You know, I actually used to get paid for doing this.
Back in 1996, the Queens Chronicle paid me $25 a story as a contributor. I mostly contributed puff-piece features and the occasional ad copy, but it was the first time I could look myself in the mirror and call myself a professional journalist. When I graduated from St. John’s in 1998, the Chronicle took me on full-time and offered me a salary of $22,100 a year.
It took only two months for me to find something better. I was also working weekends for the Irish Echo sports section, writing stories about the weekly Gaelic football and hurling matches for the New York GAA. I got paid $250 a week to watch the Sunday matches and do short game recaps of each. In the process I caught the eye of the rival Irish newspaper in New York City, who I will not link to because they do not deserve the publicity. They saw my work and hired me full-time on the news side, where I eventually morphed into a weekly columnist, the sports editor and a general assignment reporter all in one.
It all ended in 2001. I was burned out, disillusioned and had become a lazy and uninterested reporter. When November 1 of that year rolled around, the financial report for the previous month bore bad news. Ad revenues were in the tank – that was a tough time for newspapers, you may remember – and a small weekly paper had to start trimming fat somewhere. A former colleague’s back-room dealings with the founding publisher led to him offering me a reasonably generous severance package, in the hopes of making me go away quietly. I did just that, but I was never shy about expressing my opinion as to who was behind my firing and why the publisher hoped I would stay quiet.
At that point, I thought my career was over. I had no interest in writing anymore. I do believe that writing is an art and I didn’t believe you could create art on a deadline. I used to explain it this way, “No one ever asked Picasso to give them three paintings each week.” Time passes and here I am, back at my alma mater, working at a job I never thought I’d find myself in. When I started this blog a few weeks ago, it was simply as a creative outlet to get down my thoughts about baseball – one of the few things I’m still passionate enough to argue about.
It’s been a great experience so far, and it’s only about to get better. I’ve been asked to become a weekly contributor to Flushing University, the independent Mets site I wrote about on Saturday. I’m very excited about the opportunity – I’ll still be updating my blog regularly and will simply contribute one or two longer pieces a week directly to Flushing University (with a link on Productive Outs re-directing my current readers). I’m going to try to bang out my first piece tonight or tomorrow – right now it looks like I’ll be featured every Wednesday on the site.
It’s been 6 ½ years, but my writing career has started again, this time in a new and very exciting medium. I’ve often talked about what newspapers need to do to retain readership in the 21st Century; embracing the type of analysis you see on blogs today would be a good start. In the meantime, go on over to Flushing University and register – once my first article hits the site I’ll be sure to let you know.
Met Thoughts: The five-game winning streak came to an end last night. Mike Pelfrey came back down to earth, surrendering 10 hits over five innings and getting ritually abused by Chase Utley. Nothing particularly interesting to report, except that Luis Castillo was back in the #2 spot in the lineup and Ryan Church was dropped back to #6. This might not be a huge deal; I can’t really blame the manager for staring down the barrel of a lineup featuring Raul Casanova, Endy Chavez, Luis Castillo and Mike Pelfrey at the bottom and finding it wanting.