Sunday, March 28, 2010

A six pack of me published in The Nation magazine

During the years the internet was being popularized and adopted by newspapers, I was a traveling musician who paid my meager bills through freelance journalism. As such, I had a front-row seat as editors began to experiment with uploading print copy and developing standards for acquiring and asserting rights to digital publication.

I am a bit ashamed of one incident.

I had traveled to western North Carolina, found the descendents of the balladeer and song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford, and instigated a Smithsonian/Folkways release of his work on CD. I reported this adventure in a long feature story that I managed to sell to several weekly newspapers in Bascom's home state.

Years later, looking for information on Bascom, I found my story uploaded and archived on one of those newspaper's websites. The webpage that displayed my story was lined with advertising. No one had ever asked me if they could republish my story digitally or paid me to do so. I found the editor's phone number (I recognized his name; I had worked with him on the initial print version) and left him a nasty message.

He called back, justly offended. In the end, I let him keep the story up on their site, didn't demand any additional payment, and felt ashamed at my nastiness.

This memory came back to me yesterday. Searching for a link about Wole Soyinka, I found a page on The Nation magazine website where they are peddling digital copies of archival stories. And there was a long lead review of a Soyinka book I had written for The Nation in 1996, available for purchase.

The Nation is a venerable left-wing magazine published out of New York. They do important advocacy journalism, and I was immensely proud to review books for them and get paid for my work. They won't be receiving any nasty calls or letters from me, and I hope my old efforts on their behalf are bringing them some scratch now to continue their mission.

In fact, I searched the site for my author name so I could set up a little satellite store for them here. Seems like I did more work than this for them back then, but this is what they have archived for my byline:

The death of a clown. A review of a collection of poetry by Roque Dalton.

Less than exotic in Zaire. A review of a novel by Sony Labou Tansi.

Gay in Istanbul. A review of Blind Cat Black by Ece Ayhan.

Marx in Mozambique. A review of a work of post-coloniali African history.

Coffin for an Oligarchy. A review of Open Sore of a Continent by Wole

Scream, memory. A review of two testimonial books about the Latin American disappeared.

Any of these stories would set you back $2.95, though there are discounts for volume.

Given that they have archived exactly six (6) of my stories, I do regret there isn't a discounted fee for specifically that many articles; for I would very much like to offer you a six pack of ... me! In The Nation magazine.

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