Monday, October 22, 2012

An advertisement for an editor I would never employ

This isn’t a suicide note, except I suppose as far as MSN is concerned. What the hell. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. The original job ad is here. It’s below, with my commentary in italics.

Digital news producer/journalist – Sydney

The (US) News team has an opening for a savvy and seasoned editor based in Sydney. [RC: The author hasn’t heard of Jay Rosen’s opinion of “savvy”, it seems. This idiotic characteristic is in the lead: someone with a spoonful of brains might actually be looking for “capable”.]

The successful candidate will work with other US editors [“Other” US editors? Hang on, this is a Sydney position. We’re still Australia, when I last checked.] in creating and, then, leading editorial decision making and execution on what is expected to become one of the largest news sites in the world. [The entire sentence, sorry paragraph, descends into a mishmash. Rewrite.]

The position includes day-to-day editorial programming, including decisions on which content to surface [“surface” as a verb. I am flexible about language, but this is an abomination. It means “what we’re going to publish”, so why not say so? This usage merely suggests “inflation by flatulence] for the MSN audience. Overnight [overnight - you didn't mention THAT before. Whose night? Oh, I get it: the entirity of the role is to deliver gimcrack stories for American insomniacs] editors are expected to have superb news judgment, understand and enact our news philosophy and work independently doing daily word, picture and video editing primarily from wire services. [“Primarily from wire services”, ie, no actual journalism, taken from what is frequently the world’s greatest source of urban myth, the newswire.]

Our team will work to successfully deliver high quality news experiences [not “high quality news”, because that needs money and work. We just want you to be savvy. You know. Pick the RIGHT story to surface. Get the hit magnet going. Paris Hilton, Nude, and Windows 8 together in a headline, please] using both data and previous journalism knowledge [If you can parse this last clause, you’re either a genius or a complete sucker for jargon. “Data journalism”,  for example, means “research, basic numeracy, and a knack for “infographics”, one of the many ways in which “savvy” becomes a debasement of information.]

MSN News will uniquely [“uniquely”? when your stuff is “primarily wire sources”? Does this mean I can spice up the wire story with the use of the word “fuck” to make it unique?] focus on what the wider web audience [it’s called the “World Wide Web”, cretin. If it’s available, it has a “wider” audience] [By the way: how about some style consistency? – Web either has a capital, or it does not.] is looking for in its news consumption and deliver against those needs [maybe it’s just me, but expressing “desires we don’t even know we have” as “needs” is just stupid]. We work in a fast-paced, 24-7-365 publishing environment [ie, “life”, except you won’t have one because we’ll spring meaningless conference calls on you at 2am], and candidates should be versatile in both tasks performed and topic expertise [ie, equal ignorance in every possible subject]. This is a full-time Microsoft position.

Candidates must be seasoned writers/editors with at least three years of experience in a daily publishing environment, and at least two years working in Web-based publishing. They should possess strong communication and partnering skills [I think this means “don’t piss off advertisers”. Or perhaps “sleep with selected contacts”], and be able to work effectively across groups, to work under pressure and to manage strict deadlines [journalists who can’t manage deadlines and pressure are called “taxi drivers”]. Candidates must be detail-oriented [I am, which is why this entire advertisement falls somewhere between “travesty” and “atrocity”, with a gentle nod towards “utter arsehat”], highly organized, self-motivated and resourceful. They must also have a thorough understanding of Web publishing — including Web behaviour, Web culture and what does and doesn’t work from a consumer point of view — as well as a passion for Web publishing. Strong news judgment and knowledge of US current events/popular culture is essential [If I ever understand US popular culture, I will kill myself. I presume that the most abhorrent usages in this advertisements accurately reflect US popular culture; you understand why I object. I hope.]. This position requires a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism or equivalent in a related field. [Bachelor in Churnalism Rewrites from Unreliable Wires. Which university?]

This role will take its lead from the MSN News US Weekend/Overnight Editor.
Sydney 2000
[Presumably the postcode, not the year. I don’t think we’d verbed “surface” by 2000.]

And of course, the advertisers want someone “seasoned” on three years’ experience: in other words: someone who will pick SEO-friendly drivel and work at Mechanical Turk rates. But when you burn out, you’ll get to apply for jobs that say “previous experience as an editor”.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

This is what love looks like

It’s also what “strong” looks like.

I’ve met any number of “hard men” in my time. I’ve known someone who could win an argument with the now-dead, once-infamous basher Tim Bristow (really).

But the real lesson of “tough” is this: you’re only tough if your character will survive the worst that life can throw at you. Intact. Without guns or fists.

I didn’t know my aunt, Hazel, very well. My father was itinerant for much of his working life, moving between cities or towns. His elder sister, my aunt, had a different life. For most of my life (I can’t speak for hers), she lived in one place – Kiama – married to a former railwayman turned butcher. I only found out about their early life – the “life in a tent” of the railways in an older Australia – at her funeral.

What I mostly knew of her was an extravagant ebullience that beggars description. She greeted you like a pirate’s cockatoo might yell: loudly. With a huge smile and wide arms. And a greeting that could have split glass. Even my father, who had known her all his life (she was older) could still flinch at her greetings when they were both alive.

It was always worth it, to survive her voice: her talk, her stories, laughter and hugs made up for ringing ears.

But this story isn’t actually about Hazel, it’s about her husband, John. Who I knew even less than she.

My familial affliction seems to be Alzheimer’s. My grandmother suffered it. My father died of it, and eventually, his elder sister, Hazel, died of it. I suppose I’m in danger: please kill me when the time comes.

(Most people probably don’t realise that there are mechanisms by which Alzheimer’s can be the agent of death. I know, from my father, what happened: his brain lost control of his immune system, and he died of pneumonia. I don’t know the final cause of my aunt’s death.)

But this is about her husband, John.

He had it worse than my mother: his wife’s affliction lasted years longer. Through all that, he was her primary carer – until, I presume but don’t know, caring became too much and she went to a nursing home.

The last time I saw him was at her funeral. He was no longer the tall-and-craggy that I recalled from childhood, but the crags remained. So did a lopsided smile. And he still talked about his wife with the kind of boundless love that survives even the intolerable burden of caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s.

And he lasted only a handful of weeks after she.

He didn’t look like a dying man at his wife’s funeral: he looked, if I may be both cruel and honest, like a man fulfilled. He’d committed himself to her; the fact that she became a burden didn’t dim his commitment.

But without her, and with his burdens removed, it seems that something changed: “now I can die.” Happy? I can’t know.

It pleases my fancy to imagine that caring for her – the shell that once held his beloved wife – held such power as to hold off death.

And it pleases my fancy that whatever hope of an afterlife as he had, might include the hope that the wife he would find there might be one that remembered him, and still loved him.

What I know, however, is this. Buffeted by what must have been miserable beyond my understanding, he was so tough, such a “hard man”, that his nature remained intact.

Violence, the fist, the gunplay are the props of the miserable and weak. The character that can stand in the face of the storm, and say “you will not change me, or my life, or my worth, or my love”?

This is the hard man: someone who takes the bomb, and is exactly the same after as before.

That’s what “strong” looks like. It’s also what love looks like. I hope I can be such a man.