How the ‘Windy City Fixer’ Rescued Me from Blog Hell

Tim Woodward’s new columns will alternate with previously published “Woodward Classics” for the duration of the pandemic.

  The benefits of information technology are incalculable, allowing us to do in seconds what once took hours or days.

  I’m thankful for it every time I need to look up the meaning of a word or find a synonym. Instead of running downstairs to grab a dictionary or thesaurus and spend time flipping pages, I click on their online versions and have the answer instantly. The same is true for looking up phone numbers, addresses, places to dine, shop, etc. 

  In my early days as a reporter, we wrote our stories on typewriters and glued the stories’ pages together.  They were edited with pencils and carried to the composing room to be painstakingly laid out on pages and carried to the press room. Depending on the length and complexity of the story, the process took part or all of a shift.

  Now it’s all done with a few clicks.

  But has technology really made our lives better? Made us happier?

  Forever in my memory banks is the image of a reporter who lost a story she was writing due to a technological glitch. Not just any story; it was a major project that she’d been working on for weeks. She’d interviewed dozens of sources, taken scores of pages of notes, agonized over every word. Her story would have been the lead story on that Sunday’s front page. 

  She and her editor were reviewing the finishing touches when she pressed a key and – poof – her story was gone.

  The IT folks were called, to no avail. There was nothing anyone could do. The story into which she had poured so much of her time and hard work was gone for good. I’ll never forget seeing her slumped over her desk, tears streaming down her face, inconsolable.

  Though they may not be that traumatic, we’ve all had our share of technology related meltdowns. A couple of years ago, I got so mad at my SmartPhone that I threw it across a street. Luckily, it landed in some tall grass and wasn’t damaged.

  That said, there have been times that I’ve wished it had been. I’d have replaced it with a simpler phone and probably been happier for it.

  All of which is a long way of getting to my latest cyber casualty and  an explanation of how it happened, specifically for readers of my blog.

  Especially those who have been leaving me angry messages.

  I started woodwardblog.com about five years ago for readers who had moved to other parts of the country but wanted to keep up with my columns. I posted them a day after they were published in the newspaper, and, through a process that remains a mystery to me, the blog automatically emailed them to subscribers. Subscribing was free, and even if you didn’t subscribe you could access years’ worth of columns.

  Until a couple of weeks ago.

  That’s when I discovered that the company that hosted the blog also hosted the website for my classic-rock band, the Mystics. Like many musical groups around the state and the nation, the band hasn’t been playing much during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the company’s fees for hosting the site increased significantly. 

  Deciding it wasn’t worth it to keep paying them, I called to cancel the website. Only then did I learn that the company also hosted the blog.

  “I always thought they were two separate companies,” I told the person who answered. “If it’s the same company, why do they have different names?” 

  I didn’t understand his explanation, which wasn’t surprising. I understand very little of what comes out of the mouths of computer geeks. I am absolutely certain, however, that at no point did I say I wanted to cancel the blog.

  So you can imagine my surprise, to put it mildly, when it vanished. Instead of the usual posts and familiar options that normally appeared when I entered my password, a baffling array of unfamiliar and confusing information appeared. Thinking it was a glitch that could easily be fixed, I called the company again.

 “There’s a problem with my blog,” I told the woman who answered. “It doesn’t come up when I enter the password.”

  “That’s because your blog has been canceled,” she replied.

 This was followed by a long silence while my wife administered smelling salts.

  Not really. I made that up. But it wasn’t far from the truth. My heart may have actually skipped a couple of beats.

  “My blog is canceled? Why?”

  “Your blog and your band’s website were on the same contract. When you called to cancel the band website, the entire contract was canceled.”

  It would have been nice if someone had explained that at the time.

  “I don’t want the blog canceled! It had hundreds of subscribers! It had my newspaper columns going back years! There’s no way to get it back?”

  “Sorry.”

  I briefly considered making a voodoo doll with the company’s name on it, then thought of someone who might actually be able to help.  

  Of course! Zack! 

  Zack is the computer expert who helped me start the blog in the first place. He lives in Chicago now, but one of my daughters had his number so I called and told him what happened.

  The man is patently a miracle worker. It took a while, but Zack got the blog back. He got back all the posts, all the subscribers, even the band website. And he moved it all to a different company that will charge a fraction of what the old one did. Subscribers will be happy to know know that they can access the blog the same way they did before.

  So they can stop making voodoo dolls with my name on them.

  This column will be posted on the blog tomorrow. If you subscribe, I’d like to hear from you, especially if you run into any glitches.

  If so, no worries.

  I have a fixer in the Windy City. 

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted – hopefully! – on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodwardcolumn@gmail.com.

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