Roger L. Simon

Happy Birthday, Pajamas Media

Sometimes I think Jonathan Klein was right.  Klein was the CBS exec who inadvertently gave Pajamas Media its name by dismissing bloggers who questioned the veracity of his network’s anchorman Dan Rather as amateurs “in their pajamas.”

Of course, Rather has long been out of his job and PJM is today celebrating its fifth anniversary — but like the former anchor, we’ve made more than our share of mistakes.  We just try to own up to them.

In fact, I remember the opening week of our new media/blog alliance in mid-November 2005 as one giant fiasco.  For reasons that elude me now — some version of being thought serious, probably — we had decided to call ourselves OSM Media (for Open Source) only to discover, mid-way through our gala launch at New York’s “W” Hotel, that the name had already been taken by a relatively obscure online radio program.

My co-founder Charles Johnson and I — not to mention our principal partner in crime Instapundit Glenn Reynolds — were embarrassed.  In order not to appear the new bullies on the block, we instantly reverted to Pajamas Media, a name we should never have abandoned in the first place.  But that didn’t prevent us from being the object of massive Internet ridicule.

It took us a while to get our footing.  In those days PJM was supposed to be a collegial home for bloggers on the right and the left.   That didn’t last long either.  The two sides didn’t work and play well together, just as they don’t seem able to do elsewhere in our society. Almost inevitably, we evolved into an alliance of nearly a hundred unruly, conservative, center-right and libertarian bloggers, trying to create some form of new media. It was rather like herding cats, as our COO Sandra Rozanski would say.

But we trudged on to be quickly surprised by our first success — our coverage of Iraq’s first democratic election on December 15, 2005. Through our relationship with Omar and Mohammed of the Iraq the Model blog, we were able to place bloggers and correspondents across the Middle Eastern country on that historic day, resulting in much more extensive reporting than was available in mainstream media.  We were rewarded with over ninety thousand visitors, our greatest number to that point.

We had the grandiose plan then of becoming a kind of online blogger AP, something at which we were never able to succeed.  We did better, however, in more limited, targeted areas. In January 2007, we broke the story of Zahra Kamalfar, the dissident Iranian woman trapped for months with her children in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.  In the tradition of Rathergate, we unmasked instances of fake military reporting in the pages of The New Republic. Our coverage of the controversy surrounding the fraudulent Mohammed al Dura video and the rise of “Paliwood” was among the most thorough on the Internet.

We specialized too in mischief wrought by the United Nations, covering the Oil-for-Food scandal, the visit of Ahmadinejad to the Durban II conference on racism and, perhaps most importantly, “Climategate” — all subjects largely neglected by mainstream media until we, or others, pushed the MSM into covering them.

Most recently, led by Department of Justice apostate Christian Adams, with the help of our new Washington Bureau Chief Richard Pollock, we have been in the forefront of breaking the story of the dropped New Black Panther case and related racial bias at the DOJ.  This story inspired our Voter Fraud Watch during this year’s election and will most likely continue to grow as the internal dynamics of the DOJ are investigated by the new congress.  Pajamas Media plans on being there, just as it will be for similar investigations.

All through this, however, like almost all media companies in these times, Internet and otherwise, we were struggling financially.  For this reason — to the consternation of some and to our own continuing regret — we had to disband our blogger advertising network, consolidating around our main portal, Instapundit and our forthcoming venture into Internet television.

That venture, PJTV, debuted as the first live Internet telecast from a political convention at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, August 2008.  (Ironically, our booth was right next to the BBC’s.) With very little time to prepare and not a lot of experience, somehow we skated through with gavel-to-gavel coverage, featuring a mixture of bloggers, mainstream media reporters, politicians, pundits and entertainment personalities from Fred Thompson to country singer John Rich.

Since then, initially under the guidance of Tonight Show veteran Paul Block and now under Executive Producer Owen Brennan, we have been broadcasting non-stop with news, opinion and some conservative comedy from our main studio in El Segundo, California and smaller installations in Washington, D.C., New York, Denver, Knoxville and Jerusalem.

We have been experimenting with original forms of production, most notably a kind of video op-ed we call “digitorials” with Andrew Klavan, Bill Whittle, Sonja Schmidt, AlfonZo Rachel and others. Our Trifecta show with Steve Green, Scott Ott and now Steve Kruiser brings rapid fire commentary to Internet television. On the more newsy end are Alan Barton’s Front Page and Joe Hicks’ Minority Report, the first show we know of to feature the views of minority conservatives. Lionel Chetwynd and I try our luck at making sense of Hollywood and politics.

On top of all this is PJTV’s Tea Party TV.  Pajamas Media in general has been in the forefront of coverage of the Tea Party movement and intends to continue as that movement takes a modicum of power in the new congress.

Meanwhile, as PJTV emerged, the Pajamas Media portal continued to grow under the steady, literate hand of Aaron Hanscom, who has been our managing editor for several years now.

I know I can be accused of bragging, but I sincerely believe our current list of PJM XpressBloggers — historians Victor Davis Hanson, Michael Ledeen and Ron Radosh, journalists Claudia Rosett and Michael Totten, publisher/editor/essayist Roger Kimball, bloggers Richard Fernandez, Ed Driscoll and Steve Green, and the ineffable, mysterious Zombie — compare favorably with any publication online or in print.

I’m going to stop mentioning names here because there are so many and I, again sincerely, do not wish to leave anyone out or to offend anyone who has contributed to our company over the years.  I extend my deepest appreciation to all.

I will also take this opportunity to introduce you to our newest branch, if you haven’t seen it — the PJ Institute — and its first, quite timely, project — the National Economic Rescue Initiative or NERI.

So there you have it — five years of that unfinished experiment in new media known as Pajamas Media.  Yes, we have made mistakes — and will continue to do so.  We have gained friends and lost them and will gain and lose them again.  (My co-founder left us a few years ago over what are euphemistically called in Hollywood “creative differences.”)

What’s next? We certainly have ideas, which will be disclosed in due course. But we are ever-mindful of one of the rare smart things said by John Lennon:  “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

I will close with another inevitable rock and roll cliché:  “What a long strange trip it’s been!” Of course that trip has not been nearly as long as the Grateful Dead’s.  (Whose could be?) But I like to think we’ve only just begun.