A very loyal subscriber sends me some good news, albeit it's going to be more hard work, but that's what separates serious writers
Yesterday as some folks drooled over an idiotically expensive and outdated coronation of someone who really should retire the entire royal family (but that's just me), some folks drooled over the Kentucky Derby (I watched the rerun), others were getting shot and shot at in Allen, Texas, which is just twelve miles from where my biggest Saga supporter and friend Jim Stutsman and his wife happen to live.
When I realized where it happened my gut wrenched. I am beyond amazed that he possessed the wherewithal to send me two emails on a day on which had fate not smiled on him and hate had, I'd possibly lost them both. We all could have.
Jim's safe, some aren't. It is awful to have to say that.
I AM NOT GOING TO ADDRESS THE AMERICAN ARMS RACE AGAINST ITS OWN CITIZENS.
This is not an article about that. I have lost any emotional bandwidth to deal with it and better journalists than I am need to take that on.
This article is about what Jim sent me.
This is about writing, journalism and where we are headed in a world gone absolutely insane. That is precisely underscored by how Jim began his day and the fact that we woke up to news of three shootings. Every day a good friend of mine drives for Uber in a world where if I don't hear from him I fear for his life. I have reason to feel that he is heading into war, and I'm the military veteran.
What's relevant about these horrific events is how and where we hear about them and how tainted those stories are by editorial angles, which has been part of the fall of trusted journalism and the rise of click bait. That is part of what Jim's article described. The fact that it came way too damned close to Jim is the reason I mention it.
So with that further explanation, to the topic of writing and to those who consume it.
Many of you know when I've used your ideas or have shared something you've recommended. This is how I have always honored those who follow me. In particular it's how I recognize people who are willing to scoop into their wallets and pay for a subscription. Inclusion, acknowledgment and recognition are all part of this author's work.
Jim forwarded an article about journalism which is both marvelous and stupendously challenging. First, context.
I'm a trained journalist. The Army (which, sadly, lies all the time) taught me to find the facts and present them as such if I am writing a factual story. Much of my current material involves opinions and personal experiences, which my readers understand. I'm not putting myself out as some expert on All The Things. I have a take, and sometimes I'm dead wrong.
Okay, okay, I'm wrong a LOT.
When I'm wrong, I own it as publicly as possible, which singes my ego but it sure bolsters my sense of integrity. I write because I have to. It's who I am right down to my DNA. For those who don't know me well yet, I am a prize-winning journalist and have two prize-winning books out. Not a hack.
You also benefit from what I can scrape the Web and elsewhere for interesting, engaging, relevant material, some of which comes directly from my supporters and readers. That's great to share that especially, as with these two articles below, when I can create context.
This is all about adding value, inspiring people and moving us towards living excellent lives no matter the circumstances. That certainly is what I'm trying to do.
Here is a Substack story (0f course, more on that in a sec) about what happened to Medium, written by a fellow once-enthusiast of that brand. It's a perfect precursor to what Jim Stutsman sent me this morning:
I announced my departure from my once-beloved Medium a year ago this past March. We here at Walkabout have 60 subscribers. It's enough to quite literally pay the light bill, and a part of a sack of today's groceries. I am over the damned moon that I have what I have. You often share private emails or conversations with me, something that Medium did not afford.
This writing community belongs to my Patreons, which is why subscriptions in news and long form writing are on the rise.
People crave intimacy. I sure do. We want to speak with the writers we pay, and we want to know they hear us. But there's a cost, right?
Many of us can't afford subs to The Atlantic and The New York Times and The Washington Post and all the rest, nor can we handle subscriptions to all the Substack writers we should be following. Hell I sure can't. Jim has kindly subsidized my access to a few writers he likes, and that material also finds its way into my articles in some form.
This is important because Jim and I don't agree on everything. We agree on a great deal, but it's where we have different takes that we grow. Discourse and discussion make us all stronger when we can create space for differences.
I love that. Jim's take, his viewpoints and those people he reads are sometimes critical counterpoints to what I read. Without other viewpoints I end up in an echo chamber. That makes me a poor writer indeed. This is why if you and I purchase subscriptions to writers, one consideration is whether we also keep a finger on the pulse of a variety of ideas which invite us to think, consider, and possibly even shift over time.
If what I read today is true, and it feels true (other things have felt true, too, but weren't), we are entering a new era of long-form writing.
The timing on this is a bit challenging, but we are facing a better future for long form writers. The future appears to be subscriptions, at least for now, and so.
To that, then, Jim's forwarded piece, also from Substack:
This article, especially when combined with Owens' piece on the failure of Medium perfectly captures the inflection point of where we are in both journalism and news. The part I celebrate is the forced move away from both too-powerful advertisers (something that has always irked me) and click-chasing. The single best example of that is Newsweek, which for this very middle-of-the-roader used to be a pretty good newsmag.
It's now clickbait trash.
It pushes the worst of the supermarket tabloid junk, while Time, at least for now, continues to hold its own with fairly decent writing.
Keep in mind that thousands of us went to Medium full of hope and ended up dopes for hoping. Substack's CEO has already embarrassed himself for stances that people feel strongly about.
Whether that's right or wrong, and whether that's a bellwether for future meltdowns is anyone's guess. Today's Best New Thing is tomorrow's dumpster fire.
Jim has been pushing me hard to move over to Substack. He's right, too. I opened an account, a new logo and a theme. I definitely need to do it, but my social media buddy JC Spears told me that I had to have a business plan. Here's that logo again:
JC's right, too. I need a proper launch. That's months away, because with everything going on in my life, I HAVE to get my health in order first and foremost.
Right now I can't exactly leap into mid-air so it's out of integrity to launch a product when it doesn't represent where I am. I can indeed speed recklessly down my hallway on my scooter or through parking lots, but that mid-air leap is a few months away.
Don't write checks you can't cash, in other words.
So this in many ways is for all of us as consumers of media a way to understand what happened to the BuzzFeeds and all the other SUPER MIRACLES OF THE NEWS BUSINESS, which crashed and burned precisely the same way as Theranos and Sam Bankman-Fried did.
We have relied far too much on Silicon Valley to dominate how we run our lives and our businesses. The way I see it, I am SO damned glad to see the end of having to sell our editorial souls for clicks, design headlines for clicks and SEO visibility.
It has ever made me ill to pen anything even remotely fake just to get eyeballs.
This writer is in the Moving People's Lives business, and I don't accomplish that by promising titillation and delivering pap. If that means I stay a little too close to the edge of holy shit will I make my bills this month, I'm taking it.
The other tumble from journalistic integrity is too far to recover from. Journalism in general has already discredited itself beyond redemption in that regard.
My integrity rating better be as high as that credit rating I work hard to protect.
So with thanks to Jim for allowing me to let the breath out that I was holding after hearing about the latest shooting-at-a-neighborhood-close-to-you, and for sharing that great article. And of course for inspiring this piece. If you hear rage in that sentence about shooting, you'd be right. I am beyond rage any more but I refuse to concentrate on things I can't control. If you think I'm being flip and don't care, kindly read someone else. I care too much.
Finally, a massive thanks to the paid subscribers to this platform. When I say your comments often end up in my writing, just ask Penny Nelson or Nurit Amichai or Randy Roig or any one of the many bright and interesting people who are engaged here.
I love quoting you and using your stories because in the end this is NOT all about me. This is about community and what we can do inside a smart community. Communities care. Where there are strong communities we can feel safe. And:
When you have a lively discussion in the comments, I do a wheelie on my scooter.
A final note to Dear Reader:
You matter to me, more than you can possibly imagine. In a world where tragic events happen so easily, I am reminded that age isn't the only thing lurking in the dark.
Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:
Thank you so much for taking a few minutes out of your life to read my work. WalkaboutSaga is an act of love and devotion, and I hope that you found value in it.
If my work appeals to you, may I kindly invite you to consider joining those Patreon supporters whose generosity keeps the gas in my tank as it were.
Such articles take time, resources, research and effort. Even a small amount of support truly helps me keep this going. In challenging times, I recognize that even a small amount is hard. Those who can give, I appreciate it. Those who cannot, I hope my words are helpful.
My purpose is to Move People's Lives. I can do more of that with your help.
You can explore that option here.
However you decide to partake of my writing, again, thank you.
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