Saturday, February 12, 2011

Joshua Goldberg, a “Johnny Appleseed for conservative American blogs,” dies at 43

Joshua J. Goldberg (1967-2011) quietly played nurseryman to scores of talented writers and citizen reporters. He gave us a rich soil to plant our blogs, then watered and weeded BlogsLucianneLoves.com (BLL) until our sites sprouted roots and branches, and blossomed with fruit. Josh was a Johnny Appleseed for conservative American blogs. His tragic death was reported today.

John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, did not, as many people believe, plant apple trees by tossing seeds hither and yon. He actually started nurseries where sapling apple trees were nurtured until they could be sold to people who wanted to grow their own orchards. In other words, he did not merely plant apple trees; he planted apple growers.

Likewise, Joshua Goldberg did not create blogs; he helped others establish their own little hothouses, and invited the best of them to aggregate into his large network of regular readers, who range from average Mom and Pop America to the media elite of New York and Washington. By giving us a home and his confidence, Goldberg spurred many of us bloggers (or “Lbloggers”) to write our best material, publish more frequently, and delve more aggressively into issues and new stories using standard reporting techniques. He helped us build our own large readerships by letting us cross-post our work to his family's sites, where he was Managing Editor, and link to our own  — at no charge.

Josh’s idea of a model blog story was enterprising and “newsy” (his words), one that not only capitalized on current events with opinion, but featured original reporting of facts not published elsewhere, and sometimes even influenced the story by attracting the attention and comments of newsmakers and media analysts.

A sudden end...
When I learned today of Goldberg's death from two of my sisters (both Ldotters), I was more than shocked; I was taken aback, startled, and bewildered. My only two sources of information, an American Thinker article and Lucianne.com, give few details of Joshua’s death. A fall injured him fatally; that is all we know.

I imagine he must have died today or yesterday. But we heard nothing of an accident before, so I can only speculate that his death followed almost immediately on his fall. Selfishly, I want to know more: When was the fall? What were the circumstances? What day did he die? The absence of details is unsettling. Writer E.R. White, in his tribute today, reminded us that the family would find even e-mails overwhelming, let alone inquiries; all I can do is be patient.

Lucianne Goldberg, her son Jonah, Joshua’s wife Chantal, and their families must be utterly wrenched with grief and pain at this time. You cannot prepare for a death like this. I wish I knew how to help them. I can pray for them, and pledge to continue supporting the amazing BLL. The fate of a Web site cannot be compared to a human life, especially a vibrant young one such as Josh’s. But my continuing selfish bent at this moment is to worry about BLL’s fate now that he is not around to care for it. My only comfort is the certainty that Lucianne and her staff have the character and support network needed to keep things running.

When Josh gave me and many of you “Lbloggers” posting privileges at BlogsLucianneLoves, he gave us a larger soapbox than we could ever have built on our own. We suddenly found our blogs being quoted by major newspapers and media sites, and saw our readerships skyrocket. Our fans came from Everytown, America — all 50 states, mostly small towns. Lakeville, MN; Newark, OH; Littleton, CO; Gilbert, AZ; Centreville, MD; Fort Bragg, NC; Huntsville, AL; Roselle, IL — they all showed up in our stat counters, along with visitors from Tranås, Sweden; Kanata, Ontario; Dubai, UAE; San José, Costa Rica; Dijon, France; and Nottoden, Norway. We watched our hit counters rise the moment we cross-posted at BLL, and much more so if we were featured as a must-read there or at Lucianne.com. And when our stories hit a nerve, we noticed a particular spike in readers from New York City and Washington media companies. I was thunderstruck when one of my early items attracted visits from servers with IP addresses in the White House (www.eop.gov), the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the Department of Justice, and the State Department.

I should not be speaking of these things in the past tense. We can and will continue to build our blogs and BLL, and there is no reason we cannot see even greater success if we simply follow Josh’s model, concentrate on facts, make phone calls, track down reporters in their newsrooms, and accurately and honestly report on everything that is said and done. We are the media. Most reporters will talk to you if you get to the point and do not waste their time. If they shy away or utterly refuse to acknowledge you, do not be surprised if later they call you back and request to go on the record after your story hits (it has happened to me). We can cover anything (and anyone) we want to. People are gluttons for attention, even (or especially) reporters, and once you get them talking, your stories will write themselves.

The beginning of BLL...
When Joshua first launched BlogsLucianneLoves.com, I contacted him about the very long domain name he and the family had chosen. I constantly check the availability of short, snappy phrases as domains. Readers of Lucianne.com, the mother site of BLL, refer to themselves “Ldotters,” so the word “Lbloggers” sprang to my mind, and since the domain Lbloggers.com was available, I presented the idea to Joshua. He loved it:
“I can’t believe I didn't think of that! Thank you. We spent days playing with all sorts of names from the clever to asinine. I am bringing this up with the rest of the Goldberg Family Band.” — e-mail from Josh, Dec. 6, 2009
Josh was my first editor. Although I have published short items at The New York Times at the pleasure of editor Michael Pollack, Joshua was really the first editor to carve out a home for me, guide me, and establish a clear framework and focus for my writing.

Our responsibility as bloggers should be to treat our blogs as Josh did: nurseries where other blogs can thrive. When you notice friends who are exceptional writers, encourage them to blog and do citizen reporting, and help them set up a free Web page and purchase a domain name to point to it. It is easy and inexpensive, it takes little time, and you will be surprised to see that sometimes these writers take off. This wise investment of your resources would be a fitting tribute to Josh.

Like John Chapman, it is likely that Joshua Goldberg’s behind-the-scenes influence is already much greater than we realize. If we continue his good work, his legacy may quietly eclipse that of the most prominent commentators, reporters, and talking heads, by producing better ones.

Thank you, Josh, for helping me to become the blogger I always wanted to be. And to Lucianne, Chantal, Jonah, and your families, please accept my deepest condolences and prayers now and during the difficult period ahead.

Reader comments are welcome.

* The original headline, in which I estimated Joshua's age, has been corrected from 44 to 43 years old, on confirmation from his younger brother Jonah in his column today (2/12/2011).

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Our hearts are shattered for the Goldberg family. Prayers and more prayers for the Lord to comfort them at this terrible time.

kitty said...

Lucianne.com is an excellent site for news and communicating with like-minded people. Since part of its success is due to Joshua, "in lieu of flowers," why not make a contribution to L.com in memory of Joshua.

Paul Klenk said...

Kitty, thanks for the excellent idea. Readers can contribute to Lucianne.com here:
http://www.lucianne.com/contributions

Annonymous said...

THIS CREEP JOSHUA GOLDBERG IS A CROOK! HE TOOK MY NIECE'S MONEY AND WAS SUPPOSED TO DO ALL THE FLOWERS FOR HER WEDDING. GUESS WHAT? HE NEVER SHOWED UP!! BEWARE HE IS A CROOK AND HE IS BANKRUPT! HE CLAIMED ONLY 9,000 ON HIS TAXES. DO NOT USE THIS FLORIST YOU WILL BE SORRY!
HE RUINED MY NIECE'S WEDDING DAY AND I HOPE THE LAW CATCHES UP TO HIM AND THROWS HIS SORRY BUTT IN JAIL WHERE HE BELONGS! CREEP IS TOO GOOD A WORD FOR THIS JERK!