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January 03, 2004

The Last CyberWire Dispatch

The end of 2003 came with a little melancholic news to me. It was a forward of the last CyberWire Dispatch came into my inbox. "And so, finally, really, I'm not kidding... Meeks out..." as he wrote.

It was some time in 1993 when I read the Cyberwire Dispatch for the first time, I was fascinated, definitely. As many know that, it wasn't named as CWD at the time. But it was CyberWire Dispatch that made me decided to get into journalistic field in cyberspace. Without reading that CWD, I'm not here now.

Cyberwire Dispatch brought me an example of what an independent journalist could do online. It was a proof of online journalism could make a difference.

I must confess that Brock Meeks was one of my star journalist at the time. When someone introduced me Brock at one of Computers Freedom & Privacy conferences, I became uptight and could not speak well about what I was on. When Wired Japan magazine printed translation of Brock's news article and my article in the same page, I felt I was honored.

It had a great run, Brock. I miss CWD. But probably I'm missing it as a part of early days of the Internet I spent my time with. Now things are up to us. So let's move on to the next level. As someone said, an ending is a beginning...


(while this piece was not up on the web yet, I paste here just for convenience)

Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 13:11:21 -0800
From: "Meeks, Brock (MSNBCi)"
Subject: CWD--Farewell Tour

Copyright © 2003 // CyberWire Dispatch // December 31

Jacking in from "Fond Farewell" Port:

WASHINGTON-New York's Times Square today looks and feels like the war ravaged capital of some third world country after a coup d'帍at; the FBI is telling local cops to be leery of any hinky acting, middle-eastern looking males that happen to be carry around dog-eared almanacs (no, I'm not making this stuff up); the U.S. Justice Department, with Congress acting as unindicted co-conspirators, have pencil whipped the Bill of Rights so as to make it unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers; Paris Hilton's sex tape is all over the Internet and CyberWire Dispatch is closing the doors on its publication.

Thank God for Paris, at least some sanity remains out there.

Today's world seems even darker and more in need of the kind of biting, crystal commentary that CWD provided than when the publication first sprang life, back before the Web was born, when "browser" was a pejorative term used by Real Estate agents and anxious retail store owners.

But CWD has been on "life support" for far too many years now and it's time to make a decision to revive it or mercifully pull the plug and let it die an honorable death, slipping into the history and archive of the cyberworld with its legacy intact.

Gloves please... let's pull the plug on this beast.

I'll retain the rights to the CyberWire Dispatch name and hold on to the cyberwire.com, if for nothing else than to keep Marty Rimm from buying the domain and turning it into a how-to clearinghouse for would be pornographers...

From There and Back Again

We've had a good run, no, a great run. CWD, unfunded and erratically published (and erratically edited for that matter), won top journalism awards with its unflinching commentary and investigative stories. We uncovered hoaxes, stopped miscreants from foisting their schemes users of the web and from time to time made the administration sweat.

All of that was first and foremost made possible by you, the reader. Many CWD readers became sources, friends, contributors and ad hoc editors.

CyberWire Dispatch even owes its name to its readers. The publication was nameless until it broke a story way-back-when about an internal cost/benefit analysis the White House had done on the impact of what was then called the "digital telephony bill."

The FBI and administration kept insisting that no such analysis had been done but CWD obtained that analysis and wrote an exclusive story about it. What a shock, then, to find the next day that the great grey Lady (the New York Times) had come out with an article that was nearly identical to CWD's, as if they had gotten the scoop on their own.

This episode didn't escape CWD's sharp eyed readers and it was suggested that if CWD, still nameless at the time, were given a name, it would be much harder to steal from. I believe Kevin Kelly was the first one to actually make that suggestion and that day the name CyberWire Dispatch was born.

It wasn't long after that Mitch Kapor paid CWD one of the highest compliments it ever received by proclaiming that by its publication on the web it had created one of the "first brands" in cyberspace.

No one ever stole from CWD again and indeed, many mainstream publications began to officially reference our stories and credit our scoops.

The Home Team

There was no greater incubator for CWD than the WELL. It was CWD's "home town" and the people that populated the WELL were its judge, jury, researchers, critics and editors. I cherish each and everyone there that took the time to comment, either negative or positive. Each helped shape CWD in ways they'll never fully know.

Eric Theise, a San Francisco visual artist, who maintains Liberty Hill Cyberwerks (www.cyberwerks.com), receives my undying gratitude for selflessly hosting CyberWire Dispatch (the web's ugliest homepage) all these many years. Although www.cyberwire.com is alive, it's essentially a mirror of the space Eric provided.

Like the winner of an academy award, I feel the uncontrollable urge to thank everyone I've ever known. But for once I'll show some restraint and not do that. I would inevitably forget to mention someone that had a major impact on CWD's success and who needs that kind of negative karma floating around.

It's been a privilege to be a pioneer in online journalism and watch CWD carve out its place in history. And it's also a great pleasure to have CWD retire undefeated in challenges before the Supreme Court, owing to our 1-0 record as a plaintiff in the landmark Reno v. ACLU case that struck down (the majority of) the Communications Decency Act.

Thanks one and all, friend and foe alike, it's been a hell of a ride.

And so, finally, really, I'm not kidding...

Meeks out...


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