Monday, April 04, 2005

Quality writing is a gift that shouldn't be taken for granted

I really appreciate bloggers, more than ever. Why? Because most of them can WRITE. Ugh.

I am currently employed as a computer progammer specializing in Factory Automation software. Slow manufacturing is my genre. But it wasn't always so.

When I was young and deluded, I wanted to be a journalist. Even before college I wanted to be in newspapers. I begged a job as a sports photographer at a local newspaper in my hometown when I was still in high school. When I went to college the first time, I learned something about how to write, and when I quit, I became a "journalist." Specifically a sports journalist. I prided myself on being able to photograph and write about a sports event.

When I got turned down for a staff position on that newspaper because of a lack of a certain piece of paper, I decided I should get my degree. My first year of classes for my communications degree told me that I would learn nothing practical from the school of communications. It was truly pointless.

So I went a different direction, towards something that was far more interesting and more challenging. I got my degree in Philosophy. Believe it or not, there's not a lot of call for Philosophers these days. The school I attended actively encouraged Philosophy students to double major in something slightly more....marketable. I noticed that a lot of logic classes could be used for math in computer science classes.

I had been interested in computer programming as a hobby, but never thought I had the patience to actually earn a degree in computer science. The obvious compromise; I got my double major in Philosopy and Management Information Science. And what did I do with these expensive skills of Philosophizing and Computerizing? I got a job working at a newspaper, of course.

Full time sportswriter, this time. I worked my way up from a small weekly to a small daily newspaper. It's a crazy world. You work basically 16-18 hour days, and get paid almost nothing. You bust your ass to fill a daily piece of fish wrap with decent content, and get to watch the ad salespeople get rich off your labor. It's not exacly hard work, because basically all you do is go around and talk to people or call them on the phone, then write something about it. But it is awfully time consuming. And awfully NOT rewarding. I don't believe I ever actually earned above minimum wage if you counted my actual hours versus what I got paid. Newspaper publishers are very creative in getting around labor laws and overtime pay. I was ALWAYS broke.

Here's an extreme example of a pretty often occuring day at my old newspaper job. I would get up at 4am on a Friday morning and develop film for the morning paper. I would select pictures based on the editors requirements print them, then go out and finish my story for the Friday afternoon edition. Deadline was 10am. Then I would make some phone calls and arrange my stringers for the Friday night football games. There were 12 games to cover, so I would go to one featured game and send 11 "stringers" out to the other games to take pictures and take notes. By 5pm I was on the road to some podunk town to try and locate the high school. Game time was 7pm, and I would take pictures and notes of the game. After assaulting the coaches post game with questions, I would rush back to the newspaper and write my game story. While that was going on my stringers would wander in around 10pm with their film and notes. I would call the coaches from those games at home and write a game story for all 11 games, based on the notes from my stringers. Then I would do the layout for the sports section after developing the film from the stringers and my own game. Eight to ten pages of photos, copy and ads. Done by a deadline of 2am.

For all this, I got paid about $60 a day. Before taxes. If that. It might have been less. Fortunately I escaped this world of low level pointlessness and servitude for the greener pastures of more pointlessness and servitude in the IT world.

Anyway, all this is to show that I used to be a writer (among many other things) for a living, and that I used to write stuff based on the notes/writings of others.

Flash to present day. PokerSourceOnline is having a contest of sorts where readers can submit articles to be published on the site. If your article gets published, you get a free 300 piece poker chip set. (If anyone reading is interested, go to PSO and submit some ideas for articles.) I volunteered to edit the articles, because of my background in writing and editing. I am sort of the unofficial staff writer for PSO. If they need something written for the website, they call me first. I have somewhat of a stake in the quality of the articles, since I have written a lot of the stuff on the site. I don't want to see a lot of CRAP published next to mine, making mine look bad.

I have gotten more than a dozen submissions so far, and most of them have been HORRIBLE. The ideas are okay, and some of them are even trying to get good ideas through, but they cannot penetrate the inability to convey a decent idea through words and phrases. They are submitted via Microsoft Word, so the spelling has been adequate, but the writing is just HORRENDOUS. Every other sentence is a cliche, every lead is buried, and the use of punctuation is ridiculous. WHEN YOU GET TO THE ELEVENTH COMMA IN A SENTENCE, IT MAY BE TIME FOR A PERIOD.

I read your blogs, and I see the ability to form cogent sentences. Thoughts are expressed and ideas are transferred. It's a beautiful thing. I think we all take for granted the amount of good writing that is out there.


Tony said...

Hey! Any comments on mine? It's always been a sort of hobby...

DuggleBogey said...

I'll make you a deal. I'll link you up if you take off the "play money count" from your site.

Tony said...

It was old...It's gone as we speak.

Dr. Pauly said...