Living The Dishhead Dream

Chas Danner —  Feb 6 2015 @ 10:30am
by Chas Danner
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WU-cxEEJ-E&eurl]

I’m a reader. That’s how this ride started for me. Seven years ago there was, and still is, no better place on the Internet for keeping abreast of news, arguments, ideas, and the penetrating thoughts and experiences of complete strangers – the Dish’s readers. Finding the Dish was a revelation. I was hooked.

In the spring of 2009, I knew the Iranian elections were ramping up because I read the Dish, and it was a story that captured my attention like nothing else previously or since. When their election day came and went wrong, I devoured all the news I could find, living the story in real-time from afar. I started chas-inbox-iranhammering the Dish inbox with scraps of news, videos, and tweets, reloading constantly to see if and when my contributions made it on the blog. I also began volunteering my efforts for HuffPo’s live-blog on the story, and started collecting those chilling videos of Iranians chanting Allah-o Akbar from their rooftops. When that project got a plug on the Dish, from “blogger Chas Danner”, I was floored. It was during those few summer months that I first caught the journalism bug, mostly because I found myself doing the job I had been watching the Dish do for years.

In 2012, when I applied for and somehow got a Dishternship, I suddenly found myself under the hood, revamping our Facebook feed, helping the Dish cover a presidential election, getting chastised by Patrick for not “feeding the beast” enough, and eating mini-cupcakes in the green room at Colbert.

When my internship ended, right as the Dish was about to go independent, I refused to stop working until they hired me back on. When they finally relented and I was asked what I wanted my new title to be, I suggested “Special Teams”, a football term for a collection of players with specific skills used for special situations. It was an apt title, as my job often required some self-taught skill the rest of the team lacked, and there ended up being virtually no part of producing the Dish, or keeping our company going, that I didn’t get to play some role in.

When we needed a new website, I designed it and managed its launch. I found our technology partners Tinypass, 10up, and WordPress VIP and managed those relationships. When we needed to shoot and edit VFYWC-224videos, or produce podcasts, or find meeting spaces we could rent, I figured it out. When some gear inside the Dish broke, I was the one who got the call. And I edited others’ drafts, became a headline specialist, wove together contest entries, and found most of the Dish’s Mental Health Breaks and Faces Of The Day these past few years. But, for me, nothing was more exhilarating or more challenging than parachuting into some breaking news event and connecting the dots, tweets, images, and posts, staying up late and waking up early to squeeze some extra ounce of understanding out of the confusion and chaos.

Now, at the end, I’m the Dish’s Managing Editor, and so proudly so. For while I’ve loved being a jack of all trades, what I’ve loved even more is helping maintain and improve the overall system of human and technological resources that make the Dish possible. The Dish is a super-organism. Each individual part – our staff, Andrew, the readers, and the blogosphere – making up the essential whole. It is a complex and magical machine, and I for these past few years I have felt like its faithful mechanic.

For me, the ultimate special project has been the entire thing itself, making sure Andrew’s spirited campaign against sponsored content left no outrage unturned, helping Patrick try to reimagine our dish-prep-assignment-buttonscompany’s future, or version after updated version of his brilliant RSS processing system, having passionate arguments with Chris about the nature and future of Dishness, working with Jessie to relaunch our Twitter feed so that the hundreds of other writers we depend on for our content would know we’ve featured their work, relaying tweets and posts to Jonah so he can be the best damn foreign-policy blogger on the planet, and the countless, marvelous conversations with Matt about what journalism is, should, and can be. These incredible people, these co-workers who have become my best friends, have inspired me in ways I could have never imagined. Anything I ever do, everything I ever accomplish, will be because of them.

And then there are all of you, our readers. For those of you who have written in with your votes of confidence in our staff continuing on, please know how much that has meant to us. We have read all of them. And if you saw some tall guy sobbing on the F train last Friday, that was me after reading how one Dishhead was willing to up his subscription to $5,000 to save the Dish. Please know how badly we wanted the Dish to live on somehow, and how hard we fought for that possibility. Working for all of you has been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life. I would have done it all for free, or paid to keep it alive myself, as so many of you have done. I know how important the Dish is to all of you, because I’m one of you too. And I don’t know what I’m going to read tomorrow when I wake up either.

This was real. Even more than the success of our business or editorial models, what the Dish proved is that you, our readers, exist. There are at least thirty, maybe fifty or a hundred thousand of you out there who get it. That’s enough. You have all proved that the future of media, of reading and thinking, doesn’t have to be constrained by the bullshit of clickbait, faux-inspiration, take-pieces, regurgitated Times articles, listicles, and advertising masquerading as journalism. You have proved that the homepage lives. You have proved that editors matter. The Dish existed because of you. Now we dream forward.

The Dish may be dead, but I will always be a Dishhead. I still believe, even now at the very end. And I always will.