Patch sat down Monday at Eggspectation in Ellicott City with Tom Coale, 29, one of Howard County’s most prominent bloggers and a new member of the Columbia Association Board. Readership has been steadily increasing at his website, HoCo Rising, with about 7,000 to 9,000 hits a month this summer, he said. By day, Coale, a Dorsey's Search resident, is a lawyer working in Baltimore doing security clearance and medical malpractice law.
Patch: You’ve done HoCo Rising for two years. Why did you start it?
Tom Coale: I guess I was trying to get myself in trouble. [The real reason]: I wanted to make local news interesting. I thought local news, being zoning and taxes and all that stuff, was very bland and not that accessible to someone my age.
How early do you wake up to write your posts?
Coale: I normally wake up at about 5:45 each morning. It takes me exactly 40 minutes, because that’s how much time I budget myself. Those who read frequently will see I sometimes write “and then I ran out of time.” I stop at 7 o'clock every day, because that’s when I get off to work.
Do you blog for free?
Coale: Yes, this is all volunteer. So many people talk about bloggers like they are egomaniacs, and they care so much about themselves. I don’t see it that way. ... No one demands that you agree with us, [but] you have to have a certain amount of confidence, or else you won’t have anything worth reading.
What’s the biggest issue in Columbia you don’t think is being covered by the local media?
Coale: I guess it would be the future of Columbia in terms of our community’s involvement and investment in what we do. My father and my parents were some of the people that lived in Columbia right after it started. had created the community villages and the Columbia Association as a volunteer-based, nonprofit community association to be a counterbalance to the corporate interest and property owners in Columbia. … And to a certain extent, we as a group of Columbians are not always holding up our end of the bargain. We had all uncontested elections, just about, for our villages, [and] across the board uncontested election for the . … If we let that go, the next step from uncontested elections is no candidates. … That would be a real shame. By the time you need to have your voice heard, there is nobody there. Then, there is no counterbalance, no give and take that Columbia relies on.
Has your blog evolved over time? Have you gone from aggregating to actively getting information?
Coale: I went from being a conservative writer. Now the Republicans—I’m almost certain if I showed up to a meeting, I’d be asked to leave right now. [Recently], in their newsletter, they wanted to recruit a blogger to "respond to the likes of HoCo Rising." That was a point of pride for me. It means nobody sees me as ascribing to a specific ideology. [Also], one of my New Year’s resolutions for the blog was to not break news.
Why is that?
Coale: I’m not a journalist and I’m not trained as a journalist. I don’t have the time and resources to follow leads and double check on things. … The temptation is "oh my goodness, someone told me this, I need to post it!" But that’s where bloggers lose their credibility. That’s where we look stupid. … I don’t need to do that. My purpose is to be a discussion starter.
Is there anything else you want to say? Do you feel misunderstood in any way?
Coale: No, no. I think most people understand me. I appreciate there’s a lot of really positive things people have said and done. We just through the blog and I was really proud of that. I’m thinking the next direction will be to raise money for childcare services. Those positives get me to wake up at 5:45. I love what I do. It’s the best hobby I ever picked up.