‘Dig’ magazine chucks the dueces.
I just had a team meeting with the office in Columbus, and we’re making a few changes to the structure of the magazine. With the new format, we’re looking to get away from more national trends and really focus on content that shouts “Baton Rouge.” We’re a local publication, and we really want to play that up.
You’ve been an asset to the team thus far, but unfortunately because you’re not living in Baton Rouge anymore, it’s difficult to assign you columns because they wouldn’t necessarily reflect what Baton Rouge has to offer. If you have any ideas for other ways you could contribute to the magazine, I’m definitely open to those.
I apologize that we have to rethink your assignment so close to the deadline — I think both your website and your columns are great, but DIG is changing and unfortunately content has to change with it.
Thanks for your understanding.
…So, I got fired, via email, from a person I’ve never even met, for a reason I cannot control. Thanks. Thanks a fuck ton.
And just to note here, I was never “assigned” columns. I came up with all 100 columns on my own, and to suggest that they should all have a Baton Rouge spin is ridiculous. Love is universal.
Let’s just start from the beginning – how I came to Dig magazine in the first place.
In 2010, I was approached by the editor of a publication then-known as Tiger Weekly. She asked if I was interested in writing for them, and the truth is – Tiger Weekly was the tabloid of Baton Rouge, and not the good kind. But the other half of it was, I needed money.
I can’t speak for all writers here, but for me, there has never been a day when I’m not trying to figure out how I can capitalize on my craft. I know I sound like a total sellout, but I thought that if I still maintained my journalistic integrity, then it didn’t necessarily matter what publication I was writing for, as long as I was following my personal ethics and media law, then the check was mine to cash without shame. So, I did it.
I wrote for Tiger Weekly regularly – I got in trouble for it at my 9-5 job, as they were afraid of a conflict of interest, which I would never do. But at the risk of getting fired, I continued to write at Tiger Weekly under a false name. About five months into things, I got this email:
I know there have been a lot rumors circulating about the future of Tiger Weekly. Here’s the deal:
First off, everyone should know this: Our new magazine wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Tiger Weekly, and we are all grateful for the work you did with us. This e-mail isn’t going to convey that gratitude very well, but we all know where we came from, and I am serious when I say that we appreciate what you have done.
I came down here as a consultant, tasked with improving Tiger Weekly and exploring the market, to determine what all was possible here. I have started two successful magazines for the guy that owns Tiger Weekly, one a monthly 25-35 slick in Columbus, Ohio, and one a Tiger-style campus pub for the Austin scene. Here we wanted to see whether we could pull off something like the Gambit: a full-service alt-weekly, with everything from investigative journalism to entertainment, sports, etc.
My evaluation of Tiger was not positive. I was underwhelmed with the content. The quality of the writing was largely very poor. The ideas were not exciting. It didn’t seem to have any overall directions, or editorial goals. And, as you all know, it was under-resourced.
We decided to make a lot of changes, including a top-down re-branding. Part of the reason you haven’t heard from me is that I didn’t want to tell anyone that I didn’t want their work until I had time to go through as many issues as possible.
That said, I decided to basically start over. There were many reasons for that. If I have contacted you individually, than you know that I am interested in trying to work with you; please disregard.
If I haven’t, then I didn’t see a place for you in the new publication…but, we have only done a pilot issue. We aren’t going to do a “real” first issue until January.
So, if this is the first you’ve heard from me, I invite you to essentially re-submit your cover letter, your resume, some samples of your work (things you are especially proud of) and, most important of all, ideas…those were lacking in the old Tiger. I will scrutinize the kinds of ideas you are bringing to the table more closely than anything else you send me.
To be frank, I think that many of those that I decided not to work with have potential, some of you a tremendous amount…and that potential wasn’t being realized in your work with the pub. I am good at working with writers who are enthusiastic and willing to bust their ass, but I am not good at working with people who are just “phoning it in.” I think, for some of you, Tiger had run its course and you had grown as much with the pub as you felt was possible. This new magazine is going to be different…a lot different. While the stories will be somewhat better paid, I will demand twice as much from you as you are used to giving. It won’t be proportionate with the pay increase. A $50 story will take you many hours to do, and I will expect multiple sources, high-quality interviews (no more e-mail interviews, ever), and a real emphasis on good writing. No more press-release journalism. It will be a better magazine for your portfolio, but it’s going to be a lot harder. I was in the office from 9 a.m. until 4 a.m. three days in a row. I work hard, I am passionate about my job, and I don’t accept anything that isn’t the product of sweat, courage, and violent creativity. I have been a freelance journalist for much of my career, and I know how hard it can be, and how frustrating. I can help you make this a more beneficial job, but it’s going to take a lot out of you, too.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, please e-mail me. There is a chance that I might even get to hire a few people full time. I don’t want to hire anybody full-time that isn’t willing to bust their humps doing it freelance, so please do not apply “just for” the full time position.
Thanks for your time, thanks for Tiger, and I am truly sorry it took so long to hear from me. That wasn’t very professional of me and I apologize.
My initial thoughts? This guy was a total dick – it WAS the first time I’d heard from him, so that meant he was, in no way, “impressed” with my work. I probably should’ve skipped off at that point. But, I have been rejected many-a-time in journalism, and my writing usually speaks for itself – turning the rejections into positives. Not to sound like a shit, but I’ve worked my ass off to be a writer. And I wasn’t going to have some “Consultant” judge my portfolio based on a few random clips from a newsroom filing cabinet.
So, I gathered some clips and starting thinking of some pitches to offer the new publication. And then, this email came thru:
First of all, I am responding late because I was too busy job hunting for the last two weeks since I was basically fired via email from some demeaning stranger. Secondly, I have a few responses to your critique of the former Tiger Weekly layout. We as writers, both contributing and senior, were not allowed to conduct proper investigative journalism.
Two of my own articles that showcased real, sufficient evidence of modern day discrimination of a burlesque dancer set to perform at The Spanish Moon and a gay couple shopping for furniture in a prestigious shop in the Baton Rouge Garden District were both not published because they were deemed too controversial by Tiger Weekly overseers, like yourself. I also had to edit other articles of mine that tackled political issues such as the moratorium and the Murphy Painter scandal for the same censor based reasons. I would have loved to push the button as much as I could with my writing; but, unfortunately, I was not allowed to. Therefore, I (and other writers that received the same criticism) adapted to a new style of writing – one that was fun, simple and non-controversial. Let me tell you, people like it.
Here at LSU, The Reveille and Tiger Weekly serve two different purposes and pertain to two different audiences. The Reveille has the automatic advantage of being a daily publication, encouraging its writers to cover the hard hitting issues of the moment. Tiger Weekly doesn’t stand a change of going up against a daily publication for best, intimate news coverage of a teacher that was fired… today. All TW has is more time to find some new, interesting information that The Reveille missed out on, but The Reveille will win most of the time, if not always, with braking stories. Tiger Weekly is an entertainment magazine. Period. That’s what the readers not only expect, but what they want. We had a great following in 2010, and I am proud of all the work we have done. There, I really don’t appreciate such harsh criticism from an outside source.
As far as your undercover investigation of our publication, I can only see you as a coward. I agree ten-fold that you were very unprofessional in the way you chose to email our staff with such negative insight. The proper way to handle this situation would have been to email us with your initial thoughts and given us some constructive criticism, rather than firing most of us and staffing a new group of people to write a secret, pilot issue without any of our consent. I have found another job, as I’m sure most of the former TW staff has, so I can only wish you the best of luck with the new publication. Just remember, this is an entertainment magazine. If you try to knock heads with The Reveille for the most up-to-date hard hitting issues in the area, you will lose. Most importantly, readers have developed a relationship with TW and will always expect the same spunk its writers have always had. Take care and good luck.
…Like whoa. Despite the obvious shadiness, I continued with my pitches, scheduled a meeting, and I was given a one-story chance. I wrote about a cupcake shop that had just opened up at the mall. It was approved, published, and my career as a stringer at Dig began.
I wrote about roller derby bouts; a local t-shirt shop; I interviewed Pat Green (several times); a boxing gym, a sleek furniture store called Monochrome (and the owner was suuuuperfine); I covered local reality shows and recruiting for fraternities and sororities; when rumor struck that you could actually live off a Croc-shoe, I bought a pair, boiled one, and ate a chunk of the pink foam-ish shit covered in duck sauce; I did an investigative piece on bankruptcy in construction projects; I wrote gift guides and helped write an entire issue on weddings. I even got to interview Miranda Lambert. I wrote about ghost hunters and profiled Andi Dorfmann on “The Bachelorette”.
Over the course of five years, Dig saw nine different editors sitting in the “Chief” position. This meant, I saw a lot of emails like this:
So for those of you whom I haven’t met, let me introduce myself: I’m Dig’s new editor-in-chief. I would like to get some feedback on Sunday meetings…
I have more than 950 emails in my account regarding Dig magazine – including a series when they finally considered me for Editor, but I’d already accepted a new job and moved to Austin, Texas. And why? Because I was fired from my full-time job in Baton Rouge (yes, I maintained a full-time job and wrote on the side for the magazine).
And while I was never given a reason for the firing, I will forever believe that it was because of some of the more controversial things I wrote for the magazine. I am not ashamed or regretful of those things – I will always stand for what I believe in, even if it means tossing away a $43K salary and benefits for $50/week to write what I want. Because that’s exactly what I did.
Of course, no one can live on $50/week, so I had to move when I got a job offer 8 months later. I was thankful that Dig still kept me on, and it was providing me with extra cash. And then, of course, I got that email.
I don’t appreciate being let go from any job via email – no one does. It’s disrespectful and cowardly, especially since I do believe I was a staple writer for the publication. While some of the editors I worked under completely sucked, some of them are writers I respect greatly, and feel really luck to have worked with them – you know who you are.
I had one editor tell me something that I’ll never forget. He told me I had a mix of something that’s rarely seen in journalism – the ability to write well, and keep a deadline. And I’m forever grateful for learning that about myself, because it’s been an asset to survive in my career as a writer.
Although I’m still hurt from the way things ended, I know I had some really great times at Dig. For a little more than two years, I got to write a weekly column based around the content on this blog. I have always dreamed of doing that, and I’m really thankful that I got the chance to do it (a little more than 100 times).
I also got the chance to interview and write about some of my favorite people, including (but not limited to) blues musician Marc Broussard, award-winning poet Denice Frohman, tattoo artist Micro, author and journalist Karen Zacharias, country artist Pat Green, and music legend Tracy Lawrence – in which he told me “Stars Over Texas” was indeed written to make a grown man cry, and also confessed to being a wino (he was drinking during our intervies to my pleasant surprise).
And with that, I’ll just put it out into the universe that I’m currently looking for freelance writing work. I am up for writing about pretty much anything – I’m a wordsmith, and I just like talking to people, spreading stories, and making a little green from it. I’m down to write locally, nationally, globally – and I’m really hopeful that this one door closing is just an opportunity for another one to open.
So, if you’re an editor looking for a hard-working writer, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you’re one of my precious readers and still want to support my writing in some way, feel free to check out my books! Because I do this all for free, and I have to pay my taxes (at some point).
Have a fantaaaastic weekend, everyone! Thank you for continuing to be interested in my life, my writing, and my cat, Blanche. We love you all – See you right back here on Monday!
Posted on June 17, 2016, in Light Pulp, The Squeeze and tagged Austin, Baton Rouge, blog, blogger, Dig Magazine, freelance, Holly A. Phillips, interviews, job hunt, journalism, Marc Broussard, reporter, The Bitter Lemon, tracy lawrence, writer, writer life. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.