So why is she calling me? I mean, aside from my spa
Why does anyone call the editor of a local newspaper? She wanted a favour.
Now that she is out in the wider world pursuing the career that she trained and studied so hard for, she is finding out a few simple truths that many of us have known for a while.
First, most real journalists aren't that impressed by a pretty face, in fact they tend to be a bit suspicious of people who are better looking than them. Believe it or not, this is true even in television news. I'm not talking about the on-camera talent - they are blessed and cursed with beauty. Their looks might get them in the door and even get them a job in front of the bright lights reading a script with that killer smile and perfect hair, but even the pretty people get old. If they don't have the talent, skills, brains and training needed to do the actually work of journalism, they don't last long. Eye candy has a very short shelf life if there isn't some nutritional value attached. No, I'm talking about the people who run TV news, the cynical, jaded old producers that hire and fire. They might be willing to hire a hot 20-something to read the entertainment news off a cue card and fire that person when the next cutie comes along, but most of them are not going to assign Ken or Barbie to do hard news.
Second, most people, especially the aforementioned cynical, jaded old producers of hard news programs, - rightly or wrongly - see pageants as a shallow excercise in sexist objectification, in other words, a T&A show. We don't call them beauty contests for nothing. Yes, the young women who succeed in these competitions are often smart, well-informed, ambitious and talented -- but that is tough to tell from the evening gown or bathing suit portions of the competitions. Many people buy the stereotypes of the dumb blonde and the brainy nerd, the idea that you can be smart or beautiful, but that you can't be both.
Third, that employers these days, especially the previously discussed cynical, jaded old newmen who work in an industry where credibility is everything, know how to use Google -- something that some people really should keep in mind.
Perhaps you see where this is going?
This accomplished, intelligent and able young woman that called me is also very attractive, in fact she won the Miss Whatever contest locally and went on to compete in the national Whatchamacallit Queen pageant. Half a dozen years ago when she was a beauty queen, the newspaper had naturally done what community newspapers do and published a few stories about her becoming a pageant winner and later a judge and emcee of pageants. In all those stories, she stressed her intellectual accomplishments, but the bottom line is that the stories were about her winning or competing in "Miss Something-or-other" contests.
Now, she is finding that her past has come back to haunt her - not in the sense that she is being teased by the other folks in the newsroom or called Corky Sherwood behind her back, but in the sense that she is pretty sure it has kept people from hiring her for some jobs. All of which is very unfortunate.
Which, to make a short story much longer, brings me to the odd part.
The favour she wanted was for the newspaper to delete the stories about her pageant days that we have archived on our website, or at least to delete her name from the stories.
Now, if someone who had been convicted of some sort of misdeed - something serious like murder or a crime of blatant stupidity like impaired driving - or even some unfortunate youthful shenanigan that cast them in a bad light - had called and asked me to delete stories about them that had been in paper years ago because the stories were embarassing or had cost them a job, I'd have told them "we all have to take responsibility for our actions" and that "there are consequences to the things we do" or even "you should have thought of that before you decided to commit a crime -- Karma's a bitch, ain't it?" -- the same thing I would tell anyone who wanted me to suppress a story about some nefarious deed or leave an important, relevant name out of an article about something unfortunate that happened this week -- in essence, that they can go piss up a rope and that I would publish and be damned.
But to have someone ask you to conceal their accomplishments? This was new territory.
Imagine a former jr. hockey star asking the newspaper to delete references to him winning an MVP award or an author begging us not to promote his new book. Will I someday have an entrepreneur come in to my office and beg me not write about the successful business he started a few years ago?
"Hello, is this the editor? I just won a major award - it's very prestigious and a great honour, so please, don't tell anyone!"
So what did I do?
I did what anyone with kids to feed and bills to pay would do if they were four weeks into a six-month contract.
I gave her the extension number for my boss and went back to figuring out what to put on next week's front page.
Me, Winston Smith and Pontius Pilate - birds of a feather, I tell ya, birds of a goddamn feather.
(Crossposted from The Woodshed)