Last Christmas I mailed a good friend of mine, an editor at the Aegis and Record newspapers, a gift. He mailed it back, unopened, with a curt note attached.
Maybe this was to be expected. About a month-and-a-half earlier, we’d allowed some local businesspeople to run an ad for The Dagger in The Record newspaper – a rude, punkish shot across the bow from a news upstart to the local established media. And, we’d written a story based on court documents suggesting that someone at The Aegis may have given favorable ad rates to a political group. The story was, without a doubt, speculative; but it was far milder than some of the despotic opinion-making I’d seen go on in my time at the paper.
The editor wrote me a gusty email, telling me to hire a lawyer because I was going to need one after tussling with the paper – I, with my free blog, was supposedly going to be sued by the Tribune Company. I mailed him a Christmas present anyway, because this guy taught me a lot about journalism, writing, politics, and the world. He’d been a true friend. Anyway, he sent it back, and soon launched his own blog on the Aegis website called, “Fresh Brew.” The most recent “brew” was posted in May. Last time I posted a story on The Dagger was May.
This wasn’t the only bridge that burned in the first year of The Dagger. The weekend our ad came out in The Record, we almost got a photographer friend of ours fired from the paper. We’d been taking a feed off his independent website, and posting the non-news-related pictures on The Dag. When the executive editor found out, he threatened to fire the guy. While that didn’t end up happening, it did screw up another friendship.
Then, the executive editor put out a gag order – no one at the paper is permitted to communicate with The Daggers by phone, email, or even in person. So, what friends we had left there were forced, no doubt with their jobs hanging over their heads, to cut us off. I’m happy to say the gag order has been ignored on occasion, and no one’s head seems to have rolled so far.
And that’s not the worst of it. We’ve been threatened with lawsuits from serious, career assholes who make the newsies in Bel Air look like the Bad News Bears. Amongst ourselves, we’ve argued vociferously over advertising to the point where Daggers have left the table in disgust. Many Dagger writers have posted their own money to keep this project going. And why? I’ve always liked this line: “Well, you know if they’re shooting at you, you must be doing something right.”