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 Aug 6 - 12, 2009 
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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.

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.

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

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.

 
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