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Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
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is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 04.26.06

JIM AUSTIN

Publisher, you are fired

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Columnist Jim Austin has written for Vermont's Brattleboro Reformer for the past fifteen years.

Because of his suffer-no-fools-gladly and take-no-prisoners stance in his writerly life, it hasn't always been smooth cruising for Jim.

Me, I like his rough edges and so do a lot of LCC readers. Kicking ass and taking names, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted is what I call 'good stuff.'

For some while now, Jim has been butting heads with a new PC editor down there in southern Vermont. Too much slashing and burning of his columns - Jim, it seems, is not PC enough. In fact, he's too damned mean to be published as-is.

Today, Jim fired the dead-tree Reformer for not meeting his standards. Good on you, Jim. We like your Moxie.]

PUTNEY, VT | Those who have followed my columns are probably aware that my style demands some rather egregious exaggeration to get the point across. Hyper hyperbole is often the name of my game. Tact and diplomacy is pretty low on my list.

The last time an editor took issue with my "meanness" I got canned.

My response was to write "The Fuzzy Bunny Gazette" which never saw the light of day but gave me great satisfaction as I described a newspaper that avoided being mean at all costs.

I don't think that editor lasted a full year.

I won't say the same thing is happening here. I didn't get fired exactly. This is more seppuku than homicide.

My demise was orchestrated by whoever has been raping my columns and rendering them flaccid and rather mundane. Sometimes it's the editor and sometimes "unnamed assailants."

I knew I was going to have problems when, in my first column under the new regime, the word "stupid" was changed to "inept."

Small potatoes you say. To me it's a big potato.

I meant stupid. The explanation I got was that "We don't want to be too mean."

At the time I was describing the Democratic Party. Is it even possible to be "too mean" to those idea-challenged, poll-dancing empty suits?

Next came more deleted sentences. It was like a cockroach gnawing at all the best parts of my work. I gritted my teeth and tried to ignore it.

But when my description of Tom Delay's future included federal prison where "he should pack his lipstick because he is going to be the fiancé of a bad man named "Mangler" was excised, I had had enough.

Incidentally in the same column an unkind reference to lawyers didn't make the cut, either. "What's up with that?" if I may borrow a phrase from an already former colleague. When you can't trash lawyers, what's next? Pedophiles?

If I can't be funny at the expense of others, I just don't want to do it. My column is an editorial cartoon written instead of drawn. It's only good when somebody gets trashed and it's funny.

If you agree with the editorial sentiments espoused, you chuckle and show it to your spouse over breakfast on Saturday morning. If you don't then you rave to the spouse about how that bleeding heart flatlander should be tarred and feathered and dragged out of town by wild Volvos.

That's what I'm after.

What's turning up under my name in the latest Brattleboro Reformer incarnation is stuff that makes your eyes wander off the page or turn to Dilbert.

My resignation also has much to do with how I see myself in print. I write for myself and if I'm not satisfied, then someone's getting fired. Actually that sounds a hell of a lot better than "Boo hoo, I'm getting censored off the job." My new current position is this

"Reformer, we've had a good run over these past fifteen years but I'm afraid I'm going to have to let you go. That's right, you're fired."

I'll check back in about 18 - 24 months. That's about average for regime change at this liberal rag.

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