I knew him when…

Congrats-full

Today was a big day for my friend Brad Flora. As many of you already know, he won a $250,000 grant to develop an ad platform for local ads that don’t suck, ads like the ones that have been test-driven on Windy Citizen for some time now.

I couldn’t be more thrilled for Brad or more proud of him. He has worked hard for this and he is so deserving of the grant money, the accolades and, I hope, his success with this venture. Perhaps because it’s such a big day, I’m reminded of a day almost two years ago when Brad and I first “met.”

I was, as per usual, out of work and thus at home glued to my computer. I stumbled across Windy Citizen and saw that they (I thought it was a “they” back then) were looking for bloggers. There were already some active blogs there and it seemed that they were open to starting new ones. I scanned the blog list for, what else, something political. Finding nothing, I clicked on the link to send an e-mail to suggest a new blog.

Brad responded to me pretty quickly and asked me a ton of questions right away. I was taken aback. After all, wasn’t I going to write this blog for him for free? Why was he asking me all these questions?? It felt like a job interview.

Brad then told me that the best blogs are the ones that focus on one subject and one subject only. So all of Chicago politics would be too big he said. It needs to have a smaller scope.

I couldn’t think of anything.

Luckily, the next day Brad e-mailed me to suggest a blog that would just be about the mayor. I loved the idea right away and asked him how on earth he came up with it. As it turns out, the moment of clarity came after about 4 beers. Brad told me that he often got his best ideas that way :-) I then came up with a name: the Daily Daley. Brad had another name idea which I now can’t recall. But I convinced him that mine was better and off we went. 

I had never blogged before other than some Blogger shenanigans so Brad walked me through it via Gchat. He taught me about looking for images and how to format everything. Before putting up my first post, I sent him a Word document of it. He gave it his blessing and it went up on October 13, 2008. I didn’t know it then, but my life was going to change.

It sounds silly and over-dramatic, but writing the Daily Daley for almost a year, most of that time on my own, was what made me want to become a journalist. While still in search of a full-time job in a newsroom, I’ve seen my byline printed in the Chicago Tribune more than once and have helped a former Daily Daley contributor get into DePaul’s j-school program. I’ve also met so many great people, made so many new friends and received so much help and encouragement from so many corners of Chicago’s local media community and beyond.

Of course Brad has always been particularly encouraging. When I landed my freelance assignment for the Chicago Tribune, he proofed my first submission along with others. When the Daily Daley was still going, we would meet in person frequently to discuss how to improve it, new things we could do, etc. When the blog was about a year old (and around the time it stopped being written), Brad sent me congratulatory flowers.

All the while, I’ve been a big supporter of Windy Citizen and of course, by extension, Brad. I have a Windy Citizen t-shirt. I used to have Windy Citizen business cards with the Daily Daley information on them. I proudly list Windy Citizen on my resume. Anytime a Chicago blogger follows me on Twitter, I make sure they know about Windy Citizen. It used to be that no one knew what I meant when I brought it up. Now that’s changing. The former Daily Daley contributor who’s starting j-school at DePaul soon? He tells me that people always know the Daily Daley when he mentions it to them and a lot of people now seem to know who I am. I’ll still never forget the day Megan Cottrell (now another good friend) came up to me and said “You’re the Anna Tarkov who writes the Daily Daley?? I love the Daily Daley! Please keep doing what you do! Can I give you a hug?”

Much of the credit for how far I’ve come also goes to my amazing husband and best friend. But without Windy Citizen and Daily Daley as a platform, I’m not sure I would have ever discovered my love for journalism or convinced myself that I could have a career in media. More importantly, I couldn’t have convinced anyone else. But now there are people who believe in me and that’s so important when you’re trying to do something so difficult.

Brad would probably be the first to tell you the same. More than once, he though about quitting Windy Citizen. But with the support of people who believed in him, he forged ahead and look where he is today. What’s most admirable is that he’s done it with character, honesty and integrity. As the congratulations pour in, you cannot detect even a hint of insincerity in anyone’s well wishes. Overall, one would be hard pressed to find someone with an unkind word to say about Brad. I’m sure others feel the way I do when I say that I am proud to know him and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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