What I’m reading: Buyout shock, hobby journalism, Madonna writes and DIY editing

It’s been exactly a year ago today that my whole world changed. I turned in my buyout paperwork to the human resources department at my former newspaper, went to lunch with my sidekick, and for the first time in a very long while was at peace with myself and what was ahead of me.

The thoughts of recent buyout-takers at the Syracuse Post-Standard are hauntingly familiar and kick off a roundup of links about media topics I’ve been reading in recent days:

Don’t mourn for long: Longtime Post-Standard illustrator Darren Sanefski is dealing with fresh, raw emotions that won’t subside in short order:

“I’m still going through this grieving process. Working at the newspaper is what identified me as a person for the last 22 years.”

This is an unbearably hard notion to shake, but it must be licked. Sanefski’s bottom-line perspective virtually mirrors the thought that sealed the deal for me to move on:

“When you conquer your greatest fear, you make the greatest strides. And that’s why I left the newspaper.”

(via Fading to Black)

A young journalist, undaunted: Paralyzed since the age of eight, Sonia Sharp has stormed her way through Columbia Journalism School because, frankly, she’s never wanted to do anything else:

“I grew up with doom and gloom. So you can doom-and-gloom until you’re blue in the face, and I’ll yawn. I still want to be a journalist because I’m stubborn, and dropping in on total strangers and having them open their lives to you is addictive, and I’m not a ‘just say no’ person.

“Journalism marries the two things in the world I’m actually good at—being nosy and writing for money.”

Writing . . . for money? How quaint. (via Romenesko)

But it’s a hobby, isn’t it? Caroline Miller could teach Sharp quite a bit more about the real world of journalism than Columbia. There’s lots of piling onto the anti-Chris Anderson bandwagon (more on that tomorrow) but hers is one of the kvetchiest ripostes yet to the author of “Free:”

“I’ve never met anyone who was insulted to get paid to write something—that seems delusional—but otherwise he gets right to the anxiety deep down in the heart of journalists (and journalism lovers) everywhere. It’s really not about whether newspapers will survive (no, they won’t, not in their current form), or whether they’ll morph into story syndicates or journalistic cooperatives (yeah, they will, or some other form that monetizes content more broadly), but whether people will get paid to report and write at all.”

Blame it all on Robert Redford: I got the journalism bug because of Watergate, and that was due in some part to the glorification of Woodstein in “All The President’s Men” that hit the cinemas during my high school days. For years I figured Hal Holbrook might as well be Deep Throat.

Russ Smith believes this celebrity treatment of journalists has ruined reporting, making us a preening pack of camera hounds and pundits working out of soulless, smokeless, odorless newsrooms (now rapidly thinning out, of course). He loses his point several times in a rambling, but entertaining post that includes this zinger of a caveat:

“That’s not to say all, or even most, daily journalists in the fat decades were pricks who whooped it up with herbal tea and treated cigarette smokers like pariahs even before local governments stuck their noses into that onetime controversial issue.”

Well, I do believe Smith is saying that. He might not have worked in places like that, but I did. While the goo-goo legions in newsrooms are, well, legion — Sign up for Weight Watchers! Join the Walking Club! — this “antiseptic” mindset ranges far beyond the journalistic imagination of Hollywood.

Think what it might be like to have this guy for an editor.

Writing like a virgin . . . for the very first time: Yes, this celebrity journalism thing really is getting out of hand, now that Madonna’s made herself a newspaper correspondent. Yes, the Madonna. Her full debut “story” won’t be published until tomorrow. In it, the Material Girl:

“Describes her religious awakening almost 14 years ago, saying she realized fame and fortune were not the end but only the beginning.”

Today, Israeli’s largest daily. Tomorrow, per chance, the Huffington Post? Perhaps Arianna already has something worked out with Her Girl Friday.

Do your your own damn rewrite: Not sure who’s looking over Miz Ciccone’s copy in that Tel Aviv newsroom, but reporters are having to be their own copy editors with the latter the most endangered species of all journalists. The American Copy Editors Society is revving up its blog to address that topic and others related to the art, practice and discipline of good writing and editing.

Ex-Baltimore Sun desk chief John McIntyre, one of the aces of ACES, takes no pleasure in seeing print errors mount and worries that present Web standards won’t be raised:

“I suspect that one of the things that is on the minds of publishers of online enterprises is a sense that readers on the Internet don’t expect things to be accurate or very well done and, therefore, they are used to tolerating a much higher level of shoddy work, a much greater volume of errors and, therefore, you can sacrifice the quality on the Web and it doesn’t mean that much.”

It’s truly a DIY universe we inhabit. So get your online stylebooks here: Associated Press and Reuters.


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