A couple weeks ago I found myself rattling off a theory about how media exposure often occurs: “Journalist tend to be word ticking robots who are so overworked that they just want to tick out their words as quickly possible. So they often just piggy back on the work of other journalists when searching for [...]
A couple weeks ago I found myself rattling off a theory about how media exposure often occurs:
“Journalist tend to be word ticking robots who are so overworked that they just want to tick out their words as quickly possible. So they often just piggy back on the work of other journalists when searching for stories.”
So journalism works in the following way:
One aspiring cheetah runs fast and takes out an antelope, just to have the rest of the jungle creatures come out for a free meal: Somehow, a story, person, event, source is erected from obscurity and published in a paper, and then other media sources use this piece as a platform to base their stories off of. Like this, a lonely and laconic jerk can get a lot of press from a lot of different sources in a relatively short amount of time.
Each journalistic cheetah potentially feeds the jungle of their profession with each story they write . . . and are concurrently fed by all the other cheetahs. Journalism is a web of mutual aid and shortcuts.
But this was all just me pondering away, as I had no accurate bob with which to plumb the depths of these rambles. I write on the far flung periphery of journalism. I have published a dozen or so articles in print media, but the great bulk of my attention is paid towards writing online — multimedia, or backpack journalism — that I do 100% independently.
Then I received a phone call, and realized that I was correct in my assumptions.
It was the beginning of June when I met Tom Helling. He was walking down the side of highway 1A with a 10′ high Jesus cross over his shoulder. He was fresh out on his first full day of walking across the USA — from Bangor, Maine to Mexico — with little more traveling equipment than the giant cross and an overflowing cup of faith. I wrote a story about this expedition, rightly called the “Cross Walk,” in the Featured Stories section of Vagabond Journey.com. At that time, this was another story that blended in well with the other articles that I have written . . .
Until something interesting began happening.
Local newspapers along Tom’s route began citing the piece that I wrote as a source for their stories. Statements such as “Wade Shepard from Vagabond Journey.com wrote . . .,” and “according to Vagabond Journey.com” began finding their ways into print. Other publications then jumped off of this platform, and, all of a sudden, I became some sort of journalistic authority, whose words could be cited with confidence.
I just broke my first story.
A Cross America: Spiritually Intoxicated Ex Addict Walks from Maine to Mexico
The telephone rang. A fast talking man was on the other line. He was a content feeder for various radio stations around the USA.
“I am interested in this guy . . uh. . Jim that you are following,” he said in his introductory spiel.
Jim??? Who the f’ck is Jim??? and why does this guy think that I am following him somewhere?
I quickly realized that he meant Tom, as in Tom Helling, the cross guy walking from Maine to Mexico, who I interviewed and wrote a story about a month and a half ago.
“Are you willing to do some interviews for radio?”
“Yeah, I can do that.”
“Ok, great, expect around four radio stations calling you within the next few days.”
I waited for a couple days, actually carrying a cell phone on my person. No calls. I leave the phone at home and forgot about the whole fiasco.
Then the phone rang.
“This is blah, blah, blah from the Edge Albuquerque,” ran another voice stuck in high throttle, “I am interesting in Tom Helling and was wondering if you would like to do an interview.”
“I can do it.”
“Do you want to do it now or next week sometime?” rattled the voice.
I then heard the clicking of recording instruments on the other end of the line, and for the next 15 minutes I was interviews by the EDGE Albuquerque.
I now posses little recollection of anything that I said, but my words, and a few slug lines for Vagabond Journey.com, have made their way on the air across New Mexico.
I then hung up the phone, and promptly thought of a dozen more interesting and articulate things that I could have said . . .
Oh well. I take my glimmers of being a “voice” when I can get them.
I then returned to the voiceless world of ticking out words.
I write, “If you keep throwing darts at the board, you will eventually hit a bulls eye.”
This just about sums up the work of an independent backpack journalist.
Read the story about the Cross Walk at, A Cross America: Spiritually Intoxicated Ex Addict Walks from Maine to Mexico
Read more Vagabond Journey Feature Stories at, Backpack Journalism
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
July 26, 2009, 4:27 pm
Congrats, I guess. As an aspiring cheetah maybe you can get your fair share of antelope, even if it does help feed the looters.
July 28, 2009, 11:59 am
Are there any recordings of this interview anywhere on the net? I’d love to hear it.
July 31, 2009, 7:48 pm
Your voice would be an excellent addition to this blog. You have a happy voice. A pleasant voice. An intelligent voice. And, as Irene says, you giggle a lot. Let’s hear it.
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