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Writing articles you don't believe in... and if they can haunt you later?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by BobSacamano, Feb 3, 2010.

  1. BobSacamano

    BobSacamano Member

    I was approached to write a story some time ago -- two days before the deadline -- for a website that likes to cover everything with no real dedication to anything. Jack of all trades, but master of none, if you will. They have a sports section that doesn't get too much attention from the salaried folks, but they understand the draw of sports coverage and love those hits and clicks.

    Despite that, I like being on their short list. And so they asked me to do one of those fluffy 'top 10 reasons so and so will lose the big game' articles and I obliged them.

    The good thing: They don't care too much for statistical analysis and technical jargon. In fact, they prefer well-written rants supporting unpopular opinions to really get readers up in arms. It's a fairly easy article to write once I channel the sports sociopath within.

    The bad thing: I didn't really believe a word I wrote, and am upset because my name is attached to it. I don't feel it was particularly strong, but I think my uneasiness is intensified by my discomfort with the concept.

    The worse thing: I'm working on something similar, albeit a lot shorter, for another publication right now.

    If it's not glaringly obvious, I'm fairly young and green to the industry. I'm self-conscious about where my name appears on Google searches and bothered that I have a by-line on something so asinine. Any peace of mind someone can offer if they've been in a similar predicament?

    I definitely won't be offering the article in my clips.

    *gets up from the couch*

    I don't like crystal ball journalism. I can dress up some 'keys to victory' and offer accurate analysis of the 'matchups to watch' variety. But I hate 'Top' lists, slideshows, and requests that will make me look like a fool if/when wrong; especially if it wasn't something I pitched myself. That article was the trifector, hitting on all cylinders of my insecurities as a journalist.

    Should I look into a pseudonym for work I'm ashamed of? Or not take it at all?
  2. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    The key, I think, is to take the work AND make it something you can be proud of. Can you have fun with it? Do something clever or interesting?

    You're a young writer, you're probably not in a position to say 'thanks but I don't do lists.' But: If a story just feels wrong for you, and you really don't want to do it, then don't do it. Sounds like you have a good connection there, maybe you can come up with some ideas you want to pursue and pitch them?

    And btw, don't worry about whether you'll include these pieces with your clips; it's on the web, your name is on it, if someone wants to read your work, they'll find it.
  3. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    I hate shit like this, and don't read it or write it.

    The public already believes 'the media' exists only to stir the pot and be controversial or negative.

    21 has some good points. If you're asking questions about whether this is something to pursue, and admit you don't like having your name attached, then maybe you know deep in your heart the answer.
  4. BobSacamano

    BobSacamano Member

    Thanks, guys.

    I've wanted to piece together a good pitch for a regular column, but I don't know if my contact has the clout to make that happen. The M.E. likes my work, but sports are only as important to them as the most relevant controversy in this month's headlines. They rely on opportunity to commence the pot stirring.

    The 'Hired Gun' role is only fun if your face isn't on the Wanted poster the next morning. Being young, I'm afraid a refusal will be like burning a bridge. I guess I have to become more comfortable pitching a counteroffer.
  5. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    If this is a rare event for a site, telling them "I'm not comfortable writing that kind of story" shouldn't burn any bridges.

    If a site thrives on this and you decline, they may not call back. Or they may keep you in mind to provide the non-confrontational counter-point.

    You might suggest that you could write the "pros" side and have someone else write the shit-stirring "cons" side. They get opposing viewpoints and you don't have to stick your toe in the manure pile.
  6. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    Take the money and don't attach it into your file of clips...don't cross ethical boundaries, but just because you don't want to throw yourself behind a story doesn't mean you should decline it.

    I've done occasional advertorial pieces at my work -- fluffy profiles filled with drivel. Was it a great story -- no...Do I include it when applying for jobs -- no...did it get the job done for what the special section was designed for -- yes.
  7. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    If you're writing a column that you don't really believe in, then you're killing the most important thing you have _ your credibility. If it's simply a fluff feature or the dreaded fan story, then take the money and hope a potential employer never sees it.
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