12.8.08

Desperation is our Bread and Butter!

I was asked why I was doing this blog. I stopped doing "Excess Hollywood," a popular column that later became blog, because I had no interest in living in the "blogosphere." So why do this?

The "Times-Standard" and its reliance on desperate writers begging for a byline. That's why.

The "Times-Standard" is Eureka, California's hometown newspaper. It's been around for ages, and is read by a sizable portion of Humboldt County's population. (The sizable portion that can read, at least.) Some of you may know of it.

Back when I was writing for "Tattoo Savage" I was looking for other writing outlets to supplement my income. (Every freelancer knows that timely paychecks aren't exactly a regular part of the gig.) I decided to try our local paper. The entertainment editor at the time was thrilled that I asked. There was a jazz festival coming up and the paper needed an experienced writer to cover it. The editor wanted coverage of the festival and interviews with several of the acts. I'm not a big fan of jazz, but I am a big fan of paying the bills, so I said I would be interested. I figured it would be at least 14 hours worth of work, and the editor agreed. I didn't think the paper would pay as much as the tattoo magazine (which averaged about $80 an hour), but I thought I'd make some decent money.

Twenty-five dollars was the rate I was quoted. Not per hour. For the piece. Twenty-five dollars. Oh, and I'd get to see my name in print.

I reminded the editor that my name was already in print on a regular basis, and I wasn't doing the piece to pad my portfolio. I was writing to make a living. Not stroke the ol' ego.

The editor understood, but kept insisting it would be a great experience that would look good in my portfolio. I asked how it could possibly look better than an international magazine (one of a few at the time). There was no answer, and I didn't take the assignment.

Fast forward quite a few years. My poker book comes out. Press releases are sent to all sorts of media, including the "Times-Standard." Does my local paper contact me for an interview? No. The newspaper in my old hometown, a place that had every reason to hate me, had a writer call me up and I did an interview on my lunch break.

I couldn't help but wonder who was sleeping behind the wheel at the "Times-Standard." It was a ready-made story, and anyone who remembered me from the last contact I had with the publication had long since left the paper. Here I was thinking I might like to give the writing thing another shot (it really needed some better film critics), and the entire incident soured me ... again.

A few more years goes by. I noticed that the paper was doing its own blog and publishing some of the pieces in its print edition. Should I dare? I was kind of missing the immediate gratification of "Excess Hollywood." Should I? I should. I did. I contacted the editor and told him I was interested (knowing I would have to water it down as the stuff the paper tended to like had to do with mothers writing about the cute things their kids did). I also gave him some direction to the online stuff I had written (most notably Film Threat, which the "Wall Street Journal" ranked as one of the five best movie sites). He asked to see some samples and then we could talk.

Instead of getting excited, I became depressed. Why would I want to help the "Times-Standard," that exploiter of hungry freelancers, sell papers and capture surfing web eyes? I wouldn't. And I didn't. I shined it. I didn't even respond to the editor's e-mail. I had no desire to write about flower shows, coffee shops, or the cute things animals in my neighborhood did. I'd leave that to the clueless and self-important. I'd do my own thing.

And here we are ...

Obama is running for president. Bernie Mac is dead ... for real this time. CNN is running exciting video clips of people commenting on the John Edwards "sex scandal." The music industry continues to implode. The Joker is everywhere. The Olympics is showing the world why nobody should care. A lady clones her dead dog and is revealed to be someone accused of kidnapping a man and keeping him as a sex slave decades ago. Wildfires ravage California while the Arnie attempts to cut the pay of state employees to minimum wage. The Blue Lake chief of police (now ex-chief to be exact) is accused of some pretty horrific crimes involving spousal rape and firearms.

It seems like a pretty good time to get back into the commentating business. Sticking my nose where it is unwelcome. Poking my finger into that festering wound that is society. This is the kind of thing I enjoy, the kind of thing I don't do nearly enough these days. How long will I stick with it? I can't answer that, but I think it will quite a ride regardless of its length.

2 comments:

George Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
-Doug Brunell "America's Favorite Son" said...

Funny you should say that. I was going †o write a piece on that album. Odd.