Monday, February 17, 2014

Write said Fred

You may not know this, but once upon a time I got paid to write little stories. I wrote a lot of them. Usually several a week.

And they actually got published! Really. I've got boxes of clippings to prove it. Even though over time I've pitched probably 75 percent of that stuff.

I wrote some columns, but most of the stuff that got published was not personal at all. To this day, even here, I have to make myself let go. I tend to try and write things from as detached a position as possible. It's not really that easy to open those doors.

Today and two days ago, I got some things published here. It's my first byline in a big paper in a long time. In the 90s I was in three big newspapers; it's been a while since I had a quality placement.

It feels good. I really wanted to do a great job, even though these are small pieces and will be quickly forgotten. But not by me.

I thought I had left newspapers for good in 2000. I had a chance to take a dream job in a dream location, and I was smart enough to know that the business was struggling and that things were going to get worse. The timing was pretty good.

A few years later, though, I had the chance to jump back into journalism. It was with a lot of quality people who I had worked with before, and an exciting venture that held so much promise.

For the next six months, we had a ton of fun producing a clever publication that without some underhanded shit from our competition, could have been truly epic. Instead, for reasons I think still haven't been fully explained, we had to shut it down.

At the time it seemed like a complete disaster for me and 25 others. That was going to be my second farewell to journalism. But it turned out OK. I wound up going back to school and completing my degree.

And, setting up my third farewell to journalism. What made going back to school possible was taking a job at a third-rate newspaper near the university. There were some nice people there, and a handful of lifelong friends to meet. But in general, the place was populated with dead-enders, suck-ups, and hacks. Most of them in management roles.

Nepotism. Favoritism. Sexism. These were just some of the entrenched "isms" there, and overcoming them was difficult. Some people were allowed to screw up over and over. Some were allowed to be lazy. Some were allowed to be routinely incompetent.

And as I would discover, the office politicians had the best shot at longevity. Boat-rockers were shit-listed.

It was probably inevitable that it would go bad. It was almost five years ago now, that day when 16 heads got lopped off. It was no surprise that many in this jettisoned group would have one thing in common: We valued the quality of the product more than we valued kissing ass.

Most people lament things that happen in the workplace. Dilbert, The Office, Office Space... workplace bullshit is so commonplace that everyone can relate.

Some of the people let go that day have gone on to much bigger and much better. Although one of the leftovers, we would learn, told the frightened remainder that they had been retained because they "were the best of the best."

Some of them were really good. But the day of the lopping, they slashed two of the best at their jobs they had. And another who went on to a successful career at one of the region's biggest employers. And another who got a graduate degree and now makes globally recognized films. And another whose axing sparked a community outcry that got him re-hired quickly. And me.

"Best of the best." Fuck you, John, you coward.

Anyway. Now I work someplace great with amazing professional co-workers. They treat one another with respect. It feels incredible. I used to hate going to work. Now I look forward to it. The days fly by. We have fun, we do a great job.

And I get to be part of it.

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