Last week, I was in Nashville for the conference of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN). In case you didn’t know, this thing splayed out on the bar in front of you, or on your computer screen or your phone, is called an alternative newsweekly, or an alt weekly. But one of the main topics at the conference was how we are no longer weeklies, but have to put out stories on a daily basis while still putting out a weekly product. There are a lot of different ways of doing that, and ours has changed.
You might have noticed that our website was updated recently. If you are an arts organization (or anyone else) who has a link somewhere to a post-2010 story, then we owe you an apology. That link is dead. Some of the stories are in transition now, but they will all be back. And they will have new URLs. I know, believe me, it sucks for me worse than it does for you. But you remember how shitty the old site was, right? And now look, we’ve got a spiffy site on your mobile device. It is better and will get better. And there's talk of digitizing the whole archive back to 1977. Fucking hell yeah!
As part of the change, we also decided we would put up some of our stories that end up in the paper over the course of the week—so the City Folk story, say (which is amazing this week), may end up being posted online the Thursday or Friday before it comes out. And it turns out many of the papers are doing that.
At the AAN conference, the association gives out all its awards, you know, for best columnist or investigative journalism or whatever and we weren’t finalists for any of them this year (last year, we were finalists in three categories and won one). When I saw that, I was like "What the fuck?" I mean, we did some great stories in 2013, goddamnit. But, you know what else also happened in 2013? Our freelance budgets got slashed, insanely, by previous ownership. I was writing far more than is healthy for any paper—everyone on staff was. My work, at least, suffered as a result. In order to be able to do award-winning work, we need to be able to actually spend a little bit of time on a story, which means we can’t be stretched too thin. (The winners really deserved their prizes, though.)
Things in that regard are much better under the new overlords. There was a time last year when we would not have been able to afford Anthony McKissic’s great story on rollerskating at Shake & Bake ("Snap City, July 2). Freelanced feature story and photos? Hell no. But the Baltimore Sun Media Group, unexpectedly, seems to understand that it takes money to run a paper and since it takes so much less money to run our paper than it does The Sun, maybe we will continue to get the resources we need. And then we will win some fucking awards again.
We did win one award. As Enrique Limón, an editor at the Santa Fe Reporter and a very funny emcee, was going through the real awards, he added one “Best Voice” and he called out my name. I wish he had meant best narrative voice or something like that, but it really was just recognizing how loud my voice is and how well it projects—something that comes as no surprise to my colleagues. For, although Edward Ericson Jr. often curses at his machines, and J.M. Giordano and Charlie Herrick talk about weird pop culture memes I have never heard of for hours on end, and Van Smith cloud chases in his cube, I am by far the most annoying member of CP’s staff—especially now that we are in a newsroom setting—because my voice is fucking loud. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because my dad has Ménière's disease and is kind of deaf so I live in terror that I will lose my hearing.
If you’ve ever seen me at a bar, you’ve noticed this, and Jack Silverman, from the Nashville Scene, had already made fun of me. But he did so while taking me out to a show at Fond Object Records, where Greg Cartwright, of the Oblivions, played in a little yard behind the record store and people sat on the ground with 24-ounce beers from the gas station, which put them in (brilliant!) insulated brown paper bags. Bags/coozies—or boozies, as I would call them if I marketed them. There were also goats and a pig. So, I didn’t mind being razzed a bit.
But a booming voice is a terrible quality for a reporter to have, I think, unless you are at press conferences and shit and you can be heard over the other guys. But I hate press conferences. It’s better to be like Kapuscinski, who said the only reason he wasn’t shot many times as he covered revolutions was that he was quiet enough, invisible enough, that people thought he wasn’t worth the bullet. Joan Didion attributed some of her success as a reporter to her small size and quiet demeanor. A booming voice . . . not so much. But in an editor, it is great, which might be why I became an editor. Because, when some goddamn bureaucrat or band member fucks with my reporters or my interns, I can use that voice to get on the horn like an old-school Lou Grant motherfucker and tell them to fuck the fuck off. In which case, a loud voice is useful. To make sure you can hear me.
In summary, Times-Shamrock, you suck for slashing our budget last year.
Thank you Baltimore Sun Media Group for restoring it. We can always use more.
Thanks to Enrique, to Jack, and everyone at AAN for a great time.
And don’t fuck with my people or I will call and cuss you out. And it will be loud.