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Lane remembered as 'Godfather' of Howard blogosphere

By Sara A. Toth, stoth@tribune.com, and Luke Lavoie, llavoie@tribune.com

2:34 PM EDT, May 13, 2013

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As details surrounding the murder conspiracy of prominent Howard County blogger Dennis Lane came to light Friday, some members of the robust and wide-reaching local blogosphere Lane helped cultivate took to their keyboards to honor their forefather; who wrote under the ephitet "Wordbones."

Lane, 58, was found stabbed to death inside his Ellicott City home early Friday morning. Charged in connection with the crime are Lane's 14-year-old daugher Morgan Lane Arnold and her boyfriend Jason Anthony Bulmer, 19, who Howard County Police said plotted for two months to commit the gruesome murder.

Lane wrote one of the oldest and most well-read Howard County blogs, "Tales of Two Cities," where he wrote about real estate, local politics and other issues in Howard County. He occassionally wrote about experiences he shared with his daughter, whom he referred to as "Peanut." A former employee of the Rouse Company, he also co-hosted the podcast "And Then There's That ..."

Readers and local bloggers have turned the comments section of Lane's final post into a homage to his legacy.

T.J. Mayotte, writer of the local blog, "Rocket Powered Butterfly," posted a tribute to Lane on Friday in which he referred to Lane as "The Godfather of HoCo blogs."

"When you read his blog, that's what the form was meant to be," Mayotte said in a phone interview. "He was the ideal guy to emulate. ... He was the nexus of information for the rest of the bloggers."

In his online tribute, Mayotte reflected on Lane's impact on the local community of bloggers.

"The time will come for deep mourning, for full remembrance, for justice. For now, for today, though, it's worth reflecting on the measure of the man," Mayotte wrote in his tribute. "There is no one to fill the void he leaves behind in this little blogging community."

Jessie Newburn, founder of the blogging community HoCoBlogs, said Lane's death meant "the passing of a really important, iconic person in our community." Newburn started the online community in 2008, and Lane was one of the first dozen or so bloggers, she said. Now, the community has about 350 members.

"As a blogger and a person, Dennis found this magical balance beam to walk," said Newburn, who has known Lane for more than 20 years. "He was concurrently on the inner circles of institutional knowledge and people trusted him. He also lived his life and wrote his blog the way he wanted to. If he wanted to poke fun at someone, he did. He found a very special and lovely line to walk that balanced all these different worlds."

The disclaimer at the bottom of Lane's blog exemplified his "balance beam," and the approach he took.

"This is a personal web log about stuff around here," Lane wrote. "The opinions and views of the blogger are just that, opinions and views of the blogger, not the bloggers employer, parish priest, probation officer or anyone else for that matter. Comments posted here may be attributable to others. If the content presented here offends you in some way you are probably taking yourself too seriously. If it is journalism that you are looking for, buy a newspaper."

Newburn said she was "always in awe" of Lane's tenacity.

"He had people he didn't care for, and people who didn't care for him, but he made no bones about it," she said. "He was very fair and willing to admit when he was wrong. He was a model in the blogging community. There's no one like him in terms of what he did."

Co-founder of the blog "HoCoMoJo" and producer of Lane's podcast David Bittner said he was packing up to record the "And Then There's That. ..." podcast at The Mall in Columbia Friday when Lane's co-host Paul Skalny called him with the news.

"He wasn't someone who was willing to stand by on the sidelines," Bittner said. "He was truly invested in making this community a better place. If that can be his legacy, he would be happy to have that."

Skalny said he will remember his friend as someone who "wasn't swayed by what other people though of him."

"He had tremendous convictions and wasn't scared of what other people may say about him," he said. "He went with his gut and what he thought was right."

Horizon Foundation spokesman Ian Kennedy, a former blogger himself, called Lane "Howard County's storyteller."

"I remember when were starting the 'Save Merriweather' campaign, and Dennis wrote a column calling Merriweather a dinosaur, saying it should go extinct," Kennedy said. "It was like, 'who is this guy?' Five or six years after that, he wrote a 'mea culpa.' Dennis would admit when he was wrong and there's not enough of that in the world."

Kennedy said Lane's words "had a melody and a rhythm."

"He could make things jump off the page," he said. "He was our storyteller. He knew Howard County's history and he was involved in its present. This is a huge loss."

In a short post Friday, anonymous local food blogger "HowChow" praised Lane as a "wonderful" example for the blogosphere.

"He demonstrated a way to write with meaning and edges, but without the rancor and cheap shots that can infect blogging," HowChow wrote. "I always appreciated his welcome and his blogging example, and I am glad that I told him."

HowChow, in the true spirit and camraderie of the Howard County blogosphere, linked to Mayotte's tribute and commented on his final line, which linked to a YouTube video of dogs wagging their tails that HowChow called "a Wordbones-style link that made me laugh and think about Dennis."

It read: "One last wag of the Wordbones tail for you, Dennis. You will be missed."