To the Editor:
I’ve been reading a lot about the rumored deal between New Times and Village Voice Media. I don’t know anything about the deal — it’s above my pay grade. But I’m amused by the way various AAN papers have painted my employer, New Times, as imperialist, neocon, libertarian, and quite possibly the devil, or at least one of his henchmen. Throw in a cape and a thin mustache, and you’d have a very nice 1906 villain.
The latest shot comes from some guy named Skippy in LA, who spends most of his time informing readers of his voluminous street cred, before delivering this scathing indictment: We’re “un-radical.” It appears that since we’re not lighting candles at the altar of Skippy’s politics, we must be bad.
I can’t vouch for the rest of New Times — weirdly enough, they let us to have our own beliefs — but here in Cleveland, we’ve always run a yellow-dog labor paper. No boss ever said we can’t do this. No boss ever told us we gotta get “libertarian” or “neocon.” So we abide by fairly unoriginal politics — they’ve been around for a thousand years — that say if you put bread on people’s tables, things are probably gonna get better. I’m not certain this is the wisest thesis; it’s just what we believe. The smarter you get, the more you understand how little you know. Which means I’m not sure about Skippy’s politics either.
Me, I’m thinking a lot of progressives, radicals and [insert whatever label you’re wearing today] are the same guys I hear on Fox News. They use different words, but they’re delivered with the same lack of self-reflection, the same fear of the contrary, the same certainty of righteousness, which says they have discovered the whole truth — Christ, it’s so obvious — and that anyone who says otherwise is a dupe, a devil, an enemy.
Jeepers, Skippy, you’re not being very sensitive of our cultural diversity.
They may not have this in LA, but here in the lesser provinces, a lot of us understand we weren’t born to be prophets. (If you met us, you’d know why.) We’re not certain the masses wait pensively for our endorsements. If I were to, say, yammer about Iraq, I’m pretty sure no one would want to hear my take on a place I’ve never been and people I’ve never seen. In the Rust Belt, it’s called talking outta your ass. So we settle for yammering about our own cities, on things we know. Ever heard that phrase “Think globally, act locally”? It’s that kind of thing.
Moreover, we don’t believe our readers are a collection of dumb-asses who merely exist to drink our virtue. (If we ever expressed this thought, they’d beat us with crowbars.) We figure they’re looking for good craftsmanship, diligent reporting on both sides of an issue, and prose that doesn’t screech like a cat caught in barbed-wire. They’ll make the final call on what’s right and what isn’t. We’re pretty sure they can handle this.
A lot of AAN papers do the same thing. In many ways, we’re not that different. But here’s where we are:
Look around your shop, reporters and editors. You see a guy running the joint who’s always yapping about the movement, talking about his righteousness, railing at the neocons for constantly screwing The People? Does this guy always have money in his pocket? Is he drinking the nice wine and eating at the places with linen and no lighted beer signs on the wall? Is he sharing any of that with you? Or are you and your guys taking the bus and bringing in extra roommates to cover the heat?
I spent many years working for “progressives.” They were good at proclaiming their virtue. They had to be. It wasn’t self-evident. That’s because they were even better at chiseling every last nickel from their workers. When it came to putting their money behind their beliefs, they suddenly got alligator arms — never long enough to reach their wallets.
Contrast this with the bosses at my shop. They don’t yap about their virtue; they put their money on it. They employ bigger and better-paid newsrooms than almost all other AAN papers. They offer greater and more generous benefits — 401k, dental, vision — than almost all other AAN papers. When a new employee comes in, and they have a live-in boyfriend/girlfriend, both get covered on the health care. The bosses don’t squawk about domestic partner benefits; they spring for ’em. And when I take my daughter to get glasses, I drop just 10 bucks. The bosses pick up the rest.
Do we live like rich men? Naah. Is New Times a cut-throat meritocracy where you gotta play to stay? Yeah. Can the bosses be brutally honest dicks? Most certainly. Are they hard-assed businessmen who make damn sure everyone eats tomorrow? Hell yeah.
My wife and kids appreciate it.
But if you show a little hustle, bring a little skill to your trade, you can rise up to live pretty good, do work that makes you proud. Read our papers. We probably put more hits on big guys than any other papers in AAN. Well-reported hits, the kind that stick — not the kind you do from the safety of the cubicle farm, where you’re merely preaching for back slaps from your pals at the wine and cheese party.
I’m not sure if this is anti-establishment, radical, neocon or libertarian. All I know is that it’s work. Good work. Honorable work.
So when you read these stories about New Times — and there will be more — you might wanna ask yourself: Who’s really the devil? Who’s actually walking it, instead of just talking it?
New Times Empire