Social Media & Reputation Mgmt

Today we are five!'s fifth anniversary celebration with prizes.

 Dave, the Gnome from and some little bearded man with a yellow suit at Firehouse Expo. Photo by Mike Legeros.

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Five years ago today, for better or worse, was born. When you look at how many fire service blogs arrive and then quickly depart, the odds were very much against us making it this far. The initial posting on May 4, 2007 was titled Getting Blogged Down. Here are the first couple of lines:

After 22 years at Broadcast House and a total of almost 35 years in radio and TV, I have done hundreds of stories about firefighting and EMS. After each one, there always seems to be something more I want to add, but just can’t get it into the story.

Now I can.

I will be writing regularly on fire and EMS issues in this blog. As the people I work with have long known, I would rather hang around with firefighters, medics and EMTs than radio and TV folks. Two reasons: The stories are always better and they actually do something, rather than reporting on what other people do.

The idea for came from the Channel 9 web manager at the time, Rick Garner. Now you know who to blame. Most of the time I thank Rick. It paved the way for a new career, putting me in a position when buyouts were offered to leave the TV gig almost two-years-ago. But there are also occasional moments when the job of feeding this beast multiple times each and every day becomes a little daunting. That’s when I say things about Rick that aren’t so nice.

This website couldn’t be done without the support and love of my wife Hillary and son Sam. They both encourage me and are good sounding boards. They are also very understanding (or maybe they just don’t want to be with me) about the amount of time I spend inside the World Headquarters of (okay, it’s just my basement office … now you know).

I must also thank our advertisers, some who sponsor us through the blog network run by our friends at Go Forward Media and Elsevier, and others I work directly with, like Fire Apparatus.

More sponsors are starting to come in thanks to you. While our readership has been very good for a number of years, it rather quickly doubled last November. With the exception of the annual FDIC slump, it hasn’t dropped off (for some reason when you get 30,000 firefighters in one city they don’t spend a lot of time on the computer … who knew?).

Part of the readership jump has to do with the growing social media audience. We just passed 5000 Twitter followers and with more than 10,000 on Facebook (combining the fan page numbers with my personal page). There’s always room for more. Please like and follow and tell your friends to do so.

As I found out quickly in 2007, running a site like this doesn’t make everyone happy. If you look back at some of the comments to the site and on when first started, you would have thought I was Dr. Evil. Depending on the story of the day, I was either anti-career or anti-volunteer. Others just believed I was anti-firefighter and encouraged people to boycott the site (and that was well before I met THE Fire Critic, Rhett Fleitz).

The criticism wasn’t just from firefighters. The reception was, at times, pretty cold from some fire chiefs. Back then one local chief declared he wouldn’t provide comments or answer questions from me if it was for the blog, but would do so if it was for television. It was as if the blog was some unclean little porno rag. Another chief, who was covered extensively from the very start of, suddenly stopped talking to me completely in 2009 and hasn’t said a word since.

My philosophy, then and now, is to post the good, the bad and the ugly. The editorial process always has me asking two simple questions before posting a story or video: Is it something firefighters will be interested in and is it something they can learn from?

The focus of the site though has changed through the years. When I was still in TV there were a lot of stories posted that I uncovered while reporting for television on the fire service in and around the Nation’s Capital. That abruptly stopped in June 2010. Upon leaving Channel 9 I ceased being a reporter, no longer originating news items.

This change in direction was and is very important and necessary. In my post TV career I am doing consulting, teaching, video production and other work that gives me some inside access to and information about many fire departments. I don’t want anyone, whether it’s a firefighter or fire chief, for even a moment, to think that anything I learn from those contacts will end up on It hasn’t and it won’t.

What I do post now are items already on mainstream news outlets. Essentially I went from being an agitator to an aggregator. I also provide occasional commentary on media and fire service political issues (topics I have deluded myself into thinking I have some expertise about).

This career-change forced evolution of the site had me worried the audience wouldn’t still be interested in what had to offer. But it also brought about more emphasis into an area that now seems to brings the site the most eyeballs and comments. I am talking about the fireground videos posted here daily. The large majority of the videos are from YouTube, while some are sent to me directly (I even got off my butt and shot one myself in New Jersey last Sunday).

The site is approaching 40,000 posted comments over five years with many more now coming in via Facebook. While I enjoy the discussions (at least the ones where people don’t get personal and all nasty with each other), the biggest reward from going through scores of fire videos each day comes from a new theme that has developed in the feedback I get about Over the past eighteen months, I have been hearing from more and more firefighters, company officers and chiefs (yes, there are some who still talk to me) who have told me the fireground videos I post are being used as a daily source for training in the firehouse. It makes me very happy to frequently hear and read these comments.

So, enough pontificating and me telling you how great I am. Lets move onto my way of saying thanks. It’s a little contest for a few prizes. Three of you can be my guest at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore. These are three day “conference” passes, Thursday to Saturday, July 19 to 21. The passes allow attendance in both Firehouse Expo and EMS conference sessions on those days.

To be eligible, you have to email me at [email protected] and tell me what you like and what you don’t like about  Be honest. I’m a big boy and I can take it. Please write “Contest” in the subject of the email.

From the eligible entries three names will be drawn. To win, you can’t be anonymous. You have to provide your full name and contact information. The names of the winners will be posted on (but your comments with your names attached won’t).  All entries must be received by 6:00 PM EDT on May 10th.

For those who would like to critique in a more public forum where you CAN remain anonymous, the comment section is always open. Have at me.

Again, thanks for all of the support over the past five years. I will continue doing this as long as it remains fun and Sam and Hill let me.

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