More with the Mayor
The complete interview with the Mayor of Claycord, winner of Best Blog in our Best of the East Bay issue.
For the online version of the Q&A, click here.
When East Bay residents want to know why Ygnacio Valley Road is at a standstill or what’s the source of some smoke billowing on the horizon, they turn to hyperlocal news blog Claycord. Its anonymous full-time editor, “the mayor,” a thirtysomething lifelong Concord resident, combines reader tips, original reporting, and lighthearted local trivia to offer informative and interesting coverage of Clayton, Concord, and beyond.
Is your identity the best-kept or worst-kept secret?
Honestly, it's not a huge secret; a lot of people know who I am. I really don't think it's that big of a deal. I'm just a normal guy with an interest in where I live and what happens around me. I just like reporting the news, and I'm not in it for fame or recognition. Claycord is more of a community effort, and although I'm somewhat the leader of the community, without all of my readers and contributors, there would be no Claycord.
Why mayor? Why not president or czar or king?
I view Claycord as more of a community, and I'm the leader of the community. Presidents, czars, and kings don't lead communities, mayors do!
What made you decide to start this blog?
I love news, and I love talking. I wanted a place where the community could communicate, and I also wanted to provide an outlet to talk about things happening around us.
What is the biggest story Claycord has broke?
The Jaycee Dugard Kidnapping case. Locally, we were the first to tell you about her discovery in Concord, and we were also the first in the world to show you the suspect, Phillip Garrido, and report on the fact that he was a sex-offender and fathered children with Dugard.
How did you get the scoop?
Well, I got a few tips. I heard Dugard was found in Concord and living in Antioch. The next morning, I received a tip saying the authorities were searching a home in Antioch, so I looked up the address, found the owner’s name and called the Contra Costa County Jail to see if the owner of the home (Garrido) was in jail, and he was. I believe he was being held on kidnapping and rape charges. Once I had that information, I looked him up on Megan’s Law, and he was there. At that point I had enough information to confirm that he was the main suspect in the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard, so I put it up on the site. One of Garrido’s former neighbors is also a big fan of Claycord, so they provided me with a lot of information.
What is your all-time favorite Claycord story?
Any story that makes a difference in a person's life. Whether it be helping them find a missing pet or helping them raise money for a certain cause, those are my favorites. I also enjoy the stories with historical photos from around Contra Costa County. People really love those, and it’s fun bringing back all those memories.
Claycord has had remarkable success in reuniting pet owners with their missing pets. What’s the secret?
Yes, I love doing this. I think it’s mainly because the blog is so local, and we have eyes everywhere. Lots of animal lovers, too, who care if a pet gets back home safe and sound.
What story received the most comments?
I think it was a story about gay marriage.
What story received the biggest reaction in the larger community?
Besides the Dugard story, it would have to be the story about the pilot who was stalking his ex-girlfriend from an airplane, and the story about Concord's Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Both were covered locally and nationally.
How many citizen sources do you have? How do you check out tips when they come in from an anonymous source?
I have a lot of sources. They're a great group of dedicated readers who I appreciate more than they’ll ever know. I have a lot of ways to check out tips, but I usually just contact the person who would be able to give "on the record" information.
What is your opinion of traditional media, and how does Claycord fit into the mix?
I've always liked TV, radio, and the newspaper. I think each one provides a needed contribution to society. I believe Claycord fills a void in the community: We cover the smaller stories that you normally wouldn't see in the traditional media. But we also cover the larger ones.
There are millions of blogs out there, and yours seems to be one of the most successful. How do you stay on top?
I've always thought a huge reason why Claycord has been so successful is because I'm just like everybody else. I could be your neighbor or your child’s soccer coach. I'm just a regular guy. I'm embedded in the community, and I really care about what happens now and in the future. I think people can relate with me, and I can relate with them.
How do you handle competition, such as AOL’s Patch? Does it affect how you approach the blog at all?
Competition is good, but it doesn't really affect the way I approach the blog. I just keep doing what I do. I really love blogging and reporting the news, and I think my love for what I do comes through in my work. I also think it helps that I'm the only 100-percent locally owned daily news source in Concord.
Comment policies can be tricky. Claycord allows anonymous posts. How did you come to that decision? Has the policy evolved over time?
The one thing I love and hate about the blog is the comments. Some of my readers make me laugh so hard I almost cry, and others just make me cry. At first, I didn't moderate the comments on Claycord, and once the blog got big, the comments got horrible. I try to moderate now, but sometimes bad comments still get though, and I apologize for that. I do believe people have the right to speak their mind, but sometimes they go overboard.
Are you surprised at all by the large following Claycord has received?
What have you learned through running Claycord?
I've learned that people aren't afraid to say what's on their mind, no matter who it hurts, but I've also learned that there are a lot of great people out there who really work hard to make a positive impact in the community.
Have you had any regrets?
None at all.
What is your professional background? Do you have journalism experience? Yes, I do have journalism experience, but most recently I was laid-off from my 9-to-5 job working as a data analyst.
Is Claycord profitable?
The first three years it wasn't, because I was just doing it for fun and didn't have any ads, but now it's profitable.
So, is it at the point where you can live off the blog alone?
Yes, this is my only job.
What are your blog readership stats?
I get a little over 1 million page views a month, with anywhere between 100,000 and 150,000 unique hits a month.
What’s next for Claycord?
I have a lot in mind. Many surprises, one coming up this summer.
Do you blog from home, or out in the community? What’s your favorite spot?
Mostly from home. My backyard is my favorite spot.
How many hours a day do you work on blog upkeep? Favorite blogging snack or beverage?
It depends. I try to take it easy on the weekends, but if something happens, I'm usually on it. I'd say a normal day is between 10 and 13 hours, but the hours are broken up. I work a lot from about 8 a.m.–6 p.m., and then from about 10 p.m.–1 a.m. Favorite beverage is water and Coke (ice cold in a can, and no Pepsi) and my favorite snack is probably popcorn.
How about some Mayor Best Ofs... Favorite restaurant? Favorite park? Favorite East Bay event, performance troupe, or activity?
I like this question: My favorite restaurant is El Tapatio on Treat Boulevard in Concord. Favorite Park is The Grove in Clayton & Dinosaur Hill Park in Pleasant Hill. Favorite East Bay event is a tough one: I like anything that's family friendly, like KidFest or the Walnut Festival. My favorite activity is just spending time with my family and enjoying life. My favorite local performer is definitely Carlos Reyes.
What are some of your favorite blogs—local and otherwise?
I've always had a soft spot for my fellow local bloggers, who I think do a fabulous job. Mister Writer, The Frugal Find, The Lemon Lady, Halfway to Concord, Cowellian, and Crazy in Suburbia are all good friends, and I think we've all really supported each other throughout the years in one way or another.
For more information, visit claycord.com.