Professional Development

Delaware Way’s Nancy Willing reminisces on the state’s early political blogging scene

The blogosphere may have changed, but Willing is still in the middle of it, pushing for a better Delaware.

The Delaware flag.

(Delaware flag by Jiri Flogel via Shutterstock)

Nancy Willing, perhaps better known as the blogger behind The Delaware Way, talks about blogging in the aughts with nostalgia, as if it’s a long-past epoch (which, in blog years, it is).

“Delaware had a marvelous local blogging community back then,” Willing said, pointing out the old community traditions, such as Jason Scott’s “Around the Horn roundups on Delaware Liberal.
“Communications flowed freely — and mostly collegially — between both Dem and GOPer blogs,” Willing recalled. “That’s not to say everyone was in kumbaya land all the time.”
“One of the more unique aspects of Delaware bloggers in the 2000s was the growing use of actual names vs the sort of ‘Daily Kosian’ use of pseudonyms. Mike Matthews, myself, Dana Garrett and others consciously decided to shun pseudonyms. I remember the huge upset when someone outed Dave Burris, who is now running GOPer strategy in the Delaware Senate Republican Caucus. The folks at DelawareLiberal (and its 2017 off-shoot Blue Delaware) are still sticking with their fake names and have a strict policy against ‘outing’ any anonymous commenter.”
Delaware Libertarian posted in depth about the “inevitable bloodbath” of identity outing in the Delaware blogosphere in a 2009 post.
By that time, Willing had been blogging under her own name for more than two years (a long time in blogging years at the time), having launched on Valentine’s Day 2007 with a post about the demise of Delaware Liberal (it turned out not to be the end).

"Go to meetings and take notes. Report the experience on social media or wherever you find kindred spirits. You will build a base and it may hold power, eventually."
Nancy Willing

“I was having so much fun as a commenter that I figured I would start a blog of my own,” Willing says. “And I knew the only way to actually influence the powers-that-be was to start my own conversation.”
Her first fight was to save the Glasgow-area heritage farm, La Grange, from development pressure. After failing, she had a realization: Her forays into the system to make change were as broken as the systems themselves.
“Once I’d decided to fully engage in New Castle County land use, political corruption and historic preservation issues around 2003-4, I began getting involved and being elected onto Boards of Directors of local heritage groups. But guess what? They all had their hand out to politicians for operating cash and special favors. There was no will in these organizations to speak truth to power. Not really. Not enough for me.” 
So, Willing moved on to the civic sphere.

She quickly became disillusioned.
“The next logical step was creating the Delaware Way blog in order to give my voice some power and leverage. Mike Matthews’ Down With Absolutes blog was my model. I would attend meetings and give first hand accounts of what the pols were saying and doing. It was a big deal. The pols and or their surrogates are probably to this day my most faithful readers as they want to see what the heck Nancy is saying about them now,” she laughs.
At a time when people are feeling more and more powerless, Willing offers some advice for those who want to make a difference, but don’t know how: show up. 
“Go to meetings and take notes,” she says. “Report the experience on social media or wherever you find kindred spirits. You will build a base and it may hold power, eventually. Case in point would be Delaware United, a group that got started after the 2016 Democratic  Convention where progressives needed a place to vent their frustration and were willing to do the work to make change. They are now a high profile and respected entity in Delaware politics.”
As for her life outside of The Delaware Way?
“[It’s] pretty much all I do,” she says. “I live the life. I also am lucky to have a large family to love and a passion for Newark Natural Foods Community Cooperative where I serve as Secretary of the Board. And in recent years, I have been more active with the Delaware Democratic Party itself as a venue to make change. I am now the Secretary of my local 23rd RD and immediate past president of the Progressive Democrats for Delaware, a party club.”
It’s fair to say Nancy Willing is as passionate as ever about policy in Delaware. Somebody’s got to keep the pot stirred.


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