Tuesday 20 February 2018

Channelling Otto and Lady Bracknell

That's Otto as in Kevin Kline's character in A Fish Called Wanda, and specifically this scene:
"Disappointed!" is what I frequently feel should be carved on my gravestone, were I to have one instead of requesting that my ashes be dispersed to the elements some breezy day hopefully a year or several yet in the future. And I would have it read out in exactly Otto's tones of anger and disbelief. I'll spare you a description of all the other regularly-occurring situations in which this is my reaction, and restrict myself to this morning's.

It's Tuesday, which means Travel in the NZ Herald, and a day on which I awake in the hope of seeing in print at least one of the currently 10 stories of mine that are in the paper's files. Unlike other publications, which keep writers (me) in the loop, the Herald blithely accepts stories and then consigns them to some distant electronic attic, there to moulder and lose relevance until one day - quite possibly one year (three years+ is the record so far) later - on some unpredictable whim of the editor, it eventually appears in print, to my surprise. And satisfaction, since then I can send in my invoice and get paid. 

Though there are still some hallowed publications that pay on acceptance, the Herald's financial tardiness would still be tolerable, if the payment were reasonable - but, having been writing for the Herald for well over a dozen years now, I've watched the pay rate drop and drop. A 1000-word story would once have earned me a heady $500. Now it's a scant "hundy" as the editor cheerfully terms it.

Blame the internet, of course. That's caused dropping newspaper circulation and smaller budgets, and also fewer staff, which leads me to today's disappointment. For, I promise you, the second time in five months, the satisfaction of seeing a story of mine finally in print has been shattered by its being cut off mid-sentence, the final paragraph missing. "Production error. Entirely my fault," says the editor. "Sorry."

Understood. Too much to do, too few people to do it. But... twice? Which brings me to Lady Bracknell:

 ‘To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.’

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