Friday, September 07, 2012

The newspaper: where the real story goes to die

Living in a small town, your chance at fifteen minutes of fame comes up more easily than in a bustling metropolis or the vast anonymous wasteland of suburbia. If you do something long enough, like ride a 30-mile bike commute, someone is bound to notice eventually. You become a local character.

When a local reporter asked about doing a feature on me for the local paper I almost said no. Media portrayals always seem to get things at least a little wrong. When I did agree, it was with the hope that her skill and mine could put together a little dispatch from the foreign land of bike commuting that would present the essence to the reading public, to increase understanding and maybe even spark some interest.

I remember the difficulties of freelance writing. Those frustrations eased my slide into my current greasy trade. It was a challenge to get the story right and another challenge to get paid for it. I would read my own work and cringe at how I had accidentally misrepresented my subject. It was never libelous, just not quite tight enough to satisfy me. What had seemed good enough when I had to get it onto the editor's desk looked a lot worse when it was irretrievably set in ink and distributed far and wide. So I don't blame anyone when the story reads like they got the word processor mixed up with the food processor: Complete sentences, witty quips and wise observations went in, they hit "chop" and dumped the resulting chunks into a bowl. From this wad they fashioned new sentences. My actual words are there, but strangely associated.

It's hard to sum up decades of experience in cycling in a third of a page and a grainy photo. Friends and acquaintances were congratulating me on the article within minutes after the paper hit the news stands, but I can't read it without going, "but wait -- what about -- that's not quite right -- ."

By next week it will all be forgotten. Does that make it better or worse?

Whatever I do, whatever I say, I hope it makes the world a better place to ride a bike. I'll be riding anyway, so my world view has a healthy dose of self interest. Now I have to wait another 25 years for the local media to pay attention again. I can only hope that this week's article will have done some good.


jamie said...

Juxtapose this perspective of being featured in an article with that of cartooning/being a cartoonist. Over the years I've found it's worse than being jaded by constant media exposure - you actually taunt with being perceived as an idiot: you flaunt with the idea that nobody cares in order to make a point by pushing the boundaries. The noble desire to effect change, or even get a laugh becomes a practical pursuit of a buck, or lost amidst the mundane daily commute. But there's always still an extra edge, and that is what makes for motivation when otherwise one would either stop pedaling, or drawing.

RANTWICK said...

Wait a sec... are you that cafiend, the one I saw in the paper? Cool.

cafiend said...

@jamie: As someone with aspirations both to write and draw, I have gone with whatever seemed to be working better at any given time. I'm more of a writer than a cartoonist. Unfortunately, as you well know, it's hard to get paid for either one. And it's easier to pump out a flood of verbiage and edit it than it is to correct the flaws in a painstakingly rendered drawing. But in all areas I keep putting in the effort: drawing, writing, pedaling and supporting the idea of a society in which these things are valued. Life is hopeless, but it isn't serious.

cafiend said...

@Rantwick: why yes...yes I am.