Remembering Peter Sklar, placeblogging pioneer
Doc Searls Weblog 2012-12-11
This is a hard one to write. Peter Sklar, the founder, editor and chief-everything of Edhat, has died.
Peter was the Steve Jobs of place-blogging. Like Steve, he was an original genius and nobody’s fool. He could be prickly and sarcastic, and he did things his way. He also had a vision of local journalism that was equally serious and felicitous. What made Edhat so wonderful, from the start, was his light touch. There was always gentleness, humor, and a strong aesthetic sense of what’s right for the town, its people, its businesses, its unique and quirky civic qualities. Peter wrote most of Edhat in the early days, and I assume until recently as well. Edhat’s voice was Peter’s, and it has always been a delight to read.
As an original and highly principled genius, Peter could be less than sweet to others he thought were horning in on his turf, either with competing publications or with the larger concepts of placeblogging and journalism. (In fact, Peter liked neither the term “blogging” nor any of the blogging or content management systems in the market. As an alpha programmer, he home-brewed Edhat from the start.) But he was also a lot of fun, and a great guy to hang out with and talk in depth on any subject. Here’s how Craig Smith, another friend and local blogger, puts it:
A mathematician by training and a dedicated runner, Peter always struck me as being quirky (kind of like Edhat) and he could at times be temperamental. He liked numbers (as in, “we counted the number of horses in the Fiesta parade”) and he liked rules. (Ever notice how many rules there are about posting comments on Edhat?) He could fairly have been described as a my-way-or-the-highway type guy. But you could also say that about Steve Jobs. But like Jobs, Peter was a genius at what he did. Never mind that guys like me didn’t like some of his rules about what kind of stories Edhat would link to (he would link to news stories but not “opinion pieces” or newspaper columns) or the fact that the comments section on Edhat often seemed to be in need of some serious adult supervision, Peter always knew what his community of readers wanted and he made sure that they got it.
With newspapers on the decline, Peter was a champion of “citizen journalism” and Edhat was a place where a lot of breaking news in this town first got (and still gets) reported. And many times that reporting is done by the Edhat community of readers. Skeptical of mainstream media, he once told me, “Remember, the word ‘professional’ only means that they are getting paid.”
It’s meaningful that Craig and I both compare Peter to Steve. (I didn’t see Craig’s post until I started writing this one.)
I only got the news about Peter over breakfast a few minutes ago, from my wife, who knew him better than I did. It clobbered us both. Santa Barbara is home for us, but our work takes us elsewhere so much that we don’t get to see our friends there often enough. I was looking forward to catching up with Peter on our next return to town, over the holidays. Even though I kept up with Santa Barbara through Edhat, I missed learning that Peter had been sick with inoperable brain cancer for over a year. Now there’s a huge hole in our hearts, an in our town.
But Edhat lives, and not just in Santa Barbara. I can’t begin to tell you how much tenacity and grace it takes to do what Peter and his crew have done with Edhat.
Our hearts are with Sue, Nick, Zack, Molly and the larger Edhat family, and the great town Peter left better than he found it.