Michael Higby, the founder and editor of the Mayor Sam Blogspot, passed away last night of an apparent heart attack.
His blog was among the most widely read in the city. It was also the most widely loved or detested, depending on the subject.
When I started my blog, I did not look to Mayor Sam or any other for inspiration. If anything, I strove to be completely different, dealing with a more narrow scope of issues and a style much closer to prose than reporting.
But I did follow Mayor Sam closely. Many officials did, too.
I recall setting off a firestorm on the blog one week when I posted comments critical of vulgar chatter that would permeate the threads. Michael, along with some of his regular readers, were not happy with my criticism. He and I exchanged private e-mails on the subject and dealt with it in a civil manner.
It was not long after when Michael established a new policy that blocked profane rants. I have no idea if my pushback had anything to do with it.
I suspect not. Michael was as independent a person as you could find and was passionately on the side of unbridled free speech. It did not matter what others thought.
But Michael had a conscience and was thoughtful. It was inevitable he would have come to that conclusion, with or without external input.
The Mayor Sam blog raised the bar of blogging – not so much for content (rightly or wrongly, many challenged the accusations or characterizations in his reports), but for stimulating interest in the workings of local politics that lurked below the surface, practices largely ignored by mainstream media.
His writings were the antithesis of the glossy mailers or e-mail newsletters politicians distributed to their constituents. Michael was a role model for challenging the establishment. I believe he did it out of love for the city.
I do not think anyone really hated the Mayor Sam blog. Instead, readers had a love/hate relationship with it, an emotion that has been described as exciting and intoxicating because of the fine line between love and hate.
Blogging will be a little less interesting and provocative now that Michael is gone.