Cool as the whole thing was, I didn't really lose any sleep over the identity of the mysterious Emanuel Tweeter, even as his persona blew up on the web and speculation built over who he was. In fact, I didn’t pay much attention at all—until yesterday.
"Hey, the Emanuel tweeter is Dan Stinker!" my wife said. “Isn’t that your guy?”
Stinker? You mean, Dan Sinker?
Dan and I were teaching partners for a couple of years in the journalism department at Columbia College. Our split class was advanced magazine writing and editing (me on the writing end, him on the editing).
I'd lost touch with him after I left, though we'd occasionally trade emails. Last I heard, he was teaching a course on novel digital ways and means to tell a story. Guess he knew what he was talking about.
When we worked together, Dan was the editor of the superb—and sorely underappreciated—Punk Planet, a 16,000-circulation punk 'zine that provided some of the city's wittiest media criticism, interviews, album reviews, and coverage of progressive issues such as labor issues (Oh, to hear its take on the Wisconsin imbroglio.)
The print version of the magazine stopped in 2006 after Dan tired of trying to hold it together with chewing gum, string, and crackers-and-peanut-butter budgets.
It languished on life support on the web for a couple of more years before completely shutting down in 2007 ("This is it, folks,” came the deeply sad and typically succinct elegy. “The Punk Planet website is closed. Two years after the closure of the magazine, it just seemed time," Sinker wrote.)
After that time, Dan won a prestigious Knight fellowship at Stanford, then returned to Columbia College to teach full time. I was glad. There's no better instructor and no one else I would have rather taught my class with. Dan was and is one of the humblest, coolest, smartest, funniest guys I know, someone who consistently impressed me with his integrity, passion, and dedication to his craft and his students.
I have to admit, my first thought when I saw him splashed across all the evening news broadcasts last night (as the lead story!), as well as this morning's Trib (front page!) was …. Dude, what's with that beard? (When we taught together, his whiskers weren't anything like the glorious, striated lawn-gnome bristles he currently rocks.) My next thought was, bravo. You gave your students not only a brilliant object lesson in how storytelling is still relevant, but you both tweaked and won over the object of your satire—neither being an easy feat.
You're a rock star for a day, Dan, and my hero for far longer.
I always knew you were a nice guy. Who knew you were such a stinker?
Photo: Daniel X. O'Neil/CC BY 2.0