BEST LOCALLY GENERATED WEB SITE (1999)
In the days before the Internet, St. Paul Pioneer Press writer James Romenesko hinted at his publishing future with a book called Death Log. Compiling grisly reports from the Milwaukee morgue about auto-erotic asphyxiation, fatal pork-chop disputes, and the like, this self-published 1981 book stood as a kind of update of that 1970s Midwestern classic, Wisconsin Death Trip. About a decade later, Romenesko composed an extensive magazine feature on the American albino. Starting from such singularly odd achievements in print journalism, Romenesko has more recently proven that his talent is also ideally suited to the Internet. His Web site, The Obscure Store and Reading Room, combines the best parts of Slate's "Today's Papers," Chuck Shepherd's "News of the Weird," Matt Drudge's media links list, and a comprehensive zine shop. Each day, Romenesko roams vast expanses of the online world in search of about a dozen stories: some wacky and marginal, others mainstream and substantial. A typical recent day saw The Obscure Store post links to an article about a plan to honor Patty Hearst with a public statue; a report that the California Highway Patrol will soon drive Volvos; and news of a "fatherly" ultraorthodox rabbi nailed for defrauding New York's public schools of six million dollars over 20-odd years. While many of these stories come from such "reputable" publications as the Boston Globe and the New York Times, Romenesko also ventures out to the frontiers of print media, offering readers an online for-sale catalog of zines that is among the most interesting this side of Factsheet 5. Here, you can buy such far-flung titles as Angry Thoreauan #22, Mommy and I Are One, and Holy Titclamps #16. It's this kind of encyclopedic survey of the esoteric, the morbid, the lurid, and the otherwise compelling that makes The Obscure Store an inviting oasis of oddity for the intrepid media nomad.