Describing what exactly The Lost Ogle is and does can be challenging. Is it a TMZ-modeled look at local celebrity and politics? Is it an outlet that brings bar and water-cooler talk out of mostly private corners and into the wide-open realm of the internet and social media?
Takes on the “obscure local social blog” vary as greatly as the people who give them.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” site owner Patrick Riley said during a recent Oklahoma Gazette interview. “Some people love it; some people hate it; some people think it’s satire; some people think it’s just mean. You just never know.”
Here are a few things we do know about The Lost Ogle: The site was founded in May 2007 and hosts its open-to-the public birthday party May 20 at Anthem Brewing Company, 908 S. Fourth St. The subjects the site covers have changed over time, but frequent topics include politics, sports, bizarre news, food reviews and gossip about local personalities.
While sometimes called a satirical media outlet, most of the site’s articles employ “roast”-style humor separate from winking sarcasm.
Though it has featured many contributing writers through its run, Riley handles most posts and all management duties.
To some degree, The Lost Ogle’s many faces and evolving demeanor reflect its operator.
“Ten years is a lot of time,” Riley said. “You mature, you change, you grow, your opinions change. We never wrote about politics in the beginning and I really didn’t care about politics. Then 2008 happened and I started getting more into it. Now, that’s one of our big topics.”
Birth of Ogle
Riley said he did not grow up as much of a reader, but he always loved writing. As a youth in a pre-internet era, he spent a lot of his time playing video games and writing short stories.
He took his passion with him to the University of Central Oklahoma, where he majored in English.
While in college, Riley found a writing job in the advertising department of an herbal supplement and vitamin company he now describes as a “multilevel marketing” scheme.
“I would have to write these articles about how these products changed people’s lives,” he said. “I basically had to sell snake oil. I had to interview these people about how they made all this money selling herbal speed, basically.”
As his tenure increased, so did his ethical concerns. But he still loved that he was making money through writing. He eventually left to work a series of marketing jobs.
Riley was employed at another company in 2005 when he started the fan message board OKC Hornets Central, a site dedicated to discussing the New Orleans Hornets, a team temporarily placed in Oklahoma City in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Hornets Central was the only Hornets outlet online geared toward Oklahoma City fans.
When the team returned to New Orleans, Riley looked for other ways to express himself. Blogs were becoming popular, and he was a big fan of the biting humor and commentary found on sites like Gawker and Deadspin. With help from some other local bloggers, including Clark Matthews, who wrote for his Hornets Central site, Riley launched The Lost Ogle in 2007.
Riley managed the site under a thin veil of anonymity for about four years. Then, in 2011, he was laid off from his full-time marketing job. With a severance pay buffer, he made the decision to transition his blog into a full-time career.
“I thought, ‘Well, here’s my chance,’” he said. “Since then, it’s become what it is.”
The blog is known for making a splash, publishing pictures of actress Jessica Alba secretly pasting up shark posters across downtown and copies of Oklahoma native and former ESPN sports pundit Skip Bayless’ high school basketball statistics. Exposing some brash embellishment from the personalities garnered wide media attention.
The Lost Ogle also partnered with the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a 2013 lawsuit against Governor Mary Fallin for the release of public records related to her positions on the state healthcare exchange and rejection of Medicaid expansion funding. Fallin eventually released the materials over a year later.
Its curated trivia events give The Lost Ogle a presence outside of media. The site hosts TLO Trivia Nights 8 p.m. Tuesdays at Fassler Hall, Wednesdays at Pink Parrot (Quail Creek), Thursdays at Anchor Down and 9 p.m. Fridays at Buffalo Wild Wings on Northwest Expressway.
‘Bad for Oklahoma?’
It is hard to argue against the idea that The Lost Ogle has become an influential voice in local discourse. Some, however, maintain that some of the site’s content goes against the city’s best interests.
An online essay by local attorney J. Blake Johnson titled The Lost Ogle Is Bad for Oklahoma was widely circulated on social media after it was published in January 2015. In the piece, Johnson takes issue with several regular blog features it called sexist and classist, among other things. Those features include the site’s Hot Girl Friday series and its now discontinued State Fair Photo Contest, which it equated to bullying.
“It is indecent,” Johnson wrote of The Lost Ogle in the essay. “Its humor is not sardonic; it is mean-spirited and blithe. This is not forward-thinking journalism; it is a retrogressive tabloid.”
Riley said the criticism hurt, but he also said Johnson was able to piece together bits from the site that fit his narrative while leaving out parts that did not. The Lost Ogle published a post in January criticizing Johnson’s “hypocrisy” for representing maligned University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon in court.
Riley said he does not consider himself a “politically correct” person. The end of the State Fair Photo Contest and a de-emphasis on media gossip come as a result of his diminished interest in the topics, not outside pressure for change.
“I think if people saw what I look like when I write these things with my mesh shorts and my T-shirt, drinking a beer and writing this stuff at 2 a.m., they wouldn’t take it as seriously,” he said. “We take written words a lot more serious than others.”
Riley has never been happier than he is now, working as his own boss. He is not a rules and procedures guy. He does not do well with authority. Yet a lack of stability keeps him on his toes.
He is always on call and always in pursuit of his next indeterminate paycheck.
“Fear is a big motivator for me,” he said. “I just want to pay my bills. I’ve built it up to a point where it’s sustainable in that way. The site’s more successful than I ever thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to fail whenever I first started out.”
Loved by some and despised by others, Riley is content with his place in the peanut gallery.
“I’m the most introverted extrovert you’ll ever meet,” he said. “I don’t really want the spotlight on me, but I don’t mind making comments from the audience for everyone else to hear.”
The Lost Ogle 10th Anniversary Celebration
Anthem Brewing Company
908 SW Fourth St.
Print headline: Ogling Ogle, The Lost Ogle has established itself as a prominent and sometimes controversial local voice as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.