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Jul. 31 2010 - 7:52 am | 265 views | 1 recommendation | 12 comments

So long to the life we used to live

Emily Dickinson

Emily. Image via Wikipedia

My old man taught me to say “so long” whenever we parted because he contended “goodbye” should be reserved for permanent occasions, like the one Emily Dickinson refers to here:

Good-by to the life I used to live,
And the world I used to know;
And kiss the hills for me, just once;
Now I am ready to go!

Goodbye seems especially ill suited for this occasion: while True/Slant writers and readers will scatter to diverse corners of cyberspace, that universe is nothing if not a network, and we will never be more than keystrokes apart.

It’s up to us to keep it going.

Nonetheless there is a passing to note here, an achievement to acknowledge, many thanks to be given.

My colleagues have written more ably and eloquently than I can of the community that thrived here, the conversations started, the friendships forged (I won’t name names, for fear of leaving one out–you know who you are).

I’ll focus on one particular accomplishment that still surprises me, happily, every time I log in.

When True/Slant came along the world needed (in addition to love) an economically viable way for readers and journalists to find one another and converse in civility.

In the end Forbes would testify to True/Slant’s economic viability, but right from the beginning True/Slant attained civility. For the most part, people here disagreed, as the saying goes, with all due respect. And without, as my colleague Caitlin Kelly said, trolls and flames.

In a comment on his own farewell post, my colleague Michael Humphrey says, “Perhaps civility will be the great legacy of T/S.”

But I believe True/Slant surpassed civility and attained a unique style of conversation better described as “collegiality.”

The difference is that we don’t just get along–that’s civility–but we trust one another. We have mutual respect and confidence in our ability and our intent.

That came to be the case not just among those who occupy True/Slant’s Mountain Lair, not just among the site’s 300 contributors, but most remarkably, among the million-plus readers who visited us each month and those who chose to return and comment.

This was a place where we knew one another to be in pursuit of the good, no matter how we might differ on the best way to get there. That’s why trolls and flames found neither purchase nor harbor here.

And this is no small achievement on my beat, which is harassed everywhere else by half-cocked skeptics. Skeptics brought their doubts to True/Slant, sure, but found they had to back them up. They had to be fully-cocked.

True/Slant’s community spanned the world, but was so coherent in its collegiality, it got so you could spot a newbie by his inappropriate bluster. It’s not hard to imagine a hypothetical True/Slanter, either commenter or contributor, who stumbles into town all roughed up by the wild ways of the world wide web, spewing sarcasm and snark and superiority, and finds that here it gets him nowhere.

He leaves in a cloud of frustration. But something draws him back, almost against his will, some scarcely definable allure in content and platform, and gradually he learns, as we all did, to disagree with all due respect.

Thank you colleagues, commenters, readers for the collegial conversation we have enjoyed. Let’s take it everywhere.

How was it achieved?

Collegiality took root in the technologies developed by Andrea Spiegel and Steve McNally and Roger Theriault, blossomed in the professionals selected by Coates Bateman and Lewis DVorkin, flourished under the hands-off leadership and hands-on assistance provided by all those people, plus editorial Jedi Master Michael Roston and our sherpas, Kashmir Hill and Katie Drummond.

Thank you, denizens of the Lair, for making this collegial conversation possible.

As many other writers before me have noted, here we were free to write. In freedom we turned to one another for examples, and we found some of the very best. They did what Emily Dickinson had long ago advised:

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant—”

So long, for now.


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  1. collapse expand

    So true. Everyone has a right to civilly express their ideas — but only as long as they listen respectfully to others’ as well. What a blessing to be able to talk to one another, and learn, and not endure the usual noise.

    I had a troll show up, once, and I knew right away that s/he had not been to T/S before, their invective was so out of place and overheated.

    Feeling bereft today, like a snail that has lost its shell. What is the sound of one blogger tapping? (Lonely.) Thanks for this final eloquence.

    And, yes, I am very glad to know the gang is still a few keystrokes away.

  2. collapse expand

    I read Scott Payne’s post last night, and now yours this morning…

    Overwhelmed by how much you all gave and received, by the appreciation and the understanding.

    Beautifully written, beautifully said.

  3. collapse expand

    Jeff, I very much doubt this could have been said any better. I should have just waited for you to write your farewell and then linked to it from my site with one line: “What he said.”

    I agree, the collegiality here was rare and will be missed. And, as you also said, it’s up to us to keep the keystroke matrix in place. I’m glad to have met you and even more glad that we’ll continue to be friends and colleagues for the foreseeable future.

  4. collapse expand

    Everyone who appreciates Jeff’s writing should friend him on Facebook. His status updates are little spoonfuls of delicious.

  5. collapse expand

    Thank you for the kind comments, my friends. Osha, I found that video very early (c. 150 views), and I think it has viral potential. Spread the word!

  6. collapse expand

    Quite right Jeff — congeniality is a more apt description. Beautifully said.

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    About Me

    Environmental reporting recruited me 25 years ago—on my first day as a reporter for my college newspaper, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in the regular city trash. Since then I've written hard news for dailies, including the Arizona Republic, and slanty news for alternative weeklies, including Newcity. I've written a column for New Times, stories on the Web for Forecast Earth, essays for PEN International and other magazines. I lived in an idyllic California village nestled among volcanoes and vineyards until my batteries were full of sunshine, and then I returned to my origins on the South Side of Chicago, where hope persists with no illusions about the struggle ahead. I cross the asphalt jungle by bicycle and el, mostly to get to the University of Chicago, where I teach journalism. But what matters more than any of this is a lifelong love for the natural world. We are all born with it, I believe, but some turn away.

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