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News/Opinion
‹‹ V.18 No.32 | August 6 - 12, 2009

Bear With Me

Will Write for Food

By John Bear

I had to go and become a newspaper writer. Newspaper writers are becoming a thing of the past, like typewriter repairmen. It’s all bloggers and cable news now.

The last paper I worked at has begun laying off workers and handing out 3 percent pay cuts to those who remain. I’m glad I got out when I did. The second you cut my pay is the second I start stealing paperclips. But nobody there is stealing pens because we had to buy our own. Cheap bastards.

I’m back in Albuquerque and just ended a long job search. Things are looking pretty bleak right now in the job market. Landing a newspaper gig these days is as tricky as finding the point in an Ann Coulter column.

This didn’t stop me from trying. I applied at a large daily three times—once to be a reporter, again to work in the mail room and the third time to guard the parking lot. They sent me two polite postcards and didn’t bother the third time.

Landing a newspaper gig these days is as tricky as finding the point in an Ann Coulter column.

Craigslist has plenty of listings for Internet writers. I sent clippings to several sites searching for writers wanting to make money from home. And I finally got some good news—one company wants to hire me. The bad news—they want my bank account number.

Out of desperation and pure unadulterated greed, I applied to work at a public relations firm as an editor. When I was a functional reporter, we made fun of PR people. They were the ones who couldn’t handle real journalism and bailed for better money, whores for The Man. I would have laughed at them were I not so weak with hunger. (Not really. I seem to keep gaining mass.)

Apparently, I was not good enough to join their team. A human resources guy in California asked me if I could multitask. I said I could cover a murder, a brushfire, two armed robberies and still fit in six hours of doing absolutely nothing in an eight-hour shift. They said they had someone better suited.

It was probably for the best. I have heard PR work described as soul-crushing, sellout, panic-attack-inducing hack work. No one ever says, “Oh it’s simply delightful and so fulfilling. I love it.”

Of course, I don’t find having zero income all that rewarding, either.

I applied at a biweekly paper to work as a sports reporter. I hate sports, save for the occasional baseball game, but I figured that if I can cover a zoning board meeting, a high school football game can’t be much worse.

I interviewed and wrote a practice story about a fictional girls’ softball game.

They hired an actual sports writer. Fine.

But fortune smiled upon me and the police reporter position opened up at the same paper.

I figured, What the hell, what’s one more nervous breakdown? I’m only 30. I have time to have seven or eight more. No problem.

So, once again, I am a police reporter.

If I hadn't gotten the job, my options were limited. As a professional writer, there is only one other profession I am qualified for. Unfortunately, I don’t own any leopard-print clothing and my flat feet preclude walking the streets. 

I wonder if there’s any market in this town for plus-sized male strippers.