Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit The Smoking Gun, which covers many odd and quirky stories typically by way of obtained legal documents.
What impressed me with their presentation was the story of how the website came to be and how grounded the employees are. They were genuine in a way that I haven’t felt at the other visits/tours we have had.
The Smoking Gun meeting reiterated the idea of doing what you enjoy while you work. I think we could all tell how much the employees care about The Smoking Gun and the stories they produce, even though their headquarters are confined to a conference room on the 7th floor of the Time Warner Center.
The Smoking Gun reminded me of another experience I had during a media trip I took to Chicago in November for a National College Media Convention. In Chicago, I listened to a session about sports blogging by Ricky O’Donnell. I walked into the room and thought he was a 16-year-old boy. Turns out he’s about a year older than me, making him a man according to AP style. He is now the editor of SB Nation Chicago.
He had a similar vibe as The Smoking Gun staff. They love what they do, operate a website and have the ability to make people laugh without necessarily attempting to as they tell stories about their business running an online news source. They don’t really have any sort of plan. They do what they do and it’s successful and they generate an Internet audience. In both cases, I felt as if these people weren’t trying to say they were above us in any way. It’s kind of the “we’re regular guys, we did this because we enjoyed it, and hey what do you know, we’ve risen up the ranks in popularity.”
I think that’s pretty cool, because as cool as it is to see The New York Times, Bloomberg and other major media organizations, places like The Smoking Gun show the power the Internet can have to generate an audience and help an idea and career to take off without necessarily having strict plans or structure in order. Not that I would plan on starting my own site rather than applying for a job with a media organization as a post-graduation plan, but just to know that there are opportunities and places to start your own work online, whether for fun or profit, is compelling to think about.