The online journalism world today is mourning the passing of one the pioneers of Internet news, columnist Cathy Seipp, who died yesterday in Los Angeles after a five-year fight against lung cancer. A non-smoker, she was 49.
I met Seipp at the end of the last century, when she was busy on two projects: trying to convince journalists that bringing back the grand tradition of gathering in social settings to get soused was something we never should have lost, and also trying to convince those of us in the print business that we were ignoring one of the biggest stories in years—the impact bloggers were having on the news business.
Of course, she was right on both accounts. With advice columnist Amy Alkon, Seipp started a series of drinkathons for Los Angeles journalists that continued for years (and for all I know, is still going), bringing together those of us at newspapers with the new names of online reporting. You knew Seipp was onto something when blogging trailblazers like Matt Welch and Ken Layne are trying to convince you to throw away everything and come help them launch a new paper to be delivered free to the homes of rich people that will be underwritten by millionaire and former LA mayor Richard Riordan, and you’ve almost had enough tequila shots to go for it.
That was the kind of craziness Seipp was after. She loved the mashup of old and new journalism worlds, and tried repeatedly to get me and others to pay attention to what was happening. Media evolution got plenty of treatment in her own columns, of course. She’d long been a caustic critic of the Los Angeles Times (and Seipp fans will remember one of her all-time, most entertaining takedowns with three familiar words: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez), but she also had loads of criticism for the company I worked for, called New Times then (Village Voice Media today), and how it was transforming the alternative media business. Unlike other critics of New Times, Seipp did her homework and knew what she was talking about. She’d met enough of us to know what we were actually trying to accomplish, even if she believed we were falling woefully short of the mark.
I’ll miss Cathy Seipp keeping us on our toes. And I’ll miss those damn drunks in LA. Cathy, you won’t be forgotten.