Halftone memories

As a kid I spent five years delivering the paper (these links will give you some local flavour). Wednesdays were thickest with ads, Thursdays thinnest. Saturday mornings coldest. The most replayed mental video clip of my young life was an impossible shot from the street to a postage-stamp sized porch which was surely a mile away. My final tally was 2 broken windows and countless dented aluminum doors. I never left them on the lawn, though that would have been quieter.

It started a lifelong fascination with the press.

The paper was staffed by a talented photographer who made a lasting impression. He was allowed to spill acres of beautiful black ink over countless spreads. He left around the time colour was arriving. It was never the same (and neither was he, from what I saw of his career).

Lately I’ve been writing for the media I used to damage property with. They don’t have a big budget for this sort of thing; in fact I’ll be making about what I made as a paperboy.

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One Response to Halftone memories

  1. sam says:

    My tenure as their British correspondent is probably at an end.

    It was a short run, five months in all, and improbable to begin with: a small town Ohio newspaper getting dispatches from over here. Imagine that. It was fun while it lasted, and created a unique connection to my hometown that I’ll miss.

    It started after Trump got elected. I had the urge to say something to my fellow Americans (essentially, “Don’t panic”). Sensing an easier sale than, say, the New York Times, I decided to try the paper I used to deliver. They bought it.

    Well, not literally. By way of compensation I was given a “goodie bag” of promotional merchandise including a hat, a shirt with ample spare capacity, a thermos, and a bag of locally-made potato chips as ammunition for filling out that shirt. It was charming in its way, but this barter session seemed likely to conclude our business.

    That is, until it was almost casually mentioned that the publisher would love to hear more from across the pond. Happy to oblige, I agreed a price with him, then got to work.

    It didn’t matter that I wasn’t under any known deadline. I had it in my head to produce every other week or so, hoping to take an audience of regulars on a slow-moving tour of Great Britain. There was a long list of jolly subjects I planned to tackle in the fullness of time.

    Current events may not have been my hook, and I generally leave serious topics to my betters, but I did also find myself pricked by an obligation to produce 750 words, more or less, on the snap election, Brexit, Trumpageddon, and the tragedy at Westminster.

    Newsflash: Due to belt tightening there is no longer room in the budget for little ol’ me.

    Calvin Trillin, long-time contributor to The Nation, used to joke that his paycheck was in the “high two figures.” In the same spirit of boasting, I can now reveal that I must have raked in literally multiples of what celebrated and influential syndicated columnists do when their work appears. Bear in mind that newspapers usually pay in the very very low two figures, if that, for such columns, the writer of course making his living by dealing in volume.

    While I could set up a Go Fund Me page to carry on the work — surely it’s only a matter of time before that will be the source of all income — or simply write for free, bearing in mind Samuel Johnson’s words of wisdom (“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money”), to retire into myth is not so disagreeable.

    on edit, some time later:
    It appears I’m a bit of a blockhead after all. Call it pro bono work.

    on further edit:
    Ok, I really am done now. And yes, that’s the actual mayor.

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