April 18, 2013

TV Tattle Goes Dark After 13 Years

In the fall of 1998, a friend of mine at the Daily Californian student newspaper in Berkeley said he was in a real fix. With housing scarce at Cal, and both of us set to start our senior year, somehow he ended up "between places" and needed somewhere to crash. While I was already crammed into a one bedroom, one bathroom place with another roommate, I told the friend, Norman Weiss, he could crash on my couch. But I was no saint. I charged him $20 a night, figuring I'd make a $100 for the week while he looked for a place. After all, I needed money too. A month later, I was up $600, Norman found a place, and my real roommate, who wasn't in on the "cash for couch" deal, was ready to stop sharing the bathroom.

Norman by most standards was a pretty quirky guy. His social awkwardness was exceeded only by his intensity for finding a story. He was a good journalist, was voracious about hoovering up information, and was always up on the latest gossip at the university, and politics. Our evenings were spent talking about news, rumors and the Web. Shortly after he left my place, he showed me the early stages of his new idea - a website dedicated to links about TV. He was so excited about it and begged for my feedback on the name of the site and first graphics. I don't remember my exact words, but I seem to remember being pretty dismissive. After all, this was before real blogs had taken off, and I didn't care all that much about TV. But he did.

I first highlighted some of this story back in February of 2006, as Norman didn't take my being critical as a reason to stop working on what eventually became TV Tattle. Starting in 2000, and for nearly every weekday the last 13 years, casual television watchers and industry hobnobbers alike have turned to Norman's curated links to get the daily dish on the boob tube. Which is why when he put up a quick text note this week saying he was calling it quits, this move even hit The Hollywood Reporter, who seemingly is shocked by their outing of the quiet, but not truly anonymous, kingpin behind the site.

TV Tattle wasn't the most flashy site by any stretch of the imagination. It was largely text heavy, and images were small, if included at all. RSS was lacking, and social media integration was invisible. It remained a testament to a simpler time of the Web where one guy sitting at his computer, wherever that was, could keep people interested and entertained on a specific topic, due to being more diligent and consistent than anybody else.

Colleagues of mine from the Daily Californian went through a lot in the few years we all shared there. Some stayed in journalism and worked at places like the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, and the Arizona Republic. Others of us found the magnet of Silicon Valley too much to ignore, and work hard on the tech side of things. But while Norman remained much of an enigma, my every visit to his site was a small link away from those formative days when we had no money, when three guys shared a one bedroom apartment, and gossip on Berkeley's always amusing City Council members was the topic du jour.

When looking to take some time off from the world of tech, I've never stopped being a regular reader of TV Tattle, but now it looks like that choice is being made for me. Good luck, Norman. I hope we haven't heard the last from you.