Reno’s most well-known anonymous blogger, Myrna the Minx, comes out with her real identity. Was it really worth the wait? Sources say, ‘Yes.’
Reno and its Discontents has been one of Reno’s most read and most commented upon blogs since its birth on Nov. 5, 2005. The blog is led by a saucy, curvaceous, pony-tailed brunette cartoon who wears a red off-the-shoulder dress, red headband, red bracelet and hip red glasses. Her name is Myrna the Minx.
There is little that happens in the city of Reno that doesn’t deserve the Minx’s sardonic commentary on Renodiscontent.com. Downtown development, media, government, culture, music—she has written about it all, and her audience is pleased to return the love, adding note after note of dialogue, developing stories, increasing community. At the beginning, hers was among Nevada’s most political blogs—she was plainly liberal—and she supported liberal candidates. The blog twice won Myrna the Minx the title “Reno’s Best Blogger” in this newspaper’s readers’ poll.
Myrna the Minx really needs very little introduction—except for the fact that few have figured out exactly who she is. That was part of the problem. Part of the fun. If someone endorses a candidate, or a development, or a concert, many people would like to know who is making the endorsement. After all, when David Bobzien gets an endorsement, and the endorser is anonymous, isn’t it possible that David Bobzien is the anonymous blogger?
Members of Reno’s illuminati, sophisticati and intelligencia have long speculated about her/his real/alter ego. There were some clues on the blog. For example, it became obvious that she was living in one of the new condos off West First Street— she coined the phrase “WeFi” for the area, short for “West First”—she graduated from George Mason University, she went to a lot of music shows, and she haunted all the hip, new restaurants and clubs downtown.
She came under fire for her anonymity. Ryan Jerz, another local blogger, occasionally took her to task for her perceived cowardice. In fact, their feud was a microcosm of a larger debate about the nature of the internet, and to a smaller extent, identity. What is important about a person: their name or their thoughts? Turns out, both can be important.
So by way of introduction, meet Tracy Viselli, also known as Myrna the Minx. The woman-about-town is a 39-year-old blonde who lives on the sixth floor of the Residences at the Riverwalk (the old Comstock Casino) with her old, gray cat. She works in social media—using Digg and things like that—for online marketing company QuinStreet Media. Her condo is another reflection of the hip Myrna, scrupulously neat with an urban feel from the stainless steel counter chairs to the iPod-powered music system. Appropriately, the view is of the Reno skyline. The balcony overlooks the now-defunct Liquid Lounge, now-defunct Green Room and the soon-to-be urban farmers’ market.
She moved around a bit when she was younger, growing up in Southern California, Denver, and St. George, Utah, wherever work took her family. She attended University of Utah and Cal State San Bernardino, getting her graduate degree in literature at George Mason.
She moved to Nevada from the Washington, D.C., area right after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. She had a blog on blogger.com before she started Reno and its Discontents, and it may have been called Myrna the Minx, but she can’t remember for sure. After all, on the internet, three years ago is a lifetime.
That which remains hidden
The nature of identity on the internet raises concerns both for and against anonymity. It’s very difficult for outsiders to hold a blogger accountable for errors or hidden agendas when consumers can’t place the blogger in the context of the default world. On the other hand, bloggers are generally alone, without the big stick mainstream media carries.
“I do think that I had two legitimate concerns [for hiding my identity]: 1) employment and 2) being a woman,” Viselli says. “But although those are legitimate concerns, it is better to be not anonymous. I’ve had issues with being anonymous. For instance, it’s hard to promote what you’re writing if it’s anonymous. You can’t let all those people know what you’re doing as this project or hobby or whatever. And you just have to take shit for being anonymous. I think people think if you’re anonymous, then you’re scared.”
At the blog’s beginning, Viselli worked for the state in planning and assessment at Western Nevada College and later as campus computing manager at the University of Nevada, Reno. When she was attacking public officials, particularly before the last election, she had a serious concern that her job would be in jeopardy if her identity were uncovered, and indeed, it was. Once, a conservative blogger may have looked her up on a Whois.net search, which shows the ownership of Renodiscontent.com (until she gained enough sophistication to block the information), and again by a journalist whom she “dared” to try to figure out her name.
“During the last election, there was maybe heightened interest about my identity,” she says. “And if I stayed anonymous, maybe there would be again [at this election]. I don’t really think about that, but I have personal anxiety about it coming out without me having something to do with it. I have a feeling that more people than I think have figured it out. I think they’re just being nice and not saying anything.”
The coming out party
Viselli has several new ventures started, which—aside from the fact she no longer has to worry about her job—may have influenced her “coming out.”
“I have a whole bunch of new projects,” she says. “I’m always working on something new. I have Renofabulous.com. It’s been up for a while, and there’s a little semi-activity. I’ve kind of changed the function of Reno and its Discontents so I can have a little more time to work on that project. Also I’m starting a project about our cultural anxiety about clutter [clutterlove.com]. I’m fascinated by the whole idea of people focusing around them to make people perfect. I think it’s symptomatic of not being able to deal with themselves. And look—I have very little clutter, so I’m talking about myself.”
Renofabulous.com is a user-generated content site onto which people can submit their photos of Reno. Viselli has toyed with adding a forum, but hasn’t as yet.
“It’s hard to start an online community. It’s really hard. You can’t just have one person.”
She also started a corporation for liability reasons, Reno Fabulous Media at Renofabulousmedia.com, although she’s not quite sure what to do with it now that she’s got it—"Pay taxes, I guess.”
In the meantime, Viselli is looking forward to, but half dreading, the loss of her anonymity. It’ll almost certainly mean changes to the relationship she has with her readers and the relationship they have with her.
“I fully expect it to be very anticlimactic, and that’s great,” she says. “I’ve had so much anxiety about it. I don’t want to shed the identity. It’s a lot of fun. A lot of it is me. Myrna the Minx is a character, but it’s not too far from the truth. I don’t want to shed the identity. I just want to shed the anxiety.”