Huff spoke to a DePaul University journalism class Wednesday about the evolution of his blog as a prominent Chicago news source.
At the time of Gapersblock.com’s inception, only a few thousand blogs existed—compared to the hundreds of millions that saturate today’s Internet—so Huff felt no pressure to stand out.
“In 2003 we were a rarity as a serious blog,” Huff said. The site used a newspaper-style layout and a professional tone to combat any doubts of its legitimacy.
Huff said he started Gapers Block for the people of Chicago. In fact, the term “Gapers Block” started in Chicago. Chicago traffic reporters used this term to describe the effect caused by drivers who slow down to look at an accident or other incident along the road.
Gapersblock.com’s design plays off the traffic-themed title. The different news sections within the site also have traffic terms as titles. “Merge,” for example is the site’s headline column, the focal point of the Gapersblock.com.
However, despite the blogs title, Huff insists that Gapersblock.com writers aren’t “trying to get people to slow down their lives. [They’re] trying to get them to notice the things around them.”
What started as a one-page news blog and what Huff described as a “labor of love,” soon grew to be much more. The site incorporated in 2006 and now hosts more than six different news sections including sports, music, and politics.
A twelve person staff founded Gapersblock.com in April, 2003. Today 100 volunteers and eight editors who are paid a monthly stipend staff the blog.
Huff credits the unique stories that Gapers Block runs for the sites longevity.
“Our definition of what counts as news is a bit different,” he said. Huff said the blog is most concerned with “pulling out different aspects of the city that people aren’t familiar with.”
When asked for advice on starting a blog, Huff urged the students to keep their focus on the blog’s topic.
“Use a compelling voice to keep audiences interested and coming back for more.”