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Pop Candy: The Series Finale

As you may have heard, last week I lost my job at USA Today, where I spent 15 years writing the pop-culture blog I created there, Pop Candy. One of the toughest things about being laid off is the abruptness of it; I left without saying goodbye to my co-workers or, even more upsetting, the readers who had supported me for so long.

With that in mind, consider this Pop Candy’s final entry.

“What is Pop Candy?” people often asked. While I never mastered the perfect response, I’d usually say something like, “It’s my take on fringe, indie and retro culture,” or “It’s entertainment from my point of view!”

But really, that wasn’t the whole truth. I created a blog within a very mainstream organization to deliver a message: that it’s essential we rise above the mainstream. And frankly, I’m grateful I was able to get away with it for so long.

I grew up in a small, fairly conservative town in Virginia, where my childhood mirrored millions of others: I watched a lot of sitcom reruns, ate my share of Happy Meals, spent Friday nights at the mall.

At some point in my adolescence, though, it hit me: There’s so much more out there. I wish I could name one moment that triggered that realization, but I think it was a confluence of events, many of them related to art and culture.

Hearing bands that never got played on the radio, reading books banned by our school library, seeing films that had been dubbed from tape to tape to tape – those electric jolts of discovery woke me up. The more stuff I found, loved and shared, the more I understood the best things in life usually don’t have a fan club, and art that doesn’t elicit emotion probably isn’t worth my time.

Today there are websites devoted to every corner of pop culture, but in 1999 there was much less diversity. Most entertainment coverage I saw either promoted the most popular, salacious stuff or absolutely trashed it.

I created a column (which evolved into a blog) so I could have an outlet to share my interests in a sincere, enthusiastic and entertaining way. I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t alone in my appetite for discovery, and the blog and its community grew beyond anything I ever expected.

Over the last 15 years we shared our creative passions along with personal milestones and struggles. Readers met friends (and even spouses!) through the blog. We held events across the country, made podcasts and comics together, interacted with our heroes.

Every major event in my entire adult life took place while I wrote it, too: marriage, three moves, the losses of loved ones, my daughter’s birth. With each of them, I received a stream of unwavering support from thousands of people I’d never even met.

As I’ve learned in recent days, these connections run far deeper than a web address. I’m so thankful for your encouragement during this transition, but I’m even more grateful for your contributions over the years, which transformed one simple endeavor into a vibrant, living thing.

Moving forward, we must continue to support lesser-known artists and share work that moves us, regardless of its popularity – or even if it makes us uncomfortable. There will always be voices that deserve to be heard, and sometimes just a spark of recognition is enough to keep them from giving up.

“Pop Candy” as we knew it may be gone, but new adventures lie ahead. I’m truly excited to figure out what comes next.

And why shouldn’t I be? There’s so much more out there.