I’m a good reporter but a lousy journalist.
I know how to write, but I have no clue what people want to read.
It’s taken me a long time to admit that. I owe this sudden clarity to 50 Shades of Grey – both the book (which I haven’t read) and the movie (which I won’t watch).
I’m the editor of a year-old personal finance website. Part of my job is to assign stories that interest and educate without offending. I suck at that last part.
With the Valentine’s Day debut of the 50 Shades movie approaching, I assigned a three-part series on how much it would cost to buy all the sex toys Christian Grey uses on Anastasia Steele.
Meghan Stewart, one of the most intense writers I’ve ever known, dove into the research. Kelsey Bell, one of the most talented young graphic artists I’ve ever met, struggled to illustrate Meghan’s research without getting too, well, graphic.
It was too way much for my bosses, who politely told me I had seriously misjudged our readership.
They were quite cool about it, even letting me shop the package to other media outlets so Meghan and Kelsey’s efforts wouldn’t go to waste. I offered it to another personal finance website I once edited, and whose owner is kinky and profane and awesome. But he told me this was “too racy” for his readers.
So I contacted the editors at two alternative weeklies – which once wrote about anal bleaching. They told me the stories were too “salacious” for them.
Since I respect these journalists’ news judgment much more than my own, I had to admit I’m clueless about how the rest of the world thinks. That’s a profound flaw in a journalist.
I don’t mind being a failure myself, and while it stings to disappoint my bosses, it hurts like hell to fail Meghan and Kelsey. With nowhere else to go, I’m posting their fine work on my own website.
Read the entire series by clicking the images above or below.
Here’s what really sucks, and what my bosses don’t know about…
I already told another writer to buy and try all the testicle-care products on the market, then write about which deodorants and moisturizers offer the best bang for the buck. (Believe it or not, there are several, from “Nice Nuggets” to “Fresh Balls” to “Comfy Boys.”)
He’s already written a draft, so come back here next month – because it suddenly dawns on me no one will want to read about that, either.