Friday, March 26, 2010

Unoriginal thoughts on selling out

It's Rejection Friday and I'm a little worried for my sanity. I'm also a little hung-over from a work party that I never should have gone to in the first place. When the CEO referred to us as "marketing journalists" I swear I felt a piece of my soul die. Actually, “die” is perhaps too strong a word. I suppose it felt more like my soul stubbed its toe, which is a very uncomfortable experience in and of itself.

Either way, the bull$%&# term made me think about selling out, something that I haven’t had to think about in my career before. Not really. I’ve always thought of myself of having what I suppose you could call a sort of moral code. But for the past few months I’ve been working at a place that dares stick the word “journalist” after the word “marketing.” Unconscionable. No matter what media critics may say (and I consider myself to be one), the two should have as little to do with each other as possible. Sure, big corporations pay the bills but journalists, real journalists, don't work for companies who exist for one sole purpose: to sell %$#&. They keep the government on their toes. They give people a voice who otherwise wouldn't have one. They bring us context and history and images that otherwise would be forgotten. Unseen. Invisible. That may sound like idealism, but there is a need for idealism sometimes because sometimes idealism reminds us of what we used to be.

What does this have to do with my book? The bull$%&# term and the selling out? It all made we wonder just how desperate I’ve become to get this book published. If an agent liked it but wanted the thing to be more commercial, would I listen? Would I make the changes no matter how dumb I thought they were? Like adding a shopping spree montage? A bikini wax monologue?

One Toronto agent gave what was the worst editorial suggestion I’ve ever heard: “You wrote about a bar called _______ and described it as ________ and __________. This bar doesn’t exist in Toronto, but your book is set here. You need to use a real bar.”

F-I-C-T-I-O-N.

I didn’t bend to that horrible advice but right now, as Rejection Friday stares at my profile from the calendar on my corkboard and my hangover tries to escape through my temples, I’m not sure how strong I’ll continue to be. Maybe giving up is better than selling out?

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