Dan Woog- meet the man behind 06880!
When and why did you start 06880? I had been writing a column for Westport News since 1986 called Woog’s World (it does still exist!). About 10 years ago, I started enjoying commenting on what was going on and covering interesting stories, and realized that the future for print journalism was pretty limited. I also was sure I was one of those people who was never going to have a blog, a cell phone, or a website=) Someone suggested I look at WordPress, and I realized not only was it a good way to continue having a voice, was easy to do, provided instant feedback, but it was interactive with my readers and it was fun. I could write whatever I wanted and had no editor. I spent a week figuring it out. I bought WordPress for dummies, experimented a bit, and sent out some initial posts to people I knew. Fortunately, enough people passed it along, so that within a few days I was getting several hundred hits. In the beginning, my big worry was that I was not going to have enough content. Now I worry how to manage it all.
Who subscribes to 06880? 1/3 are newcomers to the area, 1/3 are old timers, and 1/3 are people who no longer live here but want to stay connected. Some only lived here for 2 years in the 1970s- (i.e., a woman who au paired here in the 70s), and I have another guy who grew up here in the 1940s (Staples grad in the 50s, lives in Washington State, has an amazing life – he’s an incredible musician, in his 80s, and this has given him a great way to stay connected to Westport). I am constantly working to balance the content based on the different types of readers
You always seem to be the first to know everything! How do you get your info? As soon as someone asks me to get information on something, I realize that it’s a story! People typically come to me, and FYI- “06880 is not for sale”
What content do you most enjoy covering and why? Being able to shine a light on something really important like Syrian Refugees or mental health, being able to promote an event that otherwise people don’t know about, being able to shine a light on amazing people doing amazing things, and most importantly, connecting people in whatever way that may be. I have heard from a lot of people that it’s the only way they find out about a lot of things going on Westport.
You’ve covered a lot of interesting people over time; is there anyone you haven’t interviewed, but wish you had? Keith Richards. He makes great music, and lives locally. Maybe some day….
How did the pictures of the day start? I was constantly being sent really good photos from really good photographers like Lynn Miller, and just came up with the idea for a “Pic of the day”. I want people to not be overwhelmed, and to always be surprised
In addition to 06880, you are the head coach of the Staples boys soccer team. How long have you been doing this, and why have you continued doing it as long as you have? I’ve spent the last 15 years as the Head Coach. I went to Staples and played soccer, came back from college, and happened to get a job locally and wanted to stay involved. I love teenagers, and though working with them can be incredibly challenging in ways, the rewards are great. They keep me young, and give me gray hair.
What’s your personality as a coach? Between my assistant coaches and I, (there are 4 of us), we try to be the “anti-coaches”. We don’t want to yell, and we don’t want to intimidate; we want the kids to figure stuff out for themselves. We want to give them the tools to grow. I approach coaching differently than a lot of coaches. For example, freshman parents who are very used to managing their kids lives email me that their son can’t be at practice today because of XYZ, and I tell the mom thank you for letting me know, but please have your son let me know in the future. “But he’s very busy,” a mom will say and my response is “He can find the time to text me.” It’s all about these kids finding their independence.
We’ve heard Westport (especially Westport soccer) can be pretty competitive; what advice do you have for moms or dads in the Westport area related to this? Whether your kid is on the blue or white team when he’s 9 or on Varsity or JV when he’s 15, is not going to determine his future. Odds are 99.9% that your kid is not going to play in college or be a professional soccer player. If you want college to pay for your kid’s education, put $10 in their bank account. Follow your kid’s lead. If your kid is really interested, let them tell you what they want to do- let them play the cello or skateboard. We also really try to encourage kids to play other sports in the off season. We want them to hear other voices, learn other skills, and be in other pressure situations
How long have you lived in Westport, and what is your favorite thing to do in town? I have lived in Westport essentially my whole life. I moved at 3 from New Rochelle. I’m a beach person at any time of year. I think it’s such a fantastic place and there’s so much going on here. I love what’s been done with Saugatuck, and love what ‘s been done in downtown Westport.
What should Westport have that it doesn’t? At one point Westport had 5 movie theatres, and now it has none. There also used to be a lot more nightlife; there were real bars and clubs, and you could hear real music- jazz, rock, folk. I miss that, but know it’s a different time.
What’s your biggest regret? Blogging wise, a few times I sent information out too quickly, and maybe didn’t think through the consequences of the impact on someone. I have no regrets otherwise, other than maybe spending more time with people than working to get content out there. Life is a balance.
Do people ask you for autographs when they meet you? Never
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in doing what you do? Keeping it fresh, not repeating myself, and not getting burned out. I have not missed a day since 2009. When I go on vacation, I schedule ahead.
How has Westport changed over the years since you have grown up here and currently live here (for good and for bad?)
- The bad – the big houses, the sense of entitlement, the pressure on kids, though I think most kids handle it really well and gracefully.
- The positive- the infusion in the last 5-8 years of new people coming in bring energy, creativity, intelligence, talent, work ethic and great work backgrounds.
Tell us about the 16 books you wrote, and do you plan to write another one? I always say Ill write another one, but I really probably wont this time. Some are about soccer, some are LGBT focused – they are about education, athletics, the importance of allies and work. The two I really like are: 1) The history of Staples high school and 2) One on my soccer experience coaching called We Kick Balls. All but the latter was actually published- the last one I self-published. I will let someone else write a book about 06880!
Staples High schoolers are lucky to have such a trailblazer as a mentor when it comes to gay rights. How do you think you have made a difference or impacted these high school kids over the years? Just by being visible- being out and out there. I think it’s important for those kids who might be gay or might be questioning it, and equally important for the straight kids on their team or at school or anywhere – to know it’s not good or bad or right or wrong- it just is. Staples is a great environment for this; there are a ton of kids and teachers who are out, and it’s important to not feel you are alone.
If you had 24 hours with no responsibility what would you do? I would probably hang out in NYC, try to snag tickets to Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen, and would eat at anyplace.
What’s one thing people might not know about you? A lot of the soccer people don’t know how much I love theatre and music, and vice versa.
What does the future of 06880 look like? People love the pic of the day, so I’d love more photos of faces and people, but so far so good. I hope the future is bright; there is a lot going on, and as long as people like it, Ill continue to write.