By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
2009 has been a great year to be a new member of the U.S. News & World Report team.
Since January, I've found that while there's a lot of insanity out on the Internet, being in the blogosphere has actually been a worthwhile thing to do. I never thought I'd say that a year ago—becoming a blogger seemed like a crazy idea at first—but over the course of 2009, I've grown to love it. I've been riveted by everything from live tweets coming from opposition forces on the streets of Iran to hilarious "mental health break" videos on YouTube. It's been fascinating to see the difference in the news business since the days when I was an editor at the U.Va. undergraduate newspaper, when we printed out stories on shiny paper, cut them to fit the newspaper columns with X-acto knives, and dipped them in wax to affix them to the page before driving them at midnight to the printer 10 miles down the road. Now the news moves at the speed of light, which sometimes is a good thing, sometimes not. Figuring out which is which is the fun part.
Later, as a freelance speechwriter just starting out in the early 1990s, I used to FedEx computer discs with speeches on them to clients, after paying researchers in New York City by the hour to fact check my material—for a few extra bucks, they'd walk across the street to the New York Public Library and send me interesting nuggets to use. Today we have E-mail and Google, and I often wonder what those researchers are doing now. Having the ability to instantly dig around and learn new things these days is the best part of the job—you go onto realclearpolitics.com, for example, and one link leads you to another and another and another. You see stories and insights you never would have otherwise, and you can't help but soak it all up. In 1986, when my dad was the age I am now, he died of cancer. He was the one who encouraged me to be a writer, and I can't help but think of all he's missing. And I feel lucky to be alive myself in such an exciting time in American journalism.
I've tried to stay true to a few rules I set for myself at the beginning of this adventure: to be as fair and truthful as I can; to write as well as possible because, as I tell my daughters, anything you put on the Internet lives forever; and to always remember that while it's a daily sport in Washington to tear people apart, that's not why I'm here. I've tried to give our political leaders the benefit of the doubt, to always assume the best of everyone, and above all, to be kind and thoughtful. There's too much instant ugliness—on both sides of the aisle—and if I can be a voice of reason, that's what I'd like to do.
Having such terrific editors and researchers at Thomas Jefferson Street has been a blessing—they've saved me from embarrassing myself too many times to count. And most of all, I'm grateful for having great readers. I can't tell you how surprising it is to me when I run into people who tell me they read what I write—from judges, to political operatives, to fashion designers, to talk-radio personalities, to college friends, and moms reading on their kitchen computers. Who knew? Being part of such a wonderful community of readers makes me want to do this for a long time, and I hope you'll stay with me. Thanks for a great first year.