by Leslie Wylie
Since my career transition from editor to equestrian was announced a few weeks back, I've about worn out the shrugging response, â“Oh, I'm just trading one variety of horseshit for another.â” It's a dandy one-liner, however, and half true. Muckraking, whether you're sifting through dirty politics or cleaning horse piles out of a stall, is a thankless job, and there've been plenty of times here at Metro Pulse where I'd have much preferred doing the latter. Be careful what you wish for, I guess.
To be fair, though, it's been worth every scoop of the proverbial shovel. Journalism, as Jack Neely likes to say, is a scam. We spend our days educating ourselves in interesting subjects, interviewing fascinating people, and articulating truths as best as we can approximate them, and we get paid for it. If Neely didn't have a family to support and a Wednesday-night beer habit to fund, I suspect he'd write for free.
And he's just one of the endlessly devoted and talented journalists I've had the honor of working with on a day-to-day basis. Veteran Writer Mike Gibson is as sharp-witted as he is uncompromisingly evenhanded. Arts Editor Kevin Crowe should be penning novels out of some fancy MFA program somewhere. Editors Barry Henderson and Joe Sullivan are newspapermen of infinite experience and wisdom, and Calendar Editor Leah Willis stitches together page after page of fine print with infectious enthusiasm. I don't care who owns Metro Pulse ; so long as this crew is sitting at the keyboards, it'll be just fine.
As for me, you could call my current state of affairs an exercise in coming full-circle. Ironically, I probably wouldn't have gotten into journalism at all if it hadn't been for horses. UT's student newspaper, the Daily Beacon , ran a profile of me when I won a national championship in equestrian competition my freshman year. I went into the Beacon newsroom for my interview and started looking around, asking questions, and when I found out students could get paid for writing stories, I signed myself up.
A full-fledged obsession with all things newsprint followed closely behind. I was what you'd call a journalistic slut; I'd write for any publication, ranging from the ghastly (one co-worker still teases me about my stint with the college bikini-girl rag, Speed ) to the esteemed (I still consider Hellbender Press publisher Rikki Hall my best and toughest editor). But I always wanted to work for the Pulse . Why publishing team Brian Conley and John Wright finally decided to take a chance on me, I have no idea. But I'm grateful.
On a less sepia-tinged note, I had lunch with incoming editor Coury Turczyn earlier this week, and I can assure you that, in a stapler fight, Scripps wouldn't stand a chance. Turczyn seems to have an admirable idea of where he wants the paper to go (a vision that does not include summer swimsuit issues, thank God) and a smart plan for getting it there.
I've already warned the editorial staffers that they better be on their best behavior: During his nine-year stint year at the paper during the '90s, Turczyn had a reputation for burning through red pens and enforcing an iron-fist deadline policy that makes this editor's pale in comparisonâ"maybe with the exception of the time I made a couple writers wear tutus and feather boas during the edit meeting â“to teach them a lesson about turning their stories in on time.â” (It didn't work.)
Bottom line: The paper's in good hands. There's been a lot of public skepticism the last few weeks about MP 's future, people already writing it off as â“mainstreamâ” and â“strictly commercial,â” to quote from a letter-to-the-editor we ran last week. And some of those opinions we may never be able to change. But for readers who come to the table with an open mind, MP will continue delivering its trademark cocktail of progressive community reporting and no-sacred-cows-here commentary, no strings attached.
As Senior Editor Henderson put it so nimbly when the buyout was announced, â“We're independent until we're not.â” Until some stuffed shirt at Scripps calls us up and tells us what we can and cannot publish, we'll publish what we want to. Whether or not you decide to read it is up to you.
And to their credit, the nice people at Scripps have given me the go-ahead to continue writing for the paper on a freelance basis. So, for better or worse, you haven't seen the last of my byline yet. I've already got a desk set up in the corner of the beautiful East Knoxville stable I now call home, and if anything, I hope the reprieve from daily deadlines and nasty e-mails will only refresh my own writing. If nothing else, there's no writer's block a brisk gallop on horseback, an activity that's currently prohibited downtown, can't cure.
There are some passions in life you just can't walk away from. Even if you try to, they'll stalk you until you turn around and pay them their due. For me, riding and writing have been neck-and-neck for as long as I can remember. And for now, at least, no photo finish is necessaryâ"the more winners, the better. Most people are lucky to have one dream job during their lifetime. At age 25, I'm already going on two.
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