19 October 2006

deductbox.com founder john copes dies

we didnt get online until the summer of 2000 and sometime shortly after that we read a town talk editorial which mentioned the deductbox website. ever curious we checked it out and became immediate fans. in fact it was the deductbox that turned us on to mr. c b forgotston's website. it seems like it was only a short time later that word came out that mr. john copes the deductbox founder had cancer and the posts there grew fewer and fewer and finally the site was taken offline. we've often thought about mr. copes in the years since then, wondering what happened to him. we didnt know if he had passed away or not. its shocking to learn that he was only 49 years old when he died. we always imagined mr. copes as being older. mr. copes family and friends have our deepest sympathy and we too mourn the loss of great man.

below are a few screen grabs of the deductbox taken from the archive.org way back machine. you can click here or on the link below and view many editions of the deductbox and remember a part of louisiana that wont likely pass this way again.

click picture to enlarge

La. political Web site pioneer John Copes dies
By John Hill
(225) 342-7333

John Copes, the founder of Louisiana’s first political Web site with widespread influence in Louisiana politics and journalism, died this morning in Destin, Fla. He was 49.

Copes in 1999 founded deductbox.com, which quickly grew in popularity with thousands of daily hits from Louisiana, Washington and round the world from displaced Louisianans.

Copes assembled and critiqued coverage of Louisiana politics, sparing neither politician nor pundit from his acerbic brand of humor. The nicknames — Edwin Edwards as "geezer" and editorial writers as "navel gazers" — stuck.

A graduate of Louisiana Tech University’s journalism school and a veteran of the defunct Shreveport Journal, Copes provided links to Web sites of all the state’s major newspapers, including The Times, television stations, college publications - such as Tech Talk — government and public interest groups, such as the Public Affairs Research Council — and regional newspapers from Mobile to Houston.

The "deductbox" name came from the so-called deduct box that legendary Louisiana Gov. Huey Long kept. All state employees had to deduct part of their salary — on a sliding scale of 5 percent to 10 percent — and put it in Long’s deduct box.

Copes continued producing deductbox.com after he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2000, but gave it up a couple of years later because he decided to devote his remaining strength to fighting the disease and being a father to his young son.

That battle ended at the Destin, Fla., this morning, with his wife, Diane Hollenshead Copes, an assistant U.S. Attorney in New Orleans, and son Jack, 8, by his side. Close friends Bill Windham of Shreveport and David Jones of Bossier City were also at the Florida home where the Copes family had gone to vacation for a couple of weeks.

"He was a great writer, a great journalist, a great dad and a great husband of 22 years," Diane Hollenshead Copes said.

His survivors include his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John C. Copes III of Baton Rouge, three sisters and six nieces and nephews.

Copes was a Louisiana Tech graduate and native of Baton Rouge, but had been living in Mandeville for the past decade. After college, he and Diane went to the Shreveport Journal, covering everything from cops to politics.

From 1987-89, he was the now-defunct newspapers’ Washington correspondent. He then wrote fiction and did freelance writing before founding deductbox.com.

Copes rose every morning before dawn and began assembling the top stories from all the state’s daily newspapers and television stations, listing links to each with witty commentary on both the subject — and sometimes the writer.

"You could look at the deductbox and see all the events that were going on all over the state in a short period of time," said Ed Renwick, president of the Loyola Institute of Politics. "I looked at it every day."

New Orleans magazine editor and publisher Errol Laborde noted that deductbox.com became extremely popular during the 2000 trial of former Gov. Edwin Edwards.

"His daily coverage of the trial was not to be missed," Laborde said. "He had a great sense of humor that could be wicked. I remember the day after Edwards was convicted that his Web site opened with the lyrics of ‘Jailhouse Rock.’"

Deductbox.com introduced Louisiana "to the developing world of Web reporting and showed us its flexibility as well as its ability to chronicle articles from other publications and its freedom to say what it wanted. Almost a decade before "blog" and "Google" became part of the language, Copes was pioneering an explosive new form of communication," Laborde said.

Friend Jim Nickel, a lobbyist and former Democratic Party director, called Copes "a pioneer" in political Web sites. "John’s wit and political insight has been copied by hundreds of political bloggers but never matched. He was the first and still the best," Nickel said.

"He was determined to live long enough to know, enjoy and love his new son, and he did it," Nickel said.

Former Gov. Mike Foster was among his readers — and targets. "I didn’t always like what he said," Foster said. "But I saw the truth on the wall and knew what was coming. He started a trend that I had thought would happen sooner or later."

New Orleans lawyer Tony Gelderman, former first assistant state treasurer, said the success of deductbox.com was more than just that it was the first. "He had a keen eye for the ridiculous in the theatre of politics and he knew how to point it out with maximum impact," Gelderman said.

Conservative Web site publisher C.B. Forgotston said Cope’s combination of great intellect and keen sense of humor infused deductbox.com. "He would read a news story and find points that were hidden from those of us not blessed with his abilities. He could point out a missed point or an error with sharp wit. The deductbox.com was particularly influential on the traditional media because he came from them."

"John left a legacy on politics and government in our state by showing us how and encouraging others to take advantage of the power of the Internet to exercise our First Amendment rights," Forgotston said.

Former U.S. attorney Ray Lamonica, now an LSU law professor and the university’s general counsel, said Copes’ Web site provided a central location for links to news of statewide interest.

"John’s perceptive insights into and exploration of political culture and corruption in Louisiana served this state well — for which we should all be grateful. That he could do so in a popular and entertaining manner in what was then a new media format demonstrated rare capability and creativity," Lamonica said.

Copes also counseled with other cancer patients and their families.

"Even though he had his own problems, John graciously took the time to help others cope with this disease, whether he knew you well or barely at all. I will always remember his kindness and the time he gave me when I learned my daughter had breast cancer," said Shelia McCant, public information officer for the Louisiana House of Representatives.

A memorial service is being planned for next week at Christ Episcopal Church in Covington.
see also
c b forgotston Deductbox.com founder loses battle with cancer
and also
a w griffin remembering john copes
and also
teddy allen john copes was a moveable human feast
and also
babs zimmerman john carson copes iv