Saturday, December 8, 2007

The freelance state and the Reader's essence

The Reader got a fair amount of coverage for laying off four writers last week, myself included (there was some earlier when the creative and hard-working production department was outsourced and when the drivers were converted from employees to freelancers).

It's always nice to be agonized over; hear from long-lost friends, acquaintances, and colleagues; and mull over how on earth journalism is going to be paid for. But much of the paper has always been written by freelancers, and losing my job gave me a chance to chat with one of the best, Lee Sandlin, who has a gorgeous
web site. IMO any list of the ten best stories the Reader ever published should include "The Invisible Man," AKA the cat story. You don't have anything better to do today than read it.

And while you're there, the site's
dedication offers quite a different take on (a) the paper's currently embattled editor, and (b) the single quality that -- more than any individual writer -- has made it special over the years: the willingness to break our own rules if that's what it takes to bring you good reading.

It's not for me to say whether the Reader can get along without Conroy and Marlan and Bogira and me. But to the extent that it loses that willingness -- which has dwindled but not vanished in recent years -- it will be walking dead, no matter who's on the masthead.


TPR said...

As one of those who benefited from Harold's kind words from time to time, I was real sorry to hear the news. Take good care of him; he's one of your treasures.

Sam Smith
Progressive Review
Washington DC

Michael Koplow said...

Harold, I was very sad to hear about your getting axed (as well as Tom and Renaldo, both of whom I should contact).

I conclude from the choice of fired writers that the new owners are not only vicious (which I already knew), but determined to raise the fluff-to-seriosity ratio as high as they can. Miner's days are numbered.

Harold said...

Michael Koplow, for the record, was my genial host my first day in the Reader office in 1985, showing me around and sprinkling witticisms far and wide. Thanks, Mike. Send me your e-mail!

Paul Botts said...

My interest in reading the Reader each week was already declining and this sure won't turn that around.

DeadWisdom said...

From day one, I didn't trust these Loafers, but I thought at the very least, they would have the foresight and simple common-sense to keep their best writers. Isn't that what it's all about? Well they've finally proved beyond a doubt that the quick buck is more important to them than the mature, wise investment.