Thursday, December 25, 2008

A visitor for the holiday

No, not Santa.  However, the gifts have been opened, the food eaten, the sugar plums nestled, and my 24 hours away from the computer are over.  So, back, and ready for action.

And I received a comment on my post centering on the Chicago Tribune story about Karl Buschmann and his employment woes.  Leaving aside the content of the comment for now (not because I have any issue with it, simply because it doesn't fit with this post), I'm excited to say it came from Ron May.

Now, of course, I value anyone who leaves a comment; I'm thrilled that people are reading and, perhaps to some extent, enjoying, but Ron May is kind of special.  To those of you not in Chicago, or not in the tech scene, you probably don't know who that is.  But if you're a sentient Chicago tech person, you must know him, if only through the Ron May Report (I've linked to the About page so you can get some flavor of what it's all about).

The Report is difficult to summarize exactly, just as Ron May himself is.  I have a picture of Mr. May that I've developed from his writing and some people who have encountered him (I have never met him myself), and I gather that a first impression of him for a lot of folks is "eccentric."  As I understand it, Mr. May goes to various events of a technical nature in and around Chicago, whether invited or not, and talks to people and experiences the events and comes home and writes this sprawling report on what is going on.  And he's been doing this for years, all through the late '90s tech boom, into the bust, and he's still going today (whatever you call this period we're in).  He focuses mainly on the entrepreneurs and angels, the venture capital firms and the start-ups, but he has written on some of the larger mainline firms (those that are still here, that is).

About the closest I can come to giving you the flavor of the May Report is to tell you that it's a pre-blog, something that existed in the dark days before blogging but has some of the same flavor.  The distinction is, of course, that Mr. May is doing primary reporting, that he's out talking to the people, going to the events, figuring out what's going on and conveying it to his readers.  If you have seen the pallid excuse for tech reporting that we tend to have in Chicago, you would understand that Ron May is really the only person living up to the ideals of journalism in this field in this place.

Now there is an element of gossip in some of the stories in the Report, and there is always the possibility that a correspondent or tipster might have an ax to grind, so one could criticize the Report for not meeting the standards of a "real" news source.  However, when you look at some of the monstrous reporting that is being done at some of our "major" news outlets (see Dean Baker or Brad DeLong for examples), you realize that having an ethics policy is no guarantee of accuracy.

I think there will be theses written in the future on the rise and fall of technology in Chicago, and the names Filipowski and Bernard will figure prominently (if not always admirably).  Any student who wants to get at the heart of what went on during this period had better move beyond the morgues of the Tribune and the Sun-Times if there is any desire to capture what really happened and how it felt, and the primary source would have to be The May Report.  I don't know if such things and people exist in other cities, but it would be nice to think that someone is putting forth that kind of effort to chronicle these interesting times.  At least we have Ron May, and I welcome him here (even if he never returns).

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