Jeremy Gordon
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RIP The Outline

July 2, 2020 I have a new piece of writing up today at Columbia Journalism Review about The Outline, a website I continue to miss all the time because I keep coming up with ideas that are distinctly recognizable as "Outline pitches" yet do not have The Outline to publish them, a habit I'm sure I'll grow out of by 2021. This one was commissioned right after the site was shut down in early April, when the COVID-19 crisis was still new and the world had not erupted in protests, and went through a relatively slow editing process, which gave me a lot of time to think about the tone. There is, frankly, a more cynical version of this piece I could've written about the perils of VC-backed media and believing your own hype and the frivolities of media at large, which anyone is welcome to ask me about in person at a bar whenever we're all allowed to meet up with strangers (again, hopefully by 2021).

But to quote myself, blogging for The Outline a while back: "This is my blog." The truth is that I loved the site, and I loved working for the site, and while my job isn't my identity and death to all bosses and so on and so forth, I wanted to write something that would reflect the largely positive feelings I had about my time there. As of the time I write this (1:45 p.m., June 2, 2020) I've seen only one piece of negative feedback on Twitter, a media executive who posted it with the comment "sorry, but this is embarrassing." Well, so what? If I was worried about embarrassing myself I wouldn't have a Twitter.

I tried to be wary of glamorizing what we actually did: make a website that some people read. I could go on for another 2000 words or more about all the valuable things I picked up working for The Outline, and all the good work I think we did. But obviously, there is plenty the site didn't do perfectly — nothing so bad as journalistic malpractice, but there's certainly decisions that went awry, pieces I'd like to revise in retrospect, and some I'd like to strike altogether. To repeat myself again, we tried. Something about working for a publication is that you show up every day trying to bring to life the thing that's inside your head, and cross your fingers it comes through in the long run. All things considered, I think we did a fairly good job even if the site is dead.

A few years ago, a publication I liked a lot shut down, and received dozens/hundreds of those beatific tributes that make its employees feel better in the wake of its shuttering. That said, the publication was also just a website, not the salve for humanity's woes. At some point I noticed that its employees were prone to saying "Site X was a good site, not a great site" as a way to puncture all the romanticizing going on, which I thought was shrewd — a way of signaling that they hadn't bought into the hype, since I assume most writers would like to believe they're above the bullshit. I guess it's my turn now.

New blog

I used to have a Tumblr but no one is on Tumblr anymore, so from time to time I'll post here.