An article on Gawker.com
summarizes the earnest efforts of Time Magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel to induce his reluctant, pre-Web staff of writers to write online, and I got a nostalgic chuckle out of it. Way back when I worked for Time Inc.
, our division was one of a handful of entities in Time Inc's vast fleet of publications that was serving up content daily on the Web, and we were regarded as low-end-of-the-totem-pole geeks by Time's "real" writers, who wrote their copy at a leisurely pace, went home at 5:00 PM, and got very drunk each Friday when the liquor cart appeared on schedule.
We Web geeks, confined to an area of the Time-Life Building that had recently been vacated by Security, worked 12 hour days, earned less, got less respect, and were ultimately terminated when our division was shut down after it was denigrated by Don Logan as a "black hole."
Good luck, Mr. Stengel: you're going to need it. Writing content for this medium is more like operating a chattering Telex machine in a noisy newsroom than it is composing and endlessly rewriting golden sentences, lovingly massaged to blandness, in a well-carpeted skyscraper. Web writers write dispatches, not polished articles. We write for an invisible, often ungrateful audience. We're used to being dissed by "real writers" and aren't even granted proper press credentials.
We're a tough bunch that writes fast, and while we may not always get it right the first time, we know there are no truckloads of paper to recall when we make a mistake. For us, writing is organic and iterative, not a process that etches words in stone or lead. Some people hate the fact that we can do this, and the tone of your memo suggests that you've got your share of such Luddites working for you right now.
I hope that many of your old guard will adapt to this medium, which was new 10 years ago when I worked for Time Inc., but is now the mainstream. And I hope that those who can't or won't will be thrown out the window, just as we were tossed 10 years ago.
The only difference will be that they'll have Golden Parachutes, whereas we fell the full 37 flights flapping our arms in vain.
Labels: Old Media, Pathfinder, Silicon Alley History, Time Inc