Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Proteus in Khakis

Cloistered in a third-floor office with hot-as-Hades temperatures, seated like a hunched gargoyle with sciatica in front of a computer screen is no way to earn a living.

Welcome to my world, a frustrating place of words, writing and tortured souls. Where caffeine is the love juice making the pleasure rockets in my brain fire with rapid precision, and where interviewing Neanderthals in suits who spit a well-oiled doublespeak is second nature.

I became a journalist for the same reasons others have: for the pussy and Chivas Regal. 

When the myths of a hard-drinking, wisdom-spewing H.L. Mencken or drug-ingesting Hunter S. Thompson crashed and burned, I was left with a sobering reality. 

If you’re contemplating a career as a journalist, follow this simple step:

Take a kukri and slit your throat from ear to ear. You’d be doing yourself and the rest of the multiverses a favor.

Society doesn’t need another scribbling wordmonkey with delusions of grandeur or a “nose for news”. (Incidentally, I hate that phrase. If anyone uses “nose for news” in front of me I will pierce their genitalia with a halberd.)

America doesn’t need another ink-fingered hack, penjockey or idealistic truth-demon with biased political leanings.

The media needs people who could write, and write well, and communicate what a rat-infested hellhole we’re living in before we’re up to our armpits in rat shit.

We need storytellers who can ferret out stories worth telling.

We need to expose naked abuses of power and corruption in our government and in business.

We need to get back to informing the public and not regurgitating celebrity news.

Investigative reporting is key. Knowing how to obtain, read and interpret public documents is essential.
Dealing with editors, especially ones you want to kill with a shovel, is a valuable skill. 

Learning to live in abject poverty is also extremely important. Realizing this profession won’t win you any friends and will shower you with spit, excrement and bile from people who think the liberal media is destroying their Utopian vision of 1950s America is also a plus.

In short, if you want to subsist on a diet of insults, scorn and baked beans on toast, become a reporter for a dying print publication.

If, however, you want to grab life by the shorthairs and thunder into battle mounting a 100-foot high thermonuclear robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex, write for the Internet. Be a tech-savvy guru and people will clamor for your words. They’ll lie flat, genuflecting in front of you like mesmerized devotees, begging for you to acknowledge them with a bored gaze. When your eyes do meet theirs for a nanosecond, they’ll explode with rapturous applause, and fall on their scimitars at your handsome countenance.

The Internet is not the future; it’s our current reality.

A nearsighted wombat with half a brain knows that. Print publications are deader than Pauly Shore’s career. Face it, if you’re not trucking with ones and zeroes, you’re an octogenarian shitting your Depends and swilling Ensure and barking at neighborhood teenagers to get off your lawn.

Internet publishing delivers your product to the consumer faster. It’s less expensive to produce and nearly everyone has a computer or access to one. While weekly newspapers are about as quaint as old dowagers sipping tea from bone china in a room covered with doilies, it’s just that; a thing of the past.

Writers should not be intimidated by technology. They should readily embrace it and increase their proficiency with publication and web-design software. They should know Quark, PageMaker and PhotoShop in addition to how to write a fucking news story.

But you know this. Content is out there, doing the doggypaddle in an ocean of special interest blogs, aggregated news and Asian midget porn sites. Getting someone to pull you aboard before you drown requires zen-like dedication and discipline. 

Reporters now in early 21st Century America are information machines, spewing forth data and uploading it to the masses in real time. Bring a laptop to a council meeting and write the story there, then upload that thing to the Internet WITHIN SECONDS!

Wrangle as many social media sites as you can. Twitter and Facebook are great for uploading links to your news stories or communicating with readers.

Technology has made us information-dispensing cyborgs. Smartphones bring the world to our palms and allow us to reach into the Wi-Fi gyre and allow us to be heard.

Everything is connected. Take your words into the greater void and don’t look back. It takes imagination, creativity and perseverance to put yourself out there and tap into that unknown. You’re not just writing for a few hundred people anymore. You’re writing for millions. Anyone with Internet access can find you and consume your words.

Give the world something to feast on. 

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