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Goodbye, Worcester Magazine
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Today I am resigning from Worcester Magazine. I am resigning because for the past two weeks editors at the Telegram & Gazette, which basically puts out Worcester Magazine now, have not allowed my column to run. In these columns I criticized the way the City Council has handled the thousands of calls from the community to defund the Police Department. I also criticized the Police Department for its handling of the body camera pilot program, or lack thereof. I criticized a racist business owner in Worcester who threatened to shoot Black Lives Matter demonstrators. I raised an eyebrow at Clark University’s decision to hire a lawyer with deep connections to City Hall for its supposedly independent review of the Police Department’s force march of demonstrators down Main Street a few weeks ago.
I’m sad and exhausted. I truly loved working at Worcester Magazine. It was a job I thought I could continue doing for a long time. But the publication has been put through hell during my three years there. Picked apart and stomped on by a vulture capital firm that has demonstrated a cold ambivalence toward the mission of community journalism.
Local journalism institutions across the country are being systematically destroyed by hedge funds which see a profit to be made in managing and accelerating decline. Every year, there are fewer and fewer reporters covering Worcester. The people left are scrambling to fill pages or meet social media quotas. They’re doing the work of two or three people, at least, and they have no time to substantively dig into issues. What we’re left with is, at best, middling surface coverage of issues that deserve serious interrogation. We’re headed into one of the worst economic situations the US will likely face, saddled with the debt of a construction project to facilitate a company in an already declining industry. That deserves serious interrogation. We have a school system that does not teach its children sex education. That deserves serious interrogation. We have school leadership that stubbornly dismissed credible accusations of outright racism and the story just went away. That deserves serious interrogation. We have a wide community push to rethink the way we fund our police department, and the City Council callously waved it off before approving the budget as-is. That deserves serious interrogation.
In my time at Worcester Magazine, I was both a columnist and a reporter. I wrote opinion pieces and I wrote news stories. Sometimes I would share an opinion on an issue that I also reported on in the traditional sense. The leadership of the Telegram does not believe a person can do both things, and that’s an opinion shared by plenty of old-school journalist types. It gets drilled into your head during journalism school and people can be downright militant about it.
There are also plenty of people who believe, rightly, that there is no such thing as objectivity – that bias bleeds through every decision an author makes, and that it is better, therefore, to be up front about where you stand. I am biased against racists and authoritarians and grifters and the feckless middle-of-the-roaders who facilitate them. At Worcester Magazine, I have always been up front about where I stand, and Worcester Magazine let me do that. Until two weeks ago.
There was a time when Worcester Magazine was independent, risky, and snarky in a true Worcester tradition. There was a time when it was a serious outlet for alternative weirdo journalism that bends whatever rules you might think there are. My job, the columnist/reporter, came out of that time. The paper wasn’t really like that when I came on board. It had shifted to more of a traditional community weekly. The Council Discussed Serious Matters And The Event Was Well Attended. But the infrastructure was still there, and Josh Lyford, I and others tried our hardest to restore some of that spirit. It’s really good for a city to have reporters who are willing to be more antagonistic to the powers that be and more willing to cover the sort of stuff going on in the community that doesn’t, for whatever reason, make it into the paper of record. At WoMag, we gave the city hell for the surprise demolition of the Worcide community skatepark. We threw up off a roof in Brooklyn with a thrash metal band and wrote about it. We told a nasty, hateful, racist local blogger to kindly eat shit sir and oh yeah by the way good luck hiding your identity now, bitch.
My time at Worcester Magazine before it was thrown to the Wall Street wolves was a high point in my life and I will always cherish it. Since Gatehouse Media bought it, I’ve been coasting and picking up straws on the proverbial camel back. Picked up the last one this week.
I still love Worcester and care about it and I want to continue to write about it, so I’m going to do that. I’m going to do it here, on this website. A couple times a week. I’m going to continue the gonzo experiment of blending opinion and reporting. I’m going to tell you just how I feel, but I’m also going to turn you on to stuff you should be paying attention to. I’m going to stick up for the people who need to be stuck up for and stick it to the people who could use a good stick every now and again. I’m also going to write nice things about kind and/or cool people doing kind and cool things in Worcester. I’m going to continue to use the breezy conversational tone I employed in Worcesteria, my old column at WoMag, and though you’ll get good reporting you won’t get it in Reporter Speak. You will never once read me use a word like “woes” or whatever other stupid language reporters have to use to Sound Objective. You’ll never once hear me talk about systemic racism as if it is a matter of opinion and not objective fact.
I’m taking a huge risk with this because I have bills to pay, obviously. And I’m also ruining my chance of a career in traditional journalism but I never really stood a chance anyway if we’re being real. I have another job that wants to give me more hours and I’m not broke right now and I’ve been broke before I can handle it. If ever there’s a time to take a leap, now is that time.
You don’t have to pay me to read this column but if you do, you’ll get it in your inbox and you’ll help me not starve. I set the price at $5 a month because that’s the lowest you can go. I wanted to set it at $4.20 because it’s funny. I set a yearly subscription at $69 because it’s funny and yes I’m ripping off Luke O’Neil with that one but he’s a good person to rip off. You should read him if you don’t. If you would like to support my writing, click the subscribe box below. No worries if not ahah!
City Manager Ed Augustus once called me an “outdoor cat” which is a stunningly accurate take-down. But hey, now I’m outdoors. Let’s go.
P.S. Black Lives Matter