Five years ago Neil Steinberg’s column in the Sun-Times temporarily was cut to one day a week as punishment for an ethical infraction that must have seemed important at the time. That’s when he came up with an audacious idea.
Rather than enjoy his reduced workload at full pay, Steinberg decided to start a blog where he could post columns about anything he liked whenever he wanted. Seven days a week, in fact.
On July 1, 2013, he launched EveryGoddamnDay.com, with the promise right there in the title that he would deliver the goods day in and day out. Even when the Sun-Times restored his column to multiple days a week, he kept up the blog faithfully.
No matter how big or small the subject, it’s always a great read.
"That half decade certainly snapped by,” Steinberg, 58, told me the other day. “I’m not sure if going five years without missing a day is something to be proud of or to regret. Whether it displays diligence or obsessiveness. It is kinda like judging a book by how thick it is. But I named the blog 'Every goddamn day’ for a reason, and doing so seemed a commitment. I wanted readers to know, if they visited yesterday, there would be new stuff today.
“To be honest, posting every single day isn't that difficult to do, and in a sense it's easier than writing a few times a week. Between the new columns in the paper and reacting spur-of-the-moment to the jaw-dropping news of the day, plus reviving past columns slumbering in the archive, I'm never short of material. Readership steadily increases, and part of that is having a very long tail—several thousand available posts, at this point. When I feature one from one, two, three or four years ago, it can easily get a thousand new hits.
“My bosses have been extremely tolerant of the blog, allowing me to post the first four or five graphs of my column then link with the newspaper's site, and to post complete old columns that aren't available online. Sometimes I wish the blog were formally part of the paper, for the traffic that would be driven to it. And then I could print full columns and have the blog tucked under the paper's masthead, to save readers the bother of clicking on a link and then finding their place in the column. But I suppose in the end the paper's lack of involvement is a plus, as I can avail myself to the full range of obscene words and phrases, as situations demand, without worrying about the fussy strictures of daily newsprint journalism, which look more fussy and more restrictive with every passing year.
"With news breaking 24 hours a day, having a blog right there, to jump in day or night, has been very useful. I don't understand why all columnists don't have one. If an editor makes a change I don't like in an article or column, I can keep the version I prefer on the blog. When I highlight old columns, I give them a fresh read and find errors or rough patches. Now that the canyon floor is rushing up at me, career-wise, it's a comfort thinking this big mass of my work is floating out there in cyberspace, perhaps forever, for readers to avail themselves to or ignore, as they see fit. A kind of rump immortality."
This week also marks the publication of Steinberg’s most recent book, Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery, in paperback. Written with New York author Sara Bader, the critically acclaimed compendium of poems, essays, quotations and song lyrics helps alcoholics and drug addicts strive toward sobriety.
As for EveryGoddamnDay.com, Steinberg sees no end in sight.
"I asked myself whether this was the time to quit, and decided no, I would miss it. And I hope readers would too,” he said. “So we'll give it another five years, and see where we are then."
Tuesday's comment of the day: Joan Esposito: Tony [Sarabia] is a treasure. Wherever he goes, I wish only the very best for him.