Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Passion to Indifference to Bitterness

It struck me while I was watching a movie last night called “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.” Starring Simon Pegg from “Shaun of the Dead,” this comedy takes a snarky hack from his amateur rag in England to the high gloss world of American celebrity tabloids. It’s one of those money doesn’t make you happy type of stories, but Pegg’s character Sydney, feels a vocational pull towards serious journalism. There is a scene where he walks up to a newsstand on a New York City street, pulls the magazine from the rack and smiles gleefully at his own byline in black and white.

I used to know that feeling. I remember the rush it brought the first time I saw it in my college student newspaper, then during my first newspaper internship, and finally in the real world when my name as an editor had reached the masthead mountaintop. And then, suddenly, at 34 years old, I felt like one of those high school quarterbacks who used to hang out at Gators bar in Seminole County, Florida. You know the ones, the ones who pretend not to see the gut bursting out over their belts and still think their smile and a pitcher of Miller Light will get them into your pants. Okay, maybe I didn’t feel that bad.

Since magazines are still being published (date: 9/8/2010), I wondered if my nostalgia was brought on simply because my life has moved me past that part of my career. It’s more important to me now to have a stable paycheck than a byline in a glossy magazine, so …eh.

Or, more likely, it’s that I’m not in a position to spend 20 hours a week trying to find a publication that still prints hard copies that would be willing to chance some ink on me. It’s not like I haven’t asked. About a year ago, I sent a strong query to a national women’s magazine using all the right channels and buzzwords. Their reply? It’s not that I didn’t stand a chance, or that my clips were not good. They rejected me because there is already a really long line of people waiting to get that freelance assignment and it’s made up of former employees of the magazine who already know all the remaining editors personally. Ouch. Rough times.

So I take the consolation prize that is my content farm byline – the kind that doesn’t even get you discounted media rates at hotels in exchange for reviews. And why bother reviewing hotels for $2,500 per 1,500 words when thousands of people on TripAdvisor are reviewing them for free? Nevermind that they rarely provide any helpful details or perspective. I guess a content farm byline is better than no byline at all. Just in case, if on one magical day when Travel & Leisure comes calling, I’ll have current clips to show them.

Until then, I’ll simply share among fellow Sydneys that we are the real journalists, no matter what our beat. We are part of a print generation that would never have spelled The Beatles wrong in an article about Lady Gaga. That’s right Sarah McClure from (which recently bought LifeLime), you wrote “from The Beetles 1966 "Yesterday and Today" album cover.” Oy. Not that mistakes don’t happen in print. They still do. I’m just bitter that McClure gets more clicks as a writer than I do because I’m not affiliated with a major outlet.

Rant over.