I've been covering theme parks, online and off, for more than a decade. But Lutz is the dean of theme park reporters on the Internet. A former music recording producer, Lutz started writing about Disneyland on USENET, then on a series of websites. For fans used to ever-positive coverage about Disney and its theme parks in the traditional press, Lutz provided a bracing splash of reality. His reports detailed an ugly side at the so-called Happiest Place on Earth, from chipped paint and burned-out lights to maintenance cutbacks that other critics charged endangered the public safety. Two fatal accidents at the park, later blamed on park personnel and mainentance failures, brought more attention to Lutz's critical work.
In 2003, he left MousePlanet, a Disneyland news site founded by a group of USENET veterans, to go solo on MiceAge. Since then, he's added other writers his site, where they've broken many stories about developments at Walt Disney theme parks, including the plans to revamp California Adventure.
Despite the fact that we've covered the same industry for years, I'd not had the chance to meet Lutz in person. So last week, I called and arranged a get-together, where we talked about how Lutz found his way into Web publishing, as well as how he's managed to build a part-time interest into a news-breaking bully pulpit about a multi-billion-dollar industry. An edited transcript follows: