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Archive for the ‘Being a Writer’ Category

Down with socks…yes, I really wrote about socks

Posted by doatmon on October 1, 2009

Oye Vay this is hard.

No, not the parenting thing.  As was said by Al Bundy on Modern Family last night, 95% of it is just showing up. 

The blogging thing. 

Contrary to what I like to think, I do write this blog for more than myself.  My lovely wife diligently reads every post and I think about her response.  Some REALLY lonely and bored facebook friends read most of the blogs.  Even my parents have realized the Apple IIc wasn’t coming back in vogue and got a computer that can handle the internets.

 

And I don’t write without pondering whether what I’m writing is worth reading.  I like to think people are interested in my point of view, my experiences and perhaps my shaved head.  Okay, probably not the latter.  My wife told me to take my own picture off my facebook profile and put one of her and my daughters up.  But at least I guess people want to read about my experiences and subsequent point of view.

 What they really don’t like to read is my bitching.  I do enough of that at home.  And in my head.  To write an entire blog bitching about my life and people IN my life just seems ridiculous.  As a result, unlike many blogs I wander across, I actually abhor writing when I’m cranky.  It doesn’t turn out well for anyone. 

The flip side of that… a SAHD on depression medication in the midst of a fortnight of gray days isn’t exactly chipper.   But something happened this past week that just forced me to write.  I imagine this is one of the experiences people visit my blog to read about.

Last week…I had to wear socks.

You have no idea how hard that was for me.  Seriously.  Since I started staying home with the kids, one of the unexpected perks was wearing absolutely anything and nobody caring. The girls don’t care.  They of the “wear whatever you want to wear to bed” nights.  If they can sleep in tutus and ski pants, why can’t daddy spend 24 hours sporting the same cargo shorts and brown shirt with a mushroom opining that he’s a “fun guy.” 

Ah….bliss.

With outfits like that, who needs socks?  Or shoes even.  Sandals “for the win” as gaming geeks say.  Right, Ryan?

But last week, I was leaving the house…without the kids.  And it was under 65 degrees.  And I was wearing pants.  I just couldn’t wear sandals.  I think the shirt may have even had a collar for God’s sake. 

So I wore socks.  For the first time in months.  

I imagine this to be what a caterpillar experiences when unfurling his wings for the first time.  Except in reverse.  He is beautifully transformed and free to roam and enjoy his surroundings.  I am suffocated and inextricably restrained by a polyester-blend of Indian Ocean origin. 

Unacceptable.

As a result, I am on fashion strike.  Granted, I have never exactly read GQ to keep up on the latest fashions.  I wore Zubaz on a regular basis for God’s sake.  And defended the practice.  But since marrying Coke, she has at least shepherded me away from jean shorts and a closet full of Nirvana-induced flannel shirts. 

No longer.  I am currently wearing white, athletic socks with camo pants and tennis shoes.  And guess what?  I love it.  The people at Caribou keep asking if they can call the shelter to come pick me up, but I care not.  My role is as a father now.  Not a businessman.  Not a pillar of the community.  No stakeholder here.  More like a placeholder. 

And damnit, that job should come with perks too.  So I’m going to my HR department of one and demanding casual Mondays. And Tuesdays.  And so on.  I’m going to leave those dress shirts at the dry cleaners for another three months.  Just cause I can.  I’ll get them right before they’re donated to Goodwill.  But not a minute before.  Who even needs buttons?  Not sweat shirts.  Not drawstrings. 

Not me.

I may start wearing a bra, just so I can burn it in protest.  That and to give me a little extra support.  My moobs are a bit droopy these days. 

Three weeks without a blog and this is the best I can do.  Socks, moobs and Zubaz.

Maybe I need to rethink my self-imposed moratorium on writing pissed off.  Clearly writing “empowered” isn’t becoming.  Or interesting.

Posted in Being a Writer | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

In homage to the great Chris Farley…

Posted by doatmon on September 10, 2009

“Let me tell you why I suck as a blogger…let’s say I go into someone’s web browser and he’s even remotely interested in reading my blog … ”

Oh lord.  Where to start?

Have I mentioned I suck at this blogging thing?

Let me give you a glimpse into what it’s like to be me.  I am a man of tradition.  Whether that’s in regards to a horse race I haven’t missed since I started going in 1992 or my string of sleeping in odd places following or preceding weddings…I am a man of tradition.  This holds for my psychological state as well.  One of my “traditions” is that I will start something.  I will jump in with both feet.  I will be moderately successful.  I will get frightened like the chubby kid before gym.  I will either give-up that endeavor or simply make every excuse I can think of to put off participation until I simply can’t ignore it any more.

Yup, that’s me.  And lord are there some PsyD’s and some drug manufacturers that are thrilled I have made it to 32.

Thankfully, the one thing in my life that seems immune to this self-destructive pattern is being a father.  And perhaps that’s why this arrangement feels so right.  And why I’m happier than I’ve been in a LONG time, despite giving up everything I had developed over 10 years in the working world.

While being a father seems to be immune, blogging is not.  Many still reading this have most likely read another blog of mine.  Or two.   Or, well, you get the picture.  I almost allowed it to happen to this one.  I had gone about a week without a post and longer without a post that didn’t involve Snuggie Sex.

But damnit, I want this.  I need this.  And I hope you’ll forgive me.  I ask of you, my readers, the same thing I ask of my children.  Give me 18 years and I swear I’ll get this right.  And if not, you can head off to college.  Well, not you, the kids…oh, nevermind.

I promise a fast and furious update on a few things that have happened over the past week.

But for now, yes Hank Williams, Jr. … I am MORE than ready for some football.  Go Steelers.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Writer | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Yes, I’ve been hiding…

Posted by doatmon on September 1, 2009

I apologize for my mini-absence, but I have been coordinating TV appearances and autograph signings following my big appearance in The Other Paper last week.  Sadly, I’ve also been dodging some toilet paper and eggs.

One quick note about the story.  I think Lyndsey did a good job with it and I was happy she included some comments by Joe Schatz over at dad-blogs.  That said, I think I came across a little harsh in the early portion of the story.  I have not tried to access any ad revenue as of yet, nor is that my intention.  Which is good.  Considering most of my readers share my last name.

And contrary to some water cooler discussions, I am not jealous of any success “mommy bloggers” might be having.  I am in fact, in awe of much of what has been accomplished in the parenting blog space.   I was simply expressing my desire for the offerings to be a little more “equal.”  And since, I have been informed of MANY fantastic daddy blogs that I have started to read.

The flipside of my exposure to some of these daddy blogs is the reason for my post today.  Other daddy bloggers have also come to my site, messaged me on FB, left comments on the blog and generally made me feel quite welcome in their growing community.  And as a result, I have stopped writing, crawled into my shell and started simply reading blogs of fishing reports for places I’ve never been and fish I’ll never catch.

Wait, what?

In the words of the immortal Cuba Gooding, Jr.: “Those are the ABC’s of me, baby.”

Few in my real life would understand this, well, fear.  I am not exactly a wallflower or concerned about how I am received.  I am the guy who eats multiple sugar packets for money.  The guy who once earned a nickname in high school for sitting down with a group of very attractive girls from a rival high school and eating a bowl of whipped cream without utensils.  The guy who runs through his fraternity house wearing nothing but a silk Three Musketeers Halloween costume and screaming, “It is I…Don Fernando.”

Allegedly.

But that is real life.  I am finding my online persona to be the exact opposite.  Maybe it’s the sheer size of these interconnected tubes or the anonymity of never knowing who is reading your blog.  Or perhaps the feeling of utter inadequacy when faced with the multitude of writers infinitely more talented than myself who have displayed a discipline to write that has always eluded me.

Whatever the reason, I have stopped writing and even stopped reading blogs out of a fear of this community that I am on record as seeking out.

If your head hurts, imagine being my wife.  I am a mess.  And not even a hot mess.  Just a mess.

I will get over this eventually.  I will return the blog love I have been receiving and will become an active part of this community which has been so friendly and so accepting of me in a VERY short time.  But as of right now, I am frightened, anti-social and immersed in stories of peacock bass.

Love me or hate me.  It Is I…Don Fernando.

Posted in Being a Writer | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

I’m not a very good blogger …

Posted by doatmon on August 25, 2009

So apparently I am a horrible blogger.

I like to think of myself as a decent writer and at least somewhat humorous.

But I am apparently a horrible blogger.

And you know what?  Now that I think about it…I am.

I opened myself up to critique by commenting on the “mommy blog” phenomenon in yesterday’s post and as a result started getting critiqued in return.

My posts are too long.  I don’t include any pictures.  My layout is unreadable.  I don’t “blog-work” … my new term for networking my blog.  I don’t write anything that anyone other than my friends and family would care about.

I think those are ALL valid criticisms.

That said, I’m not about to change some of them.

1)      My Posts Are Too Long – I am long-winded.  I just am.  It’s partly an off-shoot of my former career and partly just my nature.  But the beauty of this blog is that it’s free and I’m doing it for myself and for anyone interested in life as a Stay-At-Home-Dad and as a “daddy blogger.”  I will try to keep them shorter (Kayak story aside), but don’t expect any monologue jokes or Reader’s Digest entries.

2)      I Don’t Include Any Pictures – I have done this somewhat intentionally, but I can see I’ve taken it too far.  This blog isn’t about my daughter’s dance recitals or family vacations in and of themselves.  If you want those pictures, add me on Facebook.  This blog is about my feelings toward the dance recitals and the vacations.  I express that in words.  That said, my page is drab and one long body of text.  Variety is the spice of life.  That’s why I developed the gold course theory of relationships in the seventh grade.  I didn’t get my first girlfriend until high school.  Not a coincidence.  I need to recall the basis of that brilliant theory so to whet your appetite, here is a picture of Chicken Nugget (NSFW).

Chicken Nugget During Last Year's SB

3)      My Layout is Unreadable – Perhaps.  I am Red-Green colorblind and as a result don’t see colors like most people.  As a result, I tend to go with what I think the colors represent rather than how they look.  Maybe the red was a poor choice.  But hey, it looks black to me.  Also, I know my page is busy, but I have always been a “substance over form” kind of guy.  But I am working to alter the lay-out.  I hope you’ll be patient with me.

4)      I don’t “Blog-work” – I’m trying!!!  I really am.  I recently discovered the dad-blog community and it is one in which I feel comfortable and which I respect.  I hope to develop a more consistent relationship with members of that community.  After all, community development is the real reason I have considered expanding this blog beyond friends and family and the reason I get so sensitive when all of these “Mommy blogger” stories come out.  I want to find a community of dads…a community of SAHDs…one in which I can both give and receive information, encouragement and insults.  One in which the parenting thoughts of dads is on par with moms and recognition is given to dads participating in the blogosphere.

5)      I Don’t Write Anything That Anyone Cares About – I shortened that one.  See, I’m taking the criticism to heart.  You know what? I may not.  But at this time, this blog is for me.  It’s for the select few, the silent minority that is like me or cares what someone likes me thinks.  Those people will read.  If anyone else reads, I am honored and humbled.  But at this point in my blogging life, they are not my target audience.

I appreciate all of the feed-back and I genuinely mean it when I say I welcome it.  I have reached out to some bloggers asking for their advice on how to be a better blogger.  I am trying.  I am.

And that goes for my blogging, my parenting, my marriage and certainly my kayaking.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Writer | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Blogging, married, father of two looking for men for meaningful blogging relationship (Politicians please do not apply)

Posted by doatmon on August 24, 2009

I know, I know…the kayak story.  It is forthcoming, I promise.  And yet, after all this build-up I can’t help but feel that the story is going to “sink” under the pressure.

[Kids, we call that foreshadowing…lame foreshadowing and poor pun usage, but foreshadowing nonetheless]

Part of the beauty and part of the pain of a blogger is having all these things to write about and yet constantly being bombarded by NEW things so the others get pushed to the “parking lot” as my former corporate colleagues were so fond of saying.

In this instance, I am postponing the kayak story yet again to address the recent bombardment of inescapable evidence that “daddy bloggers” are either as rare as unicorns or facing a glass ceiling of epic proportions.  Just ask the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Monthly and every search engine from Google to Dogpile.

My decision to toss away a developing (and well-established) career to stay home with Chicken Nugget and French Fry was sure to raise more than a few eyebrows, but I felt confident that through networking, blogging and various sites ending in XXX I would be able to meet and correspond with other fathers who either made the same decision or find themselves in a similar situation through events not of their choosing.

As of yet, I haven’t met a single one.  And trust me, it’s not for a lack of looking.  Especially on certain sites.  All I can seem to find are women on those bastions of literary and artistic excellence.  I just don’t get it.

Porn jokes aside, all I HAVE found are women.  As an unabashed flirt with mediocre looks and a body built by Skyline, neither the female dominance nor using the faceless internet as a medium are bad things necessarily.  And yet, in the spirit of the ever-eloquent “bro’s before hoes” sometimes a little testosterone is a good thing.

I recently read an article in Columbus Monthly on local parent bloggers written by enjoyable and prominent Ohio blogger Susie J. Not a single mention of daddy bloggers.  I contacted her through her blog and she said she intended to include men in her article, but editors gave “us” the old cutting-room floor treatment.   Today (August 24), the venerable Columbus Dispatch, which has admittedly written checks to several members of my family for various journalistic endeavors, published an article by Amy Saunders on…what else…mommy bloggers.

In both articles, the behemoth known as BlogHer is referenced along with iVillage, Ms Single Mama, dooce.com and other mainstays of female blog-dom.  Sadly, to the best of my ability, in the 7.5 minutes I’ve spent on it, I cannot find a single “male” example of similar networks, sites or people.  The few daddy blogs that are out there are infrequently updated and scattered more than men in a JoAnn Fabric.

The question is “why?” Are there not enough men who consider being a daddy to be blog-worthy?  Are they so focused on the letter “x” or various forms of fantasy football that it’s all they can blog about/add to the blog-readers?  Are men willing and interested in reading blogs written by women, but women can’t see themselves getting anything other than disgusted and angry over a blog written by a daddy?  And what about these companies giving mommy bloggers cars, cameras and ad revenue?  As a former marketing/public relations professional, I am well-aware of the old-adage that women control the purchasing.  But isn’t that changing?  Why is it that we’re so hell-bent on proving some long-held beliefs of gender stereotypes, but others remain so entrenched that nobody even notices their existence anymore?

And more importantly, how many non-sentence questions can you string together before people quit reading?  Am I there yet?  How ‘bout now?

I recently read a piece on Jessica Knows (written by a woman of course) questioning whether 2010 will be the year of the daddy blogger.  I agree with many of her assertions and they mimic those I have relayed to others as I embarked on my OWN journey.  Specifically, I think the allure of a “daddy blog” is that it’s likely both men AND women would read it.  But I follow that up with, would it be so bad if ONLY women read it?  Apparently that’s still the target audience.  And if there were good daddy blogs, I am confident they would read.

In the mean time, I will continue to write in obscurity, waving the flag for men who aren’t ashamed to be fathers and husbands and searching the internet for men in places other than dickssportinggoods.com.  As a public service to both my readers, I will let you know that I started at the simple, five-letter version of that URL and let’s just say I had no trouble finding men there.

While they didn’t seem to have much interest in my blog, even THEY read Ms Single Mama.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Writer | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Guilt…not just for Catholics and Mothers anymore

Posted by doatmon on August 19, 2009

I always thought that the Catholic Church and mothers had a monopoly on guilt.  Rumor has it you can add Jewish women to that last, but seeing as my only real exposure to Jewish culture is that my last name means “Chicken Fat” in Yiddish, I am not going to pass judgment.

My own mother, god bless her, is the queen of guilt: both in terms of lavishing guilt trips and absorbing her own, often ludicrous, guilt.  I have seen bits of this mother-guilt metamorphosis in Coke, but she has managed to keep in under control for the most part.  For now.

What I wasn’t prepared for was inheriting my own complex.  And it has been exacerbated ten-fold since staying home with the kids.  Being a pseudo-geek, I really enjoy a web show called “The Guild.”  It’s freaking hilarious.  And one of my favorite characters is this game-addicted mother who has an entire brood of snotting, pooping, crying children whom she uses doggie gates to pen in the kitchen so she can get her fix of dragons, priests and warlocks.  There are episodes where she is breastfeeding while playing, forgets to feed the kids and others which you can only imagine.

I bring this up because it is hitting a little too close to home these days.

No, I really don’t play Warcraft during the day while I’m watching the two fast foodlings.  But I do check Facebook.  And play Mafia Wars.  And write blogs.  And write magazine pieces I never send anywhere.  And read blogs.  And check Facebook.  You get the picture.  Most of the time this occurs in three-minute increments during which the most trouble they can get into is removing their clothes and dancing on the bed while singing Black Eyed Peas.  But I do that with them at other times so that’s not too bad.

I’ll wait while you stop throwing up.  Okay.  There.

But there are other times where I get lost in a particular well-written blog or I spend just a BIT too long trying to decipher a blurry picture that may or may not be from the Erin Andrews hotel video.  I mean, they’re happy.  They’re watching some stupid cartoon animal doing something ludicrous.  Or they’re playing with one of their infinite plastic abominations.  And they’re happy.  But should I be with them every minute? Should I be playing with them non-stop?  Should I be hovering over them even when they’re sleeping just to ensure they don’t choke on a previously unseen dust-bunny?

What about when bed/pole dancing turns into taking out previously utilized toddler toilets and taking turns using it before dragging it all over the house leaving a trail of tears urine? Or when you give them breakfast and are proud when they deliver mostly empty bowls of blueberries and cheerios.  Only to find out that the 90-pound barn mutt now has explosive diarrhea from an anti-oxidant overload?

Not that any of this has happened to me.  I’m just sayin’.

Crap like that can further enhance already-existing guilt.

I can’t possibly watch them every minute can I?  I mean, independent play is good for development right?  I am convinced that’s why my two are so smart.  Right?

Aw, damnit, hold that thought.  They found where I hit the plastic potty.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Writer | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

I’m back…and with minimal Brett Favre references

Posted by doatmon on August 18, 2009

I’m back.

But, no, I will not use the obligatory Brett Favre reference.  I’m above that.

I’m just back.

And suffering from monumental writer’s block.

No, that’s not true.  Not writer’s block as much as writer’s motivation block.  I’m sure someone with a PsyD could explain this to me, but I have a real difficult time getting back into something after taking a little break from it.

I never have a hard time starting something.  And even keeping it going isn’t an issue.  Once I’m in a routine, I can drone on mindlessly with the best of them.  But throw a little break in there, whether it’s vacation or an illness or the release of a new content patch in a video game…and I immediately lose all motivation to go back to my routine.  This is what happens with me when I start a workout regimen, a new “diet” and what inevitably happens when I start a new writing project.

And that brings us to this moment.  I cannot remain focused, put together a coherent sentence without getting distracted or even “SQUIRREL!” make clichéd jokes pertaining to recent animated features.  Okay, maybe I can still do the last one.  So maybe that gives me hope for the previous two.

Let’s give it the old college try.

We returned from North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Sunday after almost 10 days away.  I have been going down there since my hairline was intact and Reagan was in office and it oddly never loses its power over me.  I’m not going to try to do it justice at this time, but trust me.  It is a mesmerizing, inspiring and captivating locale.

A few thoughts from the trip:

  • Coke and I renewed our vows on a dock at sunset with (almost) every immediate family member and it just may have meant more to me than our first wedding with hundreds of guests.  And I KNOW the vows did.  How could they not?
  • Minivans are God’s gift to parents.  Really.  I can no longer pretend to have testosterone-induced issues with this boxy yet utilitarian masterpiece of vehicular engineering.  Remove the backseat, load with 33 tons of beach toys, processed food and sunscreen, insert multiple Madeline DVDs and go.  Instant success.  Now, if I could just figure out how to make the soundproof driver’s bubble thing a reality …
  • I had my first conversation with non-family and friends about my decision to stay home with the kids for the time-being.  My brother’s wife and parents came down with us.   It was wonderful getting to know them and to see them enjoying my kids and undoubtedly projecting images of their own grandchildren.  But across the dinner table, I found myself stammering to explain my decision and qualifying it over and over again.  Perhaps it was their initial reaction.  They skipped right over the parenting and the writing and focused immediately on the real estate.  And for me, that’s third on the agenda right now.  I’m chalking it up to generational.  But I’m a little disappointed in myself.  What’s new?  I take self-flagellation to Opus-Dei levels.
  • Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest is the Nectar of the Gods.
  • It is absolutely incredible how much children grow up over a vacation.  I think both Chicken Nugget and French Fry aged five years while we were gone.  I can only imagine it’s the additional time with parents and grandparents and it helped reinforce my confidence in our decision to have one of us home with them full-time now.
  • I am too fat for MANY types of kayaks.  I am not ready to tell this story yet.  But I assure you, it’s a good one.  It involves me, a lost fishing rod, two-mile walk through a large body of water and a chest-to-crab encounter I wish not to relive.
  • I still can’t tan.  Especially the parts of my head that haven’t seen the sun since birth.
  • I took the week off from writing in the theory that it is sort of my job at the moment and that is what I used to do when previously employed.  And yet, unlike with previous employment, it was hard to NOT write.  And now I CAN’T write (well).  Oh, Alanis Morrisette, explain the irony!
  • Hearing your brother’s Mother-In-Law tell your father that he better do SOMETHING with his peanut is priceless.
  • Seeing a fawn 10 feet away and watching a mother otter swim in a salt pond with her baby otter right next to her makes it difficult to explain to your wife why we SHOULDN’T have another item off the extra value menu.

In an homage to Madeline and her inane DVDs, for the moment, “That’s all there is, and there isn’t any more.”

Perhaps we should send a copy of one of those DVDs to Mr. Favre.

You didn’t REALLY think I was above that, did you?

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Husband, Being a Writer | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

About me …

Posted by doatmon on July 21, 2009

This is posted in page format, but I figured it might make some sense to make it a blog post for lazy non-resourceful readers.

I guess if you care enough to read my blog, you might have some interest in the person who writes it.  But I warn you…I’m a cliche wrapped in a, well, cliche.  But one that’s even more cliched.

I am an early-30s, liberal arts college-educated father of two who defied his indoctrination and to this day still considers himself a Republican.  But I have to say, the Libertarian component of my ideology is creeping up the more social freedoms are removed (i.e. poker).

My wife is beautiful…everyone will agree I “out-kicked my coverage” in marrying her almost 10 years ago.  She is an incredibly successful political animal that has managed to avoid the siren’s song of elected office to sit on the other side of the desk and lobby for important issues.  Well, now it’s important issues.  Before, it was various items of women’s clothing and expensive beauty products.

With all due respect to Dennis Green, I am who this blog thinks I am.  I am truly a Jack of All Trades and Master of None. I have done everything from handicapping horse races on television to writing direct mail fundraising letters for middle-of-the-political-road groups like the NRA, I’ve been paid to help Wal-Mart build more stores in parts of my state and I’ve been paid to lobby/influence legislation in over 15 states in the good old US of A.

My primary “recreational” activity is playing poker.  I am an advocate for the game and play every chance I get.  I also enjoy fishing, playing nerdy video games, watching hockey, reading, cooking, promoting agriculture and horse racing.  I have always written, but never considered myself a writer.  And yet, I find myself gravitating more to the written word, whether through journalistic or creative mediums.  All of the aforementioned play integral parts in my life and are WAY beyond hobbies.  Such is the blessing/curse of my painfully addictive personality.

And yet, 315 words later, we arrive at my passion and my true raison d’etre.  My children.  In both my darkest moments and my highest highs, it is my two daughters who provide my focus.  And it is about them and for them that this blog truly exists.  I made a choice to stay home with them.  I made a choice to give-up my career.  I didn’t get laid off or fired or put on temporary leave.  I set aside my (rather healthy) ego and ignored cultural mores to provide stability, structure and constant adoration to my two princesses.

But sometimes I wonder who is the provider and who is the recipient.

Posted in Being a Daddy, Being a Gambler, Being a Husband, Being a Student, Being a Writer | Leave a Comment »

The Old Gray Mares…they ain’t what they used to be

Posted by doatmon on March 3, 2009

I think I speak for everyone in America when I say that there are two institutions, two images that define this country.  The New York Times and the creepy old dude in the Simpsons who shuffles along singing “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be…”

Okay, maybe not so much the second one…but I know I can’t get it out of my head.  And it went nicely with the “Old Gray Lady” nickname of the Times so work with me people.

Thomas Jefferson’s concept of the fourth estate…the Hearst family…Horace Greeley…Joseph Pulitzer…Yellow Journalism…Muckrakers…Woodward and Bernstein…

It is almost impossible to extricate the history of this country from the history of its journalists and its journalistic institutions.  I am admittedly “old school” when it comes to many things, but I don’t think I stand alone in my reverence for the integrity and the nostalgia of the newspaper.

That said, I am not blind to the faults of the broadsheet gray newsprint.  Agenda-setting, politically motivated coverage, the blurring of the lines between the business and the editorial sides of the newspaper, “ambulance-chasing” reporting and an arrogance and erroneous sense of immortality have tarnished the image of the nation’s dailies.

But there is an important distinction between the administrators of the papers and the journalists who fill the pages with events and news critical to our daily lives.  The journalists are not the ones who have had their heads in the sand as to the evolution of news.  The journalists are not the ones who have stubbornly refused to share assets and arrogantly ignored the explosion of internet media and the influence available to columnists on PED’s (bloggers).

The journalists are the ones who ignore the financial realities of life in the 21st century and work for salaries commensurate with streetsweepers.  The journalists are the ones who are forced off of their “beats” to mundane desk jobs for the “good of the paper” … or the good of the bosom buddies of the powers that be.  The journalists are the ones forced to bend and manipulate their own sense of ethics to provide the stories requested demanded by their editors.

And as a result, when the house of cards comes tumbling down and the lack of revenue becomes insurmountable, it is the journalists who pay the ultimate price with their jobs.  This happened in my hometown this week with our local paper laying off 25% of its editorial staff.  And by editorial staff, I don’t mean managing editors.  Or even section editors.  I mean reporters.  The people who actually provide the information we need.  In many cases, it was the people who provide the only information I still read the local paper for.  The local news.

The high school sports staff.  The local business and business development staff.  The local arts staff.  Sure.  Let’s send them packing.  And explain the lay-offs as a move toward more local coverage.  Wait, what?  Let me think this through.  Nope.  Still doesn’t make sense.

I am not going to wax philosophical on the direction newspapers SHOULD be going.  I’ll save that for another rant.  But I can easily tell you what they SHOULDN’T be doing and that’s exactly what they did this week.  It is a disgrace.   It is a disservice to a newspaper’s readership.  And it is a bastardization of the history and tradition that SHOULD have been the wards and the responsibility of the newspaper leadership.

Contrary to the words of wisdom of one of the people who DIDN’T lost their job this week, this is not a “phase.”  Newspapers are not dying.  They’re dead.  And while I mourn the loss of an industry and an institution, it is those the industry let down for whom I truly grieve.

They deserved so much better.  And so do we.

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