Love it or hate it, you may have noticed my column missing from the Star-Herald the last three weeks. A very tight budget instituted by the new upper levels of management there has eliminated the use of freelance writers; or at least that’s what they told me. Insert self-deprecating emoji here.
It’s not news to anyone; newspapers are struggling in today’s digital economy. I’ve seen other local papers downsize to one-man newsrooms and biweekly publications, subscriptions falling like new hires at the White House and, in cases outside this paper and the Omaha World-Herald, digital issues failing dismally.
“But, when you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game. You get love for it. You get hate for it. You get nothing if you . . . wait for it, wait for it.”
I’ve had skin in the game for three generations, with my grandmother freelancing back in the days when type was set by hand. My mother freelanced for several media outlets using a manual typewriter and a photocopy machine similar to a fax. I was still in bobby sox and ponytails.
I began my freelance career nearly 30 years ago. My three-year-old traipsed along as we covered the “cops and courts” in Alliance, every other day. It didn’t hurt that Sheriff Mike Frerichs kept lollipops on his desk at the Regional Law Enforcement Center and gave a great shoulder rub.
So, I’m not so young, but I’m still scrappy and hungry and I’m not throwing away my shot. There are the obvious obstacles of time, distance and money. Freelance rates haven’t gone up since the ‘80s, so being published is more about validation and just a tad of an ego boost when strangers recognize your work or, better yet, applaud your words. And I’ve developed a thicker skin, so when comments and letters to the editor call me a libtard or just plain mean and ugly, I’m able to shrug it off and write my way out.
In reviewing my writing for the Star-Herald during the last 18 months, “I am unconscious of intentional error. I am, nevertheless, too sensible of my defects not to think it probable I may have committed many errors.” The only column I truly regret, however, was the one questioning Ivanka Trump’s parenting style. While her method of using her children to promote her brand and her politics is not one I’d choose, I’ve never been hit with the harsh spotlight that is international media, where mistakes are magnified and ridiculed to the nth degree.
In the end, I will continue to write day and night, like I’m running out of time. My work will be published at www.marywernke.blog and I hope you will join me there. I also have a business page on Facebook, so I welcome followers there for highlights and links to future materials, including the blog and a soon-to-be published book of historical fiction. I will continue to include links to dictionary.com for polysyllabic words many of my readers enjoy.
Until then, I have the honor to be your obedient servant, A. Ham.