Monday, April 16, 2018

Um, No

Nobody who pays attention to trivia like relationships within the anarchist and libertarian movements will mistake me for a fan of William Gillis or vice versa. In my opinion he's either one of the dumbest guys on the planet or an infiltrator/agent provocateur, as evidenced by his advocacy of piss-poor decision-making and/or downright evil posturing at the Center for a Stateless Society, where he is now director.

Of course, as a former media director and fellow at the Center, I do try to keep up with their content and do what I can to promote the good stuff (occasionally some good stuff slips past Gillis and gets published). So I had a look at his "Director's Report: Spring 2018," which opens with this:

At its inception C4SS focused on getting timely editorials with an anarchist focus published in newspapers around the world. However, with the slow decline of print media, many of the community newspapers that served as our bread and butter have dried up.

It's true that the number of traditional newspapers in the US continues to shrink. Some are going out of business and some are moving to a web-only format.

But that's not why the Center has trouble getting its op-eds published.

One reason the Center has trouble getting its op-eds published is that the op-eds are overtly anarchist. That's a feature, not a bug, and certainly nothing to blame anyone over. The further from the "mainstream" an op-ed is, the fewer editors are likely to run it. Editors like their radicalism a little less radical. That is, just radical enough to get readers thinking, but not so radical that bricks might get thrown through newsroom windows.

Nonetheless, when I worked as the Center's media coordinator, its op-eds were published hundreds of (my recollection is more than a thousand) times in newspapers around the US and around the world.

When I left, two things observably happened.

One was that the Center couldn't seem to find someone who would a) do the media coordinator job, and b) stick with the job. Again, not especially the Center's fault. Frankly, it was a hard job that I created from scratch in 2010 and that I understand could burn someone out quickly unless that someone is, well, me.

Another was that the quality of the op-eds dropped:

Length constraints (I always insisted on a maximum of 800 words, but urged writers to aim for 400-500) got relaxed. Some papers will run longer op-eds, but 400-500 words seems to be the "sweet spot" for getting the most newspaper op-ed action. I just took a quick sampling of the most recently cataloged pickups (from 2016 -- I don't know if they stopped cataloging pickups or stopped getting pickups). Minimum length was more than 700 words and one went to almost 2400 words. That's not op-ed length, that's feature length.

Another thing that went out the window was the notion that op-eds had should be written with news hooks appropriate to general circulation publications in mind rather than addressing "inside baseball" issues -- that is, hacking on divisions within the libertarian and anarchist movements. The general public doesn't (and newspaper editors catering to the general public don't) give a rat's ass about that stuff. For that matter, most non-libertarian political publications don't either.

Last year, the Garrison Center had 1,139 op-ed pickups by mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications.

As the main writer for Garrison, I enjoy one natural advantage over C4SS, and that is that every op-ed does not have to be specifically anarchist in character.

The other advantages I enjoy versus C4SS are entirely of my doing and of C4SS's not-doing:

- I submit op-eds (to the same list that I originally developed for C4SS) often and regularly (three a week).

- Those op-eds are written to current affairs news hooks of interest to the general public rather than to "inside baseball" topics of interest only to people involved in the libertarian/anarchist movements.

- Those op-eds are written to a minimum length of 400 words and a maximum length of 500 words.

C4SS didn't go into failure as an op-ed mill because papers are disappearing. C4SS went into failure as an op-ed mill because C4SS didn't find someone who would and could require C4SS op-ed authors to adhere to some fairly simple rules regarding what op-eds are.

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