The results of last week's midterm election left many a Missoula Democrat sulking like an eight-year-old who found his pumpkin smashed. But the Montana House of Representatives wasn't the only loss mourned by local liberals in the aftermath of the Republican uprising. One of the Montana blogosphere's hottest political forums fell silent Nov. 3 as lead bloggers Jay Stevens and Matt Singer bowed out at Left in the West.
Left in the West has been one of the first morning must-reads for political commentary on the issues rocking Montana for nearly six years. Stevens, also the founder of 4&20 Blackbirds, another popular Montana blog, succeeded in aggregating nearly every political and social issue with a pithy and informative take from the liberal perspective. Same with Singer, co-founder and senior advisor of Forward Montana, who rarely missed a beat this year when it came to the GOP's homophobic platform and Rep. Denny Rehberg's opposition to health care reform. Commenters from the right and left picked up where Stevens and Singer left off, exchanging pointed barbs over divisive topics ranging from physician-assisted suicide to medical marijuana.
Stevens announced he was done with the blog by denouncing the Internet fatigue all of us news hounds probably suffer from.
"I'm tired of my bottomless RSS feed," he wrote. "I'm tired of watching Twitter and Facebook scroll by. I'm tired of combing the Internet for something to write about two, three times a day, every day, whether I feel like writing or not. I'm tired of the ravenous, insatiable trolls, the toxicity that the isolated, anonymity the Internet abets, and all of the stupid little rules we had to make to contain it. But most of all, I need to move on. I need the time and attention back."
In Singer's farewell post the following day he announced he's leaving for Portland, Ore., where he'll serve as the director of the Bus Federation, a consortium of groups including Forward Montana, working to encourage greater political engagement.
"My guess is that this site will effectively turn into a ghost town," Singer wrote.
That's too bad. What we appreciated most about Left in the West, besides the good writing, was that Stevens and Singer weren't anonymous. Too often political bloggers write under pseudonyms, and the secrecy leaves readers not only guessing about the blogger's identity, but about their credibility.
So, regardless of Left in the West's political leanings, we're sad to see the site go. Above all, it contributed insights that often complemented or even spurred actual reporting, not just the rumor and innuendo that only serve to undermine it.