What do I call the other one?

By Shlomit Auciello | Apr 08, 2021

On average, I write one new column each week. In reality, I write two columns one week and ignore my responsibilities the next.

This is because of the difference between publishing online and being published in print by someone who owns, or pays someone else to own, the presses. A writer can donate services by submitting content without expectation of payment, or an arrangement can be made.

In the case of online publication, for example, I post weekly at a site that charges me nothing and allows any user to view and search for content. The site's teasers steer readers to paid content. Creators of paid content get paid, I'm not sure how much it adds up to, but so far I'd rather be available to everyone than to limit access for what would probably be a small return.

For the past three months, I've been giving it away at medium.com.

I know more about the money side of print, although that's also not my area of expertise. My first paid newspaper gig was in 1982, when I spent a bunch of time among the buskers in Harvard Square, on and off the stage of the streets. I watched show after show after show.

Jugglers and magicians and someone who played brandy snifters and water like the harp of an angel. I visited squats where these nomad performers made homes in the warmer months, talked about street life and it's hazards.

I offered the story I wrote to a couple of area papers and a little while later got a call from an editor, letting me know “Music in the Air” was in this week's paper and asking where to send the $35.

Being me, and a much younger and more abrasive me, I yelled at the editor for publishing it without first negotiating a price. The editor told me I was “truly ignorant about how things work in this business.” The editor was right.

As a reporter, I was paid an hourly wage and wrote feature stories but no columns of opinion.

I'm not writing features, these days, but I still get $35 a column when my work is published in print. For a short time in the '00s, I edited what we called a news portal and got paid by that publisher in fungible dollars and an opportunity to publish my own ideas.

Another online site paid me $20 a column, every other week. But outside my county, the internet hasn't really helped my writing career.

By the time I'd worked five years as a reporter, the internet swallowed print almost entirely. This paper, and your loyalty to it, represent one of the few remaining locally-run weekly news publications in the U.S.

My presence here is dictated, not by an algorithm of hit counts, but by an editor who has read my work and invited me to be here. It's heady stuff, knowing you're wanted by someone with years in the business of informing people and sharing ideas.

This contributes to one of the biggest differences between writing for print and writing for the internet.

When I write for The Courier-Gazette, I submit my biweekly column to two people. One is the overall editor of the publication, and he reads my work with an eye for it's appropriateness. Have I insulted anyone? Told any outright fibs? Usually, unless he likes it enough to tell me, I don't hear from him.

The copy editor, for whom I am truly grateful, checks my grammar and style. This takes time, as does the design and set up of the pages and all the other tasks that lead to printing and distribution, to the paper in your hand. My deadline for print is the Monday before publication, every two weeks.

At medium.com, on the other hand, I am my own editor. No one catches my screw-ups and publication is instantaneous. My practice is to write two columns at the same time, to post one online Saturday and to finish the second piece Sunday. That one — actually this one you're reading — will land in mailboxes Thursday and then go online at knox.villagesoup.com.

On the Saturday after it shows up in print, I'll post it to my own publication at shlomitauciello.medium.com.

Having acquitted my opinionated duties for this fortnight, I am free to let the ideas flow. News will happen and I might respond to it. You can see how that works out next Saturday or in a couple of weeks. Feel free to subscribe.

For those wondering about this installation's title, the other one appeared online April 3 and is called “Chutes and Ladders.”

Shlomit Auciello is a writer, photographer and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Letter From Away has appeared online and in print, on and off since 1992, and is published on a bi-weekly basis.

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