For the final New Mercury Readings of the summer, on July 28th, Heather Dewar, Rafael Alvarez, and Rashod Ollison reminded us why, in the era of newspaper shrinkage, that space was there in the first place.
Ex-sun reporter Rafael Alvarez’s essay, included in his collection Storyteller gave us a taste of what, back in 1993, old school reporters used to call new school journalism before new school became old school. Now that they’re all out of work, there’s one thing they can agree on: we’re going to miss 3000 word pieces like this personal and religious meditation on the death of Richard Manuel, the quiet, bearded, and hard-drinking keyboard player for the Band.
Heather Dewar, who worked at the Sun from 1998 to 2004 as an environmental reporter, offered a selection from a work-in-progress. The piece, provisionally titled ”Home Waters,” is a Florida-based voyage into the wilderness of Miami that indicates why Florida’s a nice place to write about, even if you don’t want to live there. The piece isn’t ready for publication, but those who want to see her latest work are free to check out Urbanite, where she is now an environmental writer.
In “The Invisible Black Homo Blues” (which can get accessed here) Rashod Ollison, who spent six years music and culture critic for the Baltimore Sun before leaving in 2009 – closed the evening appropriately with a not-so-fond farewell to his former employer and several pseudonymous superiors: Viper, Nerve Button, Do Good White Man, and Used-to-be-Slick. It’s also a heartfelt account of an ambitious arts journalist gradually being strangled into irrelevance by a click-driven, fearful newsroom environment .
There are many more stories like that — albeit in very different voices — now available in “Telling Our Stories,” a must read site sponsored by the Baltimore Washington Newspaper Guild.
Thanks for coming, it was a great evening, and have a wonderful end-of-summer. Visit this space soon for info on our next meeting, September 11, as we move into a fall season.