I’ve set up a Patreon page and I think you should use it to support my work. But let’s talk about Dale Earnhardt first.
Sometimes, editors give reporters stories that don’t excite them.
“Write this land transfer story,” the editor will say. “It is important. An unassailable rich person has sold a giant tract of land to another person who is just as rich. No one’s lives will change. This is important because of reasons.”
Reporters do these stories because they write the rough drafts of history in their towns and cities. Or they do them because it’s Christmas week and absolutely nothing is happening, but there must still be a periodical publication and so a play at a grade school or two dogs marrying each other becomes A1 center package material.
Sometimes they do the stories because they have to, or because everyone involved thinks it’s a great idea until they carry the assignment to execution. Then the world stares at the end product in the cold light of dawn and wonders what happened.
I’d like to talk to you about Dale Earnhardt.
Six years ago I worked as a night reporter in a community about an hour’s drive north of Milwaukee. As night reporter, I covered a lot of government meetings and late-breaking, oddball stories. Sometimes we would approach the close of business and we wouldn’t yet have a strong front page, so it was my job to fill in the gaps with journalism spackle.
One day my managing editor walked to my desk.
“Mark,” she said, making karate-chops with each hand to catch my attention. “Someone in town has painted a giant picture of Dale Earnhardt.”
Nothing in my life had prepared me for that sentence. My editor gave me an oddball assignment, and I was just the oddball for the job. I drove a few blocks down the road and found Dale Earnhardt.
He was hard to miss, rendered in flat tones on several four-foot by six-foot boards pushed together in a man’s lawn. Grass poked out between Dale’s teeth in a gap between two of the boards. I met the artist, a comfortable, paunchy guy who looked like a college party catalyst.
The man took no time to explain that he made this giant composite painting of Dale Earnhardt in order to sell it. He hoped news stories would give him the exposure he needed to find a buyer.
“What other news organization would fall for this,” I thought to myself, looking up in time to see a Fox News affiliate helicopter taking aerial shots of The Intimidator’s face.
My teachers would have rapped my knuckles for turning in a story based on an interview from one person, but I didn’t feel like getting a second source from the shrieking ghost of Ed Murrow, who surely clawed at his eyes in despair as he watched down on me, the news helicopter, and this giant painting.
I drove back to the office. “Boss,” I said. “I have misgivings about this story. We’re giving this guy free advertising.”
“Don’t give it any more or less attention than you feel it needs,” my editor said back. It had the makings of a quirky, offbeat story. It didn’t have to be “The Grapes of Wrath.” So I wrote the story, filed it and went home that night.
I came to the office the next day and saw this.
Front page, center freaking package.
I get three different reactions to this front page. Some people laugh, because it’s the punchline. Reporters will give me a rueful, knowing nod. Every reporter, in their own way, has had to write about a giant painting of Dale Earnhardt in one way or another.
Editors will let out an envious hiss and say, “That headline is so good.”
Now that I’ve done time as an editor, I can admit that yes, the headline is good. The man who wrote it, Ken Merrill, is a genius.
We do what we have to do in order to keep the world spinning. Reporters write about Dale Earnhardt’s face. Editors curse and chop at a Cambodian jungle thicket of typos and passive voice sentence construction, only to see it regrow every new production cycle. At times, it can take energy away from the things we want to do.
I want to write to entertain you. I do other things at work. I excel at reporting, writing, editing and social media community management. But I’m good at this, too. I’m good at writing about expeditions outside of my comfort zone. My readers enjoy watching me learn, or at least enjoy my stories when something happens to me.
Do you like it when things happen? Me too. Let’s make me write about stuff we like.
I’ve set up a Patreon page to fund my writing on Prickly Peregrine. Pledging a small monthly contribution will help me cover the cost of hosting this website. Pledges will give me more resources to give you more entertainment.
Please note: this little site of mine will always be free to read. But more support through Patreon will increase the ways and means by which I sail the chuckleboat into humor harbor.
If you’ve never heard of Patreon, it’s a bit like Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites you might have seen online. Instead of soliciting money toward a single, target sum, Patreon allows creators to ask for a monthly commitment. In other words, instead of “I’m trying to raise X amount of money,” Patreon lets me say “I’m looking for ongoing support.”
You can decide how much or little you want to pledge. You can change or halt the amount you pledge at any time for any reason. It’s in my best interest to give you incentives to pledge more. Backing my Patreon lets you join the shadowy ranks of my Editorial Board, a cabal of puppet masters who can give me assignments or make me go do or learn things they think would make for entertaining articles. I’m also prepared to uncork my expertise as a journalist in a backers-only newsletter. If you’re curious about news media and want to hone your craft, or if you just want to know how to write more clearly and how to get more attention with that writing, I’ve got you covered.
This is an experiment. In a way, it’s one more voyage outside of my comfort zone. I’d like to come back with a suitcase full of weird souvenirs and good stories to tell.
Click on the Patreon button below and have a look at what I’ve got to offer for your support.