Yesterday was a 3K day. That is, I wrote 3,000 words, plus a few more. For purposes of perspective: For my newspaper friends, that’s about 100 inches of copy by most measures. Ambitious novelists strive for 1,000 words a day. Graham Greene used to write something like 487, no more and no less, and knock off for the day even if he had more in him. (Warning: I may be thinking of someone else, but I’m pretty sure it’s Graham Greene.)
And for James Lileks, 3,000 words allows him to barely scratch the surface of his latest strawman takedown.
For a freelancer, 3,000 words is a lot, but not so many when you consider you’re being paid by the word, which gives you the strength to get it done: “Faster! Faster! Our house has been reassessed and we have taxes to pay!” I do recommend light carbs for lunch, however.
While I was smearing my keyboard with my own blood, a kid came to the door. Selling magazines, for some outfit with a name that immediately makes sensible people suspicious — two capital letters separated by an ampersand, plus Enterprises. J&B Enterprises, something like that.
“Let me guess,” I said. “Are you in a crew, traveling around the country by van, sleeping on top of one another in motels? You’re not from around here, are you?”
He nodded. He was from Little Rock, Arkansas. Dressed reasonably well, but a little sour-smelling up close.
“I won’t buy any magazines, because I can’t support the people you’re working for,” I said. “But let me tell you this: If you want to go home, there are numbers you can call. The folks you’re working for are not good people, most likely. You’re not in a safe environment, but you’re an adult, and I guess you can decide for yourself. But just know that if you want out, people can help you.” (Of course, I don’t actually speak in permalinks.)
“How do you know this?” he asked.
“I’m a journalist,” he said. “There have been many stories about these outfits. A bunch of kids were killed in Wisconsin a few years ago, when their van overturned on the freeway.” His eyes widened.
“Are you sure you won’t buy any magazines?” he whined. “I can win a trip.”
“Don’t bet on it,” I said. “Remember, there’s help. Stop back if you want to, and I’ll find you the phone number. And wear your seat belt in that van.”
He didn’t come back. But it’s not often that I get to say, “I’m a journalist” the same way others say “I’m a doctor” or “I’m an FBI agent.” That was amusing.
Do I have bloggage? I have bloggage:
In the Department of the Obvious, Don’t use your cellphone outside in a thunderstorm. Experts agree!
A late-arriving commenter to the thread in which we discussed the sale of my old paper to Ogden Newspapers left a note that most will likely miss, so here it is, front and center:
Ogden owns both of the newspapers in Wheeling, so there’s no real competition. There used to be some competitiveness between the news departments, though. There was pride in writing well and putting out a quality product, especially by the afternoon paper. But when Ogden hired a new general manager – a former advertising guy with no editorial experience whatsoever – all that mattered was the bottom line. Formerly free obits now cost $$$. The two newsroom staffs were, for all practical purposes, merged. No longer was there a separate city editor for each newspaper. Then Ogden bought a few more local papers and was able to eliminate reporters by just taking stories filed for the Steubenville or Martins Ferry newspapers and using them in the Wheeling paper. I left because the pay was so bad and it became evident that management didn’t care one bit about putting out a quality newspaper. I didn’t want my name associated with it.
I repeat: They’ll feel right at home.