Friday, July 10, 2009

Did I Make a Mistake?

A few days before the Fourth of July weekend, I received an e–mail from an individual who works for

He told me that he had seen my blog on the internet, and he enjoyed reading what I had written. He specifically mentioned a couple of articles I had written that he liked. He wanted me to sign up with Open Salon, where my blog posts would be automatically posted and would be available to a wider audience.

As I have mentioned in this blog before, I am unemployed and I have been hoping to use it to attract the attention of an employer. Open Salon sounded like a way to get some additional exposure so I agreed to sign up.

Now, I was already familiar with, which is the parent site for Open Salon, and I knew that some top–notch writers have written articles about current events that have appeared there. But, in hindsight, perhaps I should have taken a closer look at Open Salon first. At least, that is what I find myself wondering now, about a week since I signed on.

Why am I wondering that?

Well, here's a rundown of the headlines on the articles that have been selected — apparently by the editors — to appear on Open Salon's main page today (by the way, it is currently about 2 p.m. Central on Friday, July 10):
  • Becoming a woman, ending a relationship

  • Just re–opened: Birds–eye view

  • All my wife's Facebook friends are men: Should I be worried?

  • New study: Vibrators are everywhere

  • Are you all functioning alcoholics?

  • Yes, there's a baby bird in my bra

  • Prominent yogi offers to cure homosexuality with yoga

  • British family loses dog, sprinkles urine over town

  • An open letter to Sarah Palin

  • What's real on "NYC Prep"

  • In support of "indefinite detention:" Just imagine what Palin could do with it!

  • A freelancer's defense of print

  • My first TV writing credit — and my meeting with Alan Thicke

  • Did GM damage the American bankruptcy system?
Now, let me be clear here. I have nothing against any of these articles. I haven't even read most of them.

And I will say that I have found most of the articles I have read at Open Salon to be literate and engaging. I've been writing most of my life, and I have a very high regard for the written word. With almost no exception, I have been favorably impressed with the skill of those who write for Open Salon.

But I have been writing this blog for nearly two years. As of this minute, I have almost 900 posts at Freedom Writing. And I have some regular readers who should have an idea what I am likely to write about. So I'd like to ask them something: How many of those headlines sound like headlines for articles that I would be likely to write?

I'm not gay nor am I transsexual. I certainly don't use a vibrator. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm not sexually dysfunctional, and I'm not married, so my wife's Facebook friends are of no concern to me.

I had a dog once, but he was struck and killed by an SUV when he darted into a street about 15 years ago. I didn't sprinkle his (or anyone else's) urine anywhere then. Indeed, I've never gone around any town sprinkling anyone's urine, be it human or canine.

I will concede that there are some stories that could have been penned by yours truly.

That "bird's–eye view" story is apparently about the reopening of the crown of the Statue of Liberty. I haven't read the article, but there is a drawing with the article that certainly appears to be the face of Lady Liberty — and, as readers of this blog know, I wrote about the reopening last weekend.

I have written about Sarah Palin — in fact, I wrote a couple of posts about her in the last week, since her stunning announcement that she will resign her position later this month.

I haven't written about GM's bankruptcy, but I have written about a number of economy–related topics. It's not outlandish to imagine me writing about it if I have something I want to say.

But, clearly, most of these subjects are just not my style.

And that has been typical of my experience with Open Salon. I'm not saying that there isn't a market for this kind of material. But most of it isn't the kind of stuff that I've been writing.

Before I ask you something else about Open Salon, I'd like to mention something I saw on the website earlier today.

If you look closely, the headline on the article says "Do American care if Obama smokes?" The letter "s" would turn "American" to "Americans" and make it grammatically correct, yet in spite of several comments left by readers, no one at has made the correction. It makes me wonder if anyone at bothers to read the comments — some of them contain valuable tips for the copy editors.

CNN is a big company. Surely it employs a staff of copy editors.

This is of interest to me, you see, because I worked for almost 10 years on the copy desks of daily newspapers. It was not our function to gush over the prose (no matter how much we might admire what we read) but to catch mistakes — and typographical errors were just as important as errors of fact, even if they weren't as likely to lead to a lawsuit.

And typos in headlines seemed to jump out at you. If a copy editor permitted a headline typo to end up in print, there was hell to pay.

Well, this problem is not unique to CNN, but this is the most egregious example I have seen today. In its defense (and it is a weak defense, in my opinion), if CNN has reduced or eliminated its copy desk, it certainly doesn't appear to be the only one — in cyberspace or the real world.

But that's a subject for another time.

And now, back to Open Salon.

Open Salon allows people to send messages to the writers of these posts. That was something I wasn't aware of when I signed up. When I got my first message, I thought to myself (before reading it) that this might be an opportunity to have useful dialogues with people who could give me some constructive criticism that might help my writing.

But it turned out to be a come–on from a female (or someone posing as a female). This person appeared to be from overseas and appeared to be looking for someone to serve as her/his sponsor in this country.

I've received three more messages since I got that one. They've all been pretty much the same.

So I'd like to ask those who are reading this on Open Salon: Has that been your experience as well?

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