Monday, March 06, 2006

When one hour in the day colors the other 23


Okay...not totally. And yet, today's little get-together with some people I used to write with (including our old editor who left us for greener pastures--see yesterday's post) only made me feel worse and more artistically adrift than ever before. Those who have established their comfy perch at a newsdesk or as a featured columnist can go about their business. This next sentence is for the free-lance writers out there looking for their next writing gig in the arena of culture: Print media is dying, my friends, and the first sections of every paper to walk the plank are visual arts and books.
My former editor, one of the lovely folk I met with today, is noticeably chagrined that I'm not employed as a writer as often as he'd like. We formed a nice mutual admiration society during the years we worked together. He was one of my favorite editors (of the four I've had) and I was one of his favorite writers. That said, he would like to see me do more with my writing than what I've been doing of late. I wanted to tell him that the front seat on the bus to Regretsville already has my name on it, given that I spent eight good years teaching stubborn adolescents to write instead of doing it myself. That...and the fact that so much of the time I was writing for him I was also running herd on three young sons, one of whom was a pre-schooler. He laughs when I remind him of the times we did phone edits and how one of those times involved me phoning him while crouched over the pages as I stood on my kitchen porch in the winter while my screaming toddler beat on the other side of the glass door with his tiny fists. Ah yes....good times.

Sometime while I was getting all those kids to a place where they could find their own pants, the newspaper business took a dive. The areas where I made my best money, visual arts and books, were the first areas to be eaten by ad space or obliterated altogether to save money. And it's not just newspapers that are suffering. Of the four magazines devoted to the reading life that debuted within the last 8 years, one of which I wrote for, two are no longer in print. Seems no one wants to read about stuff that makes them think anymore. Great art. Fabulous literature. Theater. Music. All have fallen victim to the encroachment of adspace. (Oh yes...they just fired our classical music reviewer...and in this town we have a little piano shindig here we like to call THE VAN CLIBURN COMPETITION!!!! How do you cover that in the newspaper without someone who knows classical music? Has the world gone mad? No wonder the New Yorker Magazine's creator and first editor, Harold Ross, put his writers and advertising execs on totally separate floors. To separate the wheat from the chaff, of course!

What doesn't seem to be affected are the pages devoted solely to the goings-on of the rich and wish-they-were-famous in this town. One woman ( I won't call her a writer or a journalist) gets an entire column a couple of times a week wherein she talks about bejewelled socialites and which clever dowagers managed to get shoes to match her handbags. She also covers the parties and the debuts and the funds raised by moneyed people "of note" who were so moved by the plight of the albino ferret (for example) at the yearly gala that they immediately fell into fits of melancholy and then shook off the mood by writing a big check. It's trash writing at its worst, but I can't imagine anyone getting rid of this broad in order to save the career of one Arts writer.

Pretty soon the paper will only be comprised of four sections: The Front for murders/rapes/money launderers. Sports. Obituaries. And the CRAPsection where that stupid, stupid woman writes every damn year about how the nubile and extremely wealthy debutants make their gravity-defying bow to the audience (Called the "Texas Dip") at their debut to society before downing three bucket-sized containers of Jagermeister and power-vomiting into the country club's new hot tub.

On the bright side....today's yoga session was awesome and I figured out how to take b/w pics with my camera. See? I found my silver lining...

16 Comments:

Blogger john boy said...

Actually, my Monday DID totally suck! lol

Hello :)

10:09 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Wow. Just wow. You never fail to hit the society matron on the well-powdered nose.

10:22 PM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

The sad thing is, a lot of the people I know don't even read the paper anymore. They get all their info from TV. Not me, though. I feel the newspaper presents things in a less biased way than the TV news anchors, and I can choose to skip over all that sensationalist stuff TV dwells on.

What about writing for magazines? I can see you writing editorials for Newsweek.

Great self-portrait!

3:51 AM  
Blogger R. Robyn said...

I think more people get their news from the internet than television. It's more accessible, and you only have to hear about the things you want to. All hail the internet!

4:40 AM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Oh, trust me, I know. I am a copy writer and the first thing I tell my clients is that their audience doesn't WANT TO READ. We have to say it as quickly and with as many photos as possible.

We have so many more choices and competition for our attention. We all have to change with the times...or is it the times they are a changin'?

There are tons of webzines and print niche magazines too. There's a perfect place for you Wordgirl, now you just have to find it.

5:43 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

But:

You write well on your blog, and many people read what you write. I wish I had 1% of your talent.

Plus, you have developed your style since the beginning too.

When people get sad about their present dilemma, it's usually comes with a burst of energy.

You are a smart person. I am sure you made choices you needed to make.

In my blog recently, I have mentioned that I am reading print less, BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY MORE CHOICES ONLINE.

Did I use a big enough hammer right then?

Did you ever hear of Slate or Salon for instance?

And print is not dead, I love the arts section in The New York Sun because they will tell you what they really like and dislike http://www.nysun.com/section/8

If a grunt like me is reading literature, there's hope.

There are many cultural, arts magaines out there.

Maybe, your old editor had certain expectations about you. So what. He can't really be a creative person, if he can't accept that a creative person has moved in a different direction.

And you are creative. Remember the table? the fireplace? I'm not creative. I can't imagine where I would put that table.

You have to see your opportunities too. If your local papers do not have an arts section, well why don't you present yourself to them, and tell them that you can write a cultural section.

Many ordinary people enjoy reading some culture. In New York City, there are many low-cost or free concerts, art exhibits and theatre. Plus, many new immigrants take the advantage to learn about the arts.

About your decisions:

With a person like you, I doubt that your years teaching were wasted. I am certain you touched many students. You have three wonderful sons, and a loving husband. You live in a beautiful area. And you write. And you express yourself in art.

The religious, philosophical slant:

You are already on YOUR path, and are doing quite well. Continue.

Look, I know 1% about you, and see what I have written.

If you care to pursue it, I just created a niche market for you.

I am going to research the cultural, arts writers market for you. It's not alot of work. it's just a matter of speaking to the right librarians. Believe me, we LOVE good reference questions!

So when you are ready, get off the crying couch, and out of this mood, you have alot to offer, to others and yourself.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Shrinking Violet said...

Power vomit. You just made my day!

8:05 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

I was going to say a lot of what dan said (or at least I think so - his comment sucked all coherent thought right out of me). I too lament the suckitude of The Newspaper as we now know it. But, BUT, at least alternative rags keep popping up - unfortunately the already-fairly-cultured crowd are the only ones reading them.

As Randy says, you're just not feelin' it, are you, dawg? I wish I could pull you up, hug you, and swat your skinny ass, because damn! You've got so much talent. Oozing out all over! And just the act of putting pen to paper seems artful when I picture you doing it. So !!! and !!! (back to dan stealing all my coherent thoughts)

(Is your Coolpix black? Mine's metallic silver. I like yours better - and it takes good b/w doesn't it? I love that feature.)

8:29 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Mignon- Mine is black. Mr. Half's is silver. I never really took good pics before until I got this camera. Now, I think that Helen Keller could probably do as well as I'm doing. Nevertheless...I love this camera and I take it with me everywhere.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

I'm sorry WordGirl. I wish I knew something to say about this that would make you feel better, but I see the same thing happening in our local print media. The especially disturbing part of the whole thing is that the quality of writing on top of the poor subject matter is just abysmal.
I feel that you will find a niche. You are a savvy woman, seem pretty well connected and are a great writer.
And the other silver lining is that you are lovely, inside and out.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous LetterB said...

Hey, you still have your looks. Rrraorww!

5:14 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I think I love dan.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Melanhead said...

I love the picture! I hope my yoga class tomorrow morning at 5:30 am will be just as awesome as the one you had today!

6:59 PM  
Anonymous paige said...

I wasn't going to touch the personal stuff because I barely know you, and just simply praise the term "power vomit", but I too think I fell in love with Dan for a minute.

Every girl needs someone like that to stop by once in a while and say all the right things.

6:12 AM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

The last sentence of your first paragraph is sad but true, I think.

I like the pic, though. Very cool.

7:11 AM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

Traditional print media is dying, but communication is more important than ever and art is everywhere.

Like Debbie, I've done tons of copywriting. It's true, people looking for business info don't want to read sentences. But I can tell you this: I take enormous pleasure in boiling down pages and pages of drivel to three powerful bullet points that hit you right in the face. It's like writing a poem--the big idea in the smallest possible package. Memorable.

Screw the papers and embrace new opportunities, new outlets, new ways of harnessing your considerable talents. The choices you've made have made you who you are. People that sat at desks all those years are no smarter or better, just different.

7:29 AM  

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