What I try to do—and what I think I mostly accomplish—is to present news in a fashion that is both entertaining and memorable. The very essence of my writing style is to freely mix the facts with my take upon those facts. I consider myself a word artist rather than a professional journalist and I often employ colourful metaphors, acerbic asides, and witty insults when writing about the perfidy of our Great American Machine. Rather than merely writing, I like to paint word-pictures — and if the artistic part of my creation requires that the Rules of English and/or journalistic restraint and/or common rules of decency be ignored smashed or mutilated—then so be it.
Anyway, Works in Progress has recently made some changes in their policies and they now have a professional editor. They have also instituted new guidelines for ‘factual’ pieces as opposed to ‘opinion’ pieces—and evidently, never shall the twain meet. Looking at the big picture this is probably a very good thing for them to do and I applaud them. Works in Progress’ reputation is that of a bunch of ranting radicals—like me, for instance—and professionalizing their publication could lead to WIP having more credibility and possibly they will begin carrying more weight in local affairs.
However, this creates a problem for me personally since that is not what I do. I tend to enthusiastically throw literary hand-grenades at the right-wingers even as I joyously toss turds into the punchbowls of the left-wingers—and when it comes to fascists I follow a strict policy of scorched-earth take-no-prisoners.
Last month Works in Progress published an article I wrote called Justice, American Style (though WIP changed the title to Justice, American Robber Baron Style). If the title you read was longer than the one I wrote, the article itself was much shorter as the new editor removed about half of it and I barely recognized my own piece. I’ve always known that I could use a good editor and she obviously spent a lot of time on my piece — and she probably a good deal of that time pulling out her hair. I honestly and truly appreciate all the time she spent and a lot of the structural changes she made were very good — but in my ‘opinion’ she also removed everything that caught the attention and made the piece memorable, leaving only a dry and rather boring recitation of facts that most readers of WIP probably already knew anyway. She removed every colourful metaphor, every acerbic aside, and every witty insult; i.e. every bit of personality and everything that defines my art as my art.
Here is an example of what was edited out:
“What the Wall Street Congressional Industrial Media Prison War Machine Complex did was the metaphorical equivalent of picking up a bunch of dog droppings from the lawn, mixing in some filler and spices, and then serving it to your grandmother whilst enthusiastically assuring her that it was a gourmet meal…
Catchy? Memorable? Fun? I think so—but that is my ‘opinion‘.
Anyway, while I occasionally write pieces that will fit into WIP’s new guidelines, overall I will probably be making far fewer submissions to Works in Progress in the future. Works in Progress remains an invaluable local resource that I truly love and treasure. Covering under-covered news and views is what I am all about and Works in Progress does just that and they do it well. We are just sort of taking different paths and I view this as conducting an amicable separation. They like vanilla and I like butterscotch. Both are good. Both have their place. We are still friends and allies. I will still be reading WIP cover to cover every month.
Hip, hip, hooray for Works in Progress!
FYI: If you enjoy my writing and would like to continue to read it, I publish a weekly email newsletter aimed at the Olympia activist community. It is called the Thunderbolt and the Thunderbolt contains news mixed with views, unedited commentary, and a calendar of activist events every week. To sign up for the Thunderbolt, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “sign up for the Thunderbolt” in the subject line.
You can also listen to the Thunderbolt on the radio every Friday at 8 am and 7 pm and every Saturday at 8 am on KOWA. KOWA is our local low-power fm radio station. The broadcast signal only reaches downtown Olympia at 106.5 fm but you can stream KOWA from anywhere in the world that has Internet access on any computer or smart phone at www.kowalp.org.
In my ‘opinion’, KOWA has the best public affairs programming in Washington State and I can assure you this ‘opinion’ is not due to the fact that I happen to be the program manager…
Dana Walker is an Olympia activist and publishes The Thunderbolt, a community digital newsletter.
(Editorial note: Works In Progress has always welcomed opinion pieces from Dana Walker and we are saddened that he has decided to reduce his frequency of submissions. We must also state that our policies have not changed. As in our long-standing submission standards, WIP values opinion pieces, which “are best supported by facts, examples, and sources, and we encourage writers to include these elements to submissions.” WIP also “reserves the right to edit or not print submitted material” as stated under our Governing Tool.
One last thing. All of our editors volunteer their time; there are no paid staff. We’ve tried paying people to work for WIP and it just never works out.