By Jim McCloskey
Back in 2008 and 2009, lots of folks weren’t too shy about letting me know I was nuts not to pursue the opportunities embodied in digital media and the Internet.
The most persistent voice among those who doubted my sanity was that of Lenny Giteck. I had nominally been his boss at Pool & Spa News in the early 1990s, but Lenny had such an artful way of working over, under, around and through my authority that it’s far more accurate to say we “worked together” in those long ago times.
We had only occasional contact through the years after he left that publication in 1993, but when we spoke, he almost always injected a question about what I was doing on the Internet, to which my standard reply was “almost nothing – too much else to do!”
In 2008, I was tinkering with a magazine project I thought might interest him and arranged to meet for dinner. As was almost always true, he came into the meeting with his own agenda – and, after letting me down gently with my own project, proposed one of his own having to do with developing a web presence for WaterShapes.
Fast forward about 18 months, and we finally agreed to move ahead. To paraphrase about a dozen conversations we had through this period, he told me that a web site and a digital newsletter were no threat to the printed magazine; and, more persuasively, that there was a whole lot of good that could come from using the site and the newsletter to fill gaps in the magazine’s coverage, including interviews with watershapers, travelogues, enhanced product listings, book reviews linked to purchasing information and links to aquatically relevant videos from around the world.
But the big thing, he told me, was that while the magazine itself was great and didn’t need his help, there was never much of anything in it that was intentionally funny. To prove his point, he sent me a trial run of Ripples, which he was proposing as the heart of the newsletter he and his team were developing for WaterShapes.com.
In the past four years, he’s prepared more than 100 editions of his favorite feature for this newsletter. Consistently, it’s been a mix of artful writing, a gleeful sense of irony and a twisted – no, that’s too strong a word; let’s say curving – perspective on aquatically related people and events. And he was right about its fit: Ripples has long been among the newsletter’s most popular features.
A few weeks back, Lenny informed me of his intention to move Ripples away from WaterShapes so he could focus on developing it as an independent entity and resource for marketers in the aquatic trades. I support his decision, and I’m happy to note that he will keep compiling The Aquatic Quiz, another longstanding WaterShapes feature. But it makes me sad to think his rippling perspective and that particular voice will no longer be part of the WaterShapes newsletter after this edition.
I wish my good and longtime friend luck in his ambitions for The Ripples Report – and beg his forgiveness for filling the slot he’s vacating with my own stab at taking some of the bother out of surfing the web by calling your attention and setting up links to key stories I’ve come across in the days leading up to each newsletter’s release date. I won’t aspire to poetry the way Lenny so often did, but if I’ve learned anything from our long collaboration, it’s that there’s amusement to be found in the human endeavor.
Thank you, Lenny. You and Ripples have helped me and WaterShapes in more ways than I can count, and I will be forever grateful.