoted to the queue by any of the regulars.)

After a few months of this, Odum contacted me about becoming a regular. At the time, I still had pretensions of resuming a career in journalism, and I thought that joining GMD would probably kill any chance I had. But after a few months, I decided to sign on.

And boy, did I have fun. I didn’t make a dime, but I could write whatever and whenever I wanted. and I was good at it.

About the time I joined GMD, Odum departed. He was running for Montpelier city clerk, and he rightfully thought that a nonpartisan candidate for an office that oversees elections shouldn’t be helming an unabashedly partisan blog. That was the beginning of the end for GMD; a project like that needs someone who takes responsibility for site upkeep and maintenance. Site leadership became a group effort, which meant that no single person was truly responsible.

GMD kept going, on sheer momentum if nothing else. We still had a core group of frequent writers; as long as that was true, the site was in good health.

I was still having fun. In fact, I was posting more and more often — to the point where it seemed like I was hogging the space in what was meant to be a group enterprise with many voices. At its best, it reflected the wide array of viewpoints that exist in liberal/Democratic/Progressive/progressive circles.

Eventually, in 2014, I decided to get out of the way and set up my own shop as The Vermont Political Observer. The GMD folks held no grudges; in fact, they were helpful in getting my site established, and I am grateful for that.

Here’s where the irony comes in. In 2011 I thought that becoming a commentator would kill my journalistic career. In fact, it gave me a new opportunity in the field. If not for my work at GMD and theVPO, Seven Days wouldn’t have approached me about taking over the “Fair Game” column. And however badly that might have ended, and however many conflicts there were in that relationship, I can look proudly on my body of work.

And I could return to the not-at-all-lucrative home base that is theVPO. Since then, whether working for an established media outlet or on my own, I’ve had an impact on the political life of Vermont.

GMD, over the past several years, was like a well-tended garden that no longer had a gardener. Lots of life, lots of growth, but no direction. As regulars dropped out for whatever reason, they weren’t replaced. The frequency of postings declined. There was still good work being done, but not enough to sustain the project.

Odum formally pulled the plug after several months of no postings whatsoever. It was time. And that’s a shame, because Vermont is sorely lacking in political journalism and in commentary. GMD was beneficial for the whole ecosystem, as an irritant and a check on the powerful. Our political life is poorer for its absence.

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