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How to get famous in 700 words

February 16, 2011

I typed "fame" into Flickr. Here's what came up.

As far as community journalism in B.C. goes, the whole “building your brand” thing that is so in vogue among certain journalistic elements in the United States is just a horrible, horrible, horrible catch phrase. (Tip off: the word “brand”).

Here, you’re never going to be able to hold your employer hostage for more money by threatening to leave because, by and large, the people holding the purse strings aren’t the ones who give a shit if your paper is good or not.

That said, there are competitive, personal and ego-maniacal reasons to try and get famous in your community. And, at any community paper in B.C., there’s an easy way to court that fame.

First the benefits.

The more people know your name, the more people are likely to think of you — and not some other hack in town — when something interesting, controversial or otherwise newsworthy comes up. That makes your life as a reporter easier, and more interesting. And let’s face it, it’s also flattering to have people know your name.

We all like to think we’re important, even if, in the grand scheme of things — when the planet we live on is but a speck in the universe — even the Peter Mansbridges of us are just as disposable than ants. But Christ, that’s such a depressing note that it feels good to have an old grannie in the store talk to you about the paper.

So how do you get famous?

Write a column.

Write as many as you can. There’s nothing like a standing head to put a face to words.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was a newspaper reader, rather than writer. And the only journalists in town that I knew of was the guy on TV and the newspaper folk who wrote columns.

It’s not just the mug shot beside a name that does it (although, sadly, it’s probably the most important part). What you write also is very important. If you’re funny, then people are much, much more likely to read your column regularly and know your name. Ditto if you write about things vaguely controversial.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re just writing sappy schlock — no matter how good your writing, or how sappy your schlock — readers are less likely to want to read your column when they see your face. Ditto if you just write the same antagonistic column from the same ideological point of view over and over again.

But even that’s better than the infamous column that doesn’t say anything. A close cousin of the editorial that doesn’t editorialize, this piece of writing often implores others to come up with solutions, without actually taking a stance on the subject in question.

So that’s columns. I don’t know how to wrap up my post, but I don’t want to spend anymore time on it, so I’ll open it up for comments, if anyone wants to bother…

Photos by Steven Depolo via Flickr.
Categories: Writing
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