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Blog Gains Traction With Satirical Approach To Looking At Hartford

Two residents say they try to give a realistic view of the city through interviews, pictures and videos.

Jenna Carlesso

November 26, 2010

Not everyone who loves their hometown would promote it under the name "sad city."

But two men living in Hartford's West end say their blog, which chronicles random events and people in the city's neighborhoods, gives others a look at the good and the bad.

The goal, they said, is to paint Hartford in a realistic light through interviews, pictures and videos.

"I think we give the city credit where credit is due," said Hakaan Loob, who co-founded the Sad City Hartford blog in June with fellow resident Jumper McKay. "No sane person is going to think this is some awesome, utopian, Manhattan-like city. I like it how it is. The city should be a little gritty, a little dirty."

Loob and McKay are pen names for the two 30-year-olds, who choose not to reveal their true identities. Loob, a student at the University of Connecticut law school, said he doesn't want the blog to become his namesake when he begins applying for jobs in the spring. McKay, a marketing executive, said his employers don't know he runs the blog and he wants to keep it that way.

The two, who were born five days apart, grew up together in Marlborough, but fell out of touch when they went to different high schools. They reconnected years later when Loob discovered they were both living in Hartford.

One night in June, Loob was sifting through a collection of pictures and videos when the idea for a Hartford blog dawned on him. McKay created the template that evening.

"He literally went home that night and set it up, made a couple posts, e-mailed it to me and was like, 'All right let's start and see what happens,' " Loob recalled.

Five months later, Sad City Hartford averages roughly 500 hits a day and has about 400 followers on Facebook and Twitter. Known for its satirical take on city happenings, it has attracted the attention of some city council members and even the mayor.

"I tune into blogs like Sad City to take note of things I wouldn't have seen otherwise," Mayor Pedro Segarra said. "We live in a cyber age. It's good that folks have the ability to state their opinions for others to review."

City Councilman Luis Cotto said he keeps tabs on the Hartford blogs to get details that sometimes go unnoticed by the mainstream media.

A recent entry on the Sad City blog, which talks about gas stations in Hartford selling drug distribution equipment, like lactose powder which drug dealers use to cut cocaine caught his attention. He said it was such a concern for him that he plans to introduce an ordinance at the council's next meeting restricting the sale of such products.

"I think one thing we need to be reminded of here at city hall," Cotto said, "is that we don't know everything about the city. We don't know everyone. The city is ever-evolving. Sad City captures a slice of life you wouldn't otherwise hear about."

Though Sad City will tackle the occasional hard-hitting issue, such as vigils for shooting victims or the demolition of the Butt-Ugly Building a city landmark caught up in a political corruption scandal most of its content is aimed at being lighthearted and humorous.

In one video, the writers hold a camera while kayaking Hartford's Park River.

"Too often the activity of kayaking is limited to the confines of rural Connecticut," writes McKay on the blog. "To counteract this grave injustice, the Sad City Hartford team traveled down the Park River to discover what sort of water sport (not the gross kind) the City of Hartford had to offer."

The pair also explore abandoned buildings, interview people waiting at bus stops and profile local businesses.

"Walking outside the front door and seeing what's going on fuels our stories, rather than having access to specific people," McKay said. "We take a neighborhood approach and try to find interesting people whose voices you wouldn't typically hear."

Kevin Brookman, whose "We The People" blog focuses on Hartford politics and crime, said Sad City's irreverent approach is a welcome addition to the local blogging community.

"Anything that's putting information out there is worthwhile, whether it's satirical, tongue-in-cheek or serious," Brookman said. "The more information you put out there the better."

But, he added: "I wish they'd do it under their own names. It adds credibility."

In the future, McKay and Loob said they hope to bolster Sad City's content by adding work from contributing writers.

They also hope to gain readership, although Loob acknowledged that some people just don't get their humor.

On his Facebook page, one reader asked Loob what the point of the Sad City blog was.

"I'm not sure," he replied. "It was started on a whim. I'd say to highlight the good parts of the city and to try and bring attention to the bad parts and hope the attention helps to get them changed."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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