Friday, August 18, 2006

Oh my, look at all the dust.

I've been away so long I scarcely remember how to do this blog thing. I've got to brush away the cobwebs, and dust off the keyboard.

Here's a quick update on my life. In late May, the managing editor for a weekly news magazine/tabloid called me to ask if I'd be interested in coming to work for him.

This was mere days after I began putting together the Picolata Review. For the next several weeks, I was so busy negotiating, editing the Picolata, and doing my job at the newspaper that I barely had time to check my own email.

On July 5, I started my new job as a photojournalist for the weekly - a joint publication of two major daily papers. A week later, I landed on a story that became the cover and center spread that week. The story drew kudos from the entire editorial staff downtown (headquarters of the 600,000-reader daily that is the larger of our parent papers). It was about a woman whose family farm is surrounded by land owned by a real estate developer, and the developer's threat to charge her with tresspassing for using their road to access her farm. Her family has used the same road for the past 98 years.

Since then, I've been jumping from one hard news story to the next. Hard news stories - which is exactly what they sound like, hard hitting stories likely to hurt feelings and stir controversy - take an extraordinary amout of time to do well. You have to check your facts, and balance your coverage, and dig for quotes, and then check it all again so you know your story is up to date at deadline. I've been starting to work on Monday mornings at 8 a.m., and putting in 12 to 14 hours a day every day. I've also racked up an extraordinary number of miles and hours staring through the windshield.

I'm not complaining. This is work I consider important - shining a light on injustice, and helping people understand the forces at work in the world around them. I'm writing for a living (which makes me the luckiest man on earth), and I'm writing about things that matter. I'm not editing (uggghh - I don't miss it), but I am getting to use some damned nice photographic equipment (men and boys, price of toys...)

I've also had some interesting opportunities. This past Monday, I was a moderator for a televised debate/forum hosted by a civic association. Two other journalists and I got to grill candidates for two hours, and now even more people than usual are stopping me in the grocery store to say how much they liked my work - or hated it. It's an odd feeling to walk into a building and have everyone there know your name, even though you've never met any of them before.

I've also been invited to join the panel on our local talking-head show on Sunday mornings. All that's left for me to achieve the upper reaches of the liberal media elite is for someone to cancel their subscription to my blog because they think I'm biased - no, wait, that happened last week when I published Charles Baxter's comments about President Bush in the Picolata Review.

Oh, well. If you want to fight with the big dogs, it helps if you look good in a spiked collar. Or something like that. I think I've done pretty well for a small town boy who broke into this business not all that long ago... I think I'll tell that story to you folks soon. If I have time.

p.s. Last Friday I wrote an update to my story about the lady and her struggles with the real estate developer. On Saturday, someone burned her house down. The fire department tells me the fire was intentionally set.

Sometimes there are consequences to what we write. Remember that, even if what you write is poetry or science fiction. Writing moves people, not always in the direction the writer wants them to move.

Mark Pettus,
Friday, August 18, 2006

18 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger Bernita, Anonymous Kirsten, Blogger anne frasier, Anonymous Andy, Blogger Mark Pettus, Anonymous Caryn, Anonymous christina, Blogger Unique, Blogger M.E Ellis, Blogger M. G. Tarquini, Blogger Dennie McDonald, Anonymous Anonymous, Blogger Shesawriter, Blogger Shesawriter, Blogger wthenrest, Anonymous Andy, Anonymous Andy, Blogger Dennie McDonald,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 2:39 PM Blogger Bernita said...

You are not responsible for those consequences, Mark.
People are responsible for their own actions.

at 3:19 PM Anonymous Kirsten said...

Wow, Mark, that's a story to give one pause . . .

Awfully good to have you back blogging btw!

at 7:52 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

wow, mark. stories like that should no longer shock me, but they do.

the new job sounds rewarding, but exhausting. i need a nap after reading about it.

at 5:21 AM Anonymous Andy said...

I don't think the building being burned down can be said with any conviction at this stage to have any connection to you raising the profile of what amounts to a sadly too familiar classic tale of corporate bullying and greed.

Do please keep us up to date on that story, though; I'd like to know what comes of the investigation, if someone is caught for the crime.

As for your personal life in terms of career, it sounds like it's really taking off. Congratulations! It does sound to me like it makes sense to produce The Picolata Review as a quarterly rather than a monthly; a monthly seems way too ambitious given your schedule as it stands.

It's good to have you blogging again, and if you ever want that spiked collar I have a number of goth friends who have a few in their drawers! :-) x

at 6:56 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Thanks for the support. I don't feel responsible for the reprehensible acts of others, but the road to hell is paved... I don't know how much I've paved, but I've at least filled a few pot-holes.

I'm glad my writing touches people, but I think we should all remember that we lose control of our words once we release them.

Kirsten, Thanks. I'll try to blog a bit more often.

Anne, I used to think I was jaded, but the last couple of years have reintroduced me to the darker side of human nature, and I've been shocked a time or two myself.

Andy, I'm sure the fire is related to the dispute, and possibly to my reporting of it. Her farm is far off the beaten path.

Quarterly may be just the thing. I'm considering putting that to the editors for consideration.

Thanks all, for your comments.

at 7:25 PM Anonymous Caryn said...

Oh, my God. Someone burned her house down?!?! I only know the bit you've written about the story, but it infuriates me--probably because I've seen similar things happen here.

It sounds like you are doing very important work, and you deserve to be proud.

at 2:03 PM Anonymous christina said...

hey mark, nice site. see ya at soon at another fun filled candidate forum
- christina

at 10:08 PM Blogger Unique said...


I hope you don't end up having to investigate the investigators.

Let us know.

The pen is mightier than the sword when it comes to exposing evil.

Fight the good fight.

at 3:15 PM Blogger M.E Ellis said...

I hardly read newspapers or the news, it's too harrowing for me, but I admire you for doing the job you do.


at 12:26 PM Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Holy ****, Mark. Her house!?

Words fail.

at 9:51 PM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

some people need not be left alone - sheesh - and soooo NOT your fault!

at 8:01 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...


Enjoy your online literature review very much. Hope you will bring your perspective back to the forum when the dust settles!

at 1:05 AM Blogger Shesawriter said...

Hey Mark!

Just stopping by to say hi. Hope you come back soon.


at 11:21 PM Blogger Shesawriter said...

Mark? Yo, Maaaaaaaaaaaaaark?

Where the heck are you, bud?

at 6:40 PM Blogger wthenrest said...

I just wanted to stop by. I haven't been blogging much either but always enjoyed yours. I think all things have consequences, we just don't always hear about them.
Look forward to seeing more.

at 10:12 AM Anonymous Andy said...

Mark, where are you? Folks are getting extremely worried for you, your emails go unanswered. Lisa and I would dearly like to hear from you, if only a quick one-liner to let us know you are okay. And if you're not, if there is anything we can do. Anything at all. x

at 10:14 AM Anonymous Andy said...

That's Lisa Coutant, by the way. She and I have been trying to find out from each other what's happening with you as neither of us have heard from you in a long time. Too long. Get in touch, my friend. We're thinking of you. x

at 3:57 PM Blogger Dennie McDonald said...

knock, knock - anybody home?


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