Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Observations On The Richmond Times-Dispatch and Brick Weekly

A month and half ago Brick Weekly approached me about writing some sort of weekly or bi-weekly piece for their publication. Brick Weekly is a part of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and it is supposed to be their version of a free alternative weekly paper (Basically it's the competitor for Style Weekly).

I met with some people from Brick and we seemed to have worked out some sort of deal for me to write a bartender confessional piece once a week. Sort of a behind the scenes, pull no punches look at bartending. I liked the people I met and it seemed like a cool way to get my writing to a larger audience. I figured that any weekly paper that would let the hilarious and often abrasive Jacob Lee write entertainment reviews, would surely accept an honest and open blogging bartender.

I mentioned my new gig to a few friends who are in the news industry or who seemed to know a lot about the industry. They all said the same thing; Brick is a sinking ship and the RTD is on very shaky ground right now. (There is even a blog devoted solely to why the RTD is dying). One friend who used to work for the Times-Dispatch called Brick an advertorial, which as I understand it, basically means that Brick is 24 pages of revenue generating ads with a few stories or news pieces thrown in to make it look legit. I laughed and sarcastically told them that my weekly column would surely help start a renaissance within the small alternative weekly, plus I didn't give a fuck what people thought. Anyone who will pay me to write is cool in my book.

Weeks passed and I never really heard back from Brick. I just assumed that my recent controversies and my somewhat incendiary worldview had scared them away. Would it be worth bringing on a writer who may possibly increase readership, yet at the same time may possibly scare away advertisers? I guess they didn't think so. I was told that they were looking for a bar to sponsor the weekly piece and that was the last I heard.

One thing that worried me about Brick Weekly is that it seemed like some of the editorial team doubled as ad sales people. The same people who approached me about writing, also went out to bars and businesses to sell ad space. Maybe this is a common practice and I'm in the wrong here, but doesn't that seem strange?

The reason I write this is not to bash Brick. I still read it weekly and I have nothing but respect for the people I met. The reason for this is the article in the new Style Weekly today (which isn't online yet), that talks about how the Richmond Times Dispatch was going to run an ad from the NRA that bashed Obama. The Style article discussed some of the fallout in the RTD newsroom over this decision and what it means when the media (and VA's largest newspaper) fails to give unbiased accounts or untainted news to their readers.

Unfortunately, life is nothing but the bottom line and I understand that in these cash-strapped times you gotta do what you gotta do. But if I can't trust my local news and get my locally-flavored reading fix from the RTD everyday, where else can I turn? I'm not going to stop reading the Dispatch but I'll just need to focus on taking a blind eye to pro-McCain propaganda and ads that are disguised as real news pieces.

Maybe Brick Weekly (or Brick Reloaded as it is now called) is a dead horse and maybe that's why they decided to overhaul their staff and their concept about a year ago? I really don't know and I really don't give a shit either way, but I will say this, Style Weekly is currently taking Brick and the RTD out back to the tool shed and treating them like a weak, slightly autistic, red-headed step child.

...And I don't just say that because Style writes about me every once awhile, although I give them props for keeping an eye on the local bloggers and the little people here in Richmond.


Jocelyn Testes-Harder said...

Style should set up an RVAblogs section, and reprint some of the best of the week. It could be mutually beneficial. I guess it would depend on whether bloggers wanted to be paid for it, or if they'd just be happy with the exposure.

iwishicouldcook said...

Brick blows ass, and I will gladly admit Style Weekly takes any Media General publication out to the tool shed, and well...whatever.

Those Brick kids you met may be nice, but they are part of the RTD ad department. The whole thing is one big ad, kinda like that stupid Dining Guide thing that pretends to be an unbiased guide but clearly says "Advertising Supplement" on the cover (in very small type).

Sure Brick might let the music/DVD reviewer guy be a uncensored ass, but Brick itself is about as reputable journalistically as most of the women you hope to sleep with.

You're better off writing for RVANews. Those guys are cool and legit.

Anonymous said...

You dodged a bullet with Brick. It is an advertorial and there is no way they can deny that.

devo said...

Maybe they could use you over at Richmond Chic. That site is gonna be HUGE! :P

latrimose said...

Honestly, thats the first I've heard of Brick. What rock have I been under? But I've worked for small/start up publications before. Having people be a jack of all trades employee is vital. So the fact that the same people sell ads and talked to you about doing a column isn't a big deal. The devil is in the details (of your agreement).

Anonymous said...

Couldn't you get a position with GayMonkey.com? They are a big publication locally.

Jesse J said...

All of these job offers, while thus far have been small potatoes, still mean something. Keep blogging, bigger and better things will come down the pipe.

southsidestunner said...

As a former Media General employee, I can vouch for the sinking ship. Ironically, you're part of the cause; print just can't compete with online media, including blogs. You think you would've been able to write in the style and on the topics you do in a newspaper, even if it is the "alternative" rag? Forget it. Wait for the paper/magazine/website that has the balls to print everything you put down. It'll happen. Brick would have hacked the life out of your writing. Trust me.

Tom Sanchez Prunier said...

Although a potential suck assignment, a weekly column is a hard thing to come by. Granted, in recent weeks, it has become apparent that Brick is an advertorial and unable to dent Style Weekly's continued rise as one of the best periodicals in the Mid-Atlantic.

Still, a clip (sample) is a clip; it would not hurt to approach them about a timeline. Tell them you want to make the jump from blogging to print media.

Good luck.

Jack Goes Forth said...

SSS- I definately think that online media is the absolute future and Ive heard from Brick and Style about how important their websites are to their development and continuing progress.

I read a great article about how the Ny Times (which also is sinking) can save itself. A big point was to focus on the digital version of the paper while riding out the slow death of print. Heres the address to that piece:


Tom Sanchez: I agree with you and I'll pretty much write anything for anyone. I need the experience just as much as I need the peanuts they pay to their writers. Unfortunately Brick may not like me talking about all this on the blog, so that bridge, like a few others recently, is starting to burn.

Anonymous said...

I thought your goal with this whole post was to bully the fledgling paper into letting you write for them......Is it not working?

Anonymous said...

Its very difficult to make a living as a writer anywhere, especially with your ethics/standards intact. That's not a dig at anyone in particlar, though I will say that Richmond might have better media if we had more serious amateurs (like Jack, who recognize that writing is not going to pay all the bills) and less serious 'professionals' (who sell their souls to corporates in order to have a full time job writing what is essentially ad copy). Stay free!

Anonymous said...

This post is akin to JGF bragging that he hooked up with Dirtwoman and surprised that it didn't turn out well. It's like a double DUH.