This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In March 2005, former Sen. Jean Carnahan and Democratic consultant Roy Temple created quite a stir at Democrat Days in Hannibal when they announced the launch of the state's first major political blog, “FiredUp Missouri.”
The aim, the two said, was to use its web presence to daily promote Democratic ideals – and lampoon the opposition.
FiredUp’s creation came “at an important point in time,’’ said Temple in an interview this week. “Democrats were demoralized. They had just lost a governorship.”
(One of the few Democratic bright spots in the 2004 election was the victory of Jean Carnahan’s daughter, Robin Carnahan, as the new secretary of state.)
But now, FiredUp’s time has gone. A few weeks ago, the website went dark. “Publication has been suspended,’’ Temple said. “It could be turned back on, but there are no active plans to do so.”
The blog’s low-key departure contrasted with the high-profile role that Firedup once played on Missouri’s political stage. But it also marks the changing landscape of web politics.
For several years, FiredUp Missouri energized state Democrats and infuriated Republicans with daily missives -- some written by Temple or Carnahan -- aimed at highlighting, or promoting, the headline-grabbing controversies that made state Republicans look bad.
Via its own sleuthing, or by promoting that of mainstream news outlets, FiredUp highlighted the various alleged missteps during Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration – from the partisan maneuverings involving license fee offices to the firing of Blunt's lawyer Scott Eckersley over open-records issues.
The site attracted national attention a couple of years ago when it zeroed in on then-state Rep. Cynthia Davis’ complaint about subsidized school lunches, when she asserted that “hunger can be a positive motivator" to help children work harder.
In 2011, FiredUp also focused on the coverage of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s problem acquaintance with a former stripper.
“I want to be careful that I don’t say it was more than it was,’’ said Temple. “We brought stuff to people’s attention that may have otherwise been on the margins. It boosted morale and sometimes injected some useful information – and a bit of ‘hot sauce’ to make it interesting.”
Temple oversaw the site for several years, then handed off the day-to-day role to others, most recently Sean Nicholson, who said of Firedup, “I think we were ahead of the game.”
Many of the blog site’s writers were volunteers, and most – aside from Temple and Nicholson – used pseudonyms. The pithiest FiredUp poster was often someone with the moniker “Howard Beale,’’ a ground-breaking TV anchor in the 1976 dark comedy “Network.”
Missouri Republicans attempted numerous times to unmask Beale or to set up rival blogs. Neither attempt was very successful.
At its peak, FiredUp’s daily traffic was in the “high five figures,’’ Temple said, with huge spikes when a Davis-type post attracted national attention.
Web created FiredUp -- and contributed to its downfall
So, what tossed water on FiredUp'd verbal flames? The same thing that had nurtured its growth: the World Wide Web.
“It’s very much the case that the world has changed,’’ said Nicholson, who now is executive director of Progress Missouri, a group that seeks to mobilize progressives online and on the streets.
Although “websites and blogs are important for longer conversations,’’ Nicholson said the key role of political-change agent has moved to the social media – especially Facebook and Twitter.
“Facebook and Twitter are so much more important to us,’’ Nicholson said, citing the sites’ success in quickly – and widely -- circulating political news and views.
A more practical matter, said Temple, was that he, Nicholson and others “had moved on" to other jobs, with no one left to attend regularly to FiredUp’s needs for new daily content.
Although FiredUp’s blog site may be mothballed, the logo has found life on social media sites. Nicholson and other former FiredUp writers now periodically post items on Twitter with the FiredUp moniker instead of their own.
Temple said that the blog site’s archives remain online and still generate traffic as political activists elsewhere use “Google’’ to track down information on various topics, some of which found life on FiredUp.
Temple now is a Kansas City-based political consultant. Known for his passionate posts during FiredUp’s heyday, Temple quips, “Now I have my outbursts in 140 characters on Twitter.”
And while FiredUp’s days may be over, Temple says its spirit will live on: “It’s kind of a balloon you let go of, and it floats off into space.”
Unless, of course, one “googles’’ the names of Cynthia Davis or Howard Beale.
As for the latter’s true identity, Temple said slyly, “That’s a secret that will go with those of us who knew, to our grave.”