Like me, Bryan now lives in Seattle. Like me, Bryan had followed his heart to Salt Lake only to have it promptly pounded into a stain, after which we respectively found ourselves friend- and family-less outcasts in Prophetland, breaking our antidepressant-use cherries, and toiling in the most miserable, spirit-crushing workplace EVER.
How did this happen? Well, stupid LOVE, mostly. And also the Internets, which had spurred an economic downturn in the newspaper industry (one that will ultimately spell their ad-starved death) and a dry season for reporting slots. Also, after months of being emotionally ground by our respective S.O.s into a hollow-eyed sack of flinches and tics, we probably both looked at the Standard-Examiner and said, “You know, I AM just this worthless and doomed! Where do I sign?!”
To this day, Bryan contends he’s held even shittier newspaper jobs, but for my money the Standard shed some serious light on why a perfectly upstanding employee shows up one day with a cartridge belt and a manifesto. That newsroom was the perfect storm of head-up-ass management, editorial “whatevs” and institutional shoulder-shrugging, all subsistence-surviving on a couple thousand subscriptions and whatever the ad reps dug out of the lobby cushions.
Technology? Museum quality. Ambience? When someone quits and fistfights break out over his/her chair/desk/stapler, you are NOT in an “optimal workplace environment.” Editorial standards, enterprise reporting, journalistic excellence? Ah HAHAHAHAHAHA.
Being at the Standard was not so much work as. . . punishment. As though every bad deed and thought accumulated over a lifetime had gleefully placed you at its demoralizing doorstep, where nothing more would be asked of you than to endure another mind-numbing day of editorial mutilation, creativity-disabling byline quotas, and counting the seconds until 5:00 upon which you WOULD be climbing into that bottle of vodka, or box of wine, or COUGH SYRUP, because it’s Utah and the alcohol taxes are prohibitive, and it’s the Standard, which pays you in JELLO AND PRAYER.
So when I read they were razing the old place, I was all, “What a fucking shithole,” and, “I’d save the city a ton of cash and take that fucker down with a truckbed of ex-employees wielding nothing but sledgehammers and RAGE,” but it was interesting to see what the sources had to say about the end of the building that housed my Very Special Ring of Hell:
“There are no special plans for the property,” said Nate Pierce, director of operations for Weber County. He said the building is not suitable for refurbishing, given all the asbestos and corrosion it contains.
(Not to mention all the palpable despair and white-slavery relics.)
And then there’s this!
“Good, bad, painful and joyful memories will be torn down along with that building,” said Pat Bean, a retired writer/feature editor/city editor for the Standard-Examiner.
She also stressed, “But the building really stands out in my mind because of the people I worked with …”
Ah, Pat Bean. When I began at the Standard, Pat was an environmental-reporting lifer. Shortly thereupon, her years covering Utah nature like a lobotomized Wallace Stegner propelled her to the ranks of City Editor (that, or the overnight defection of the qualified then-City Editor to a competing paper that paid editorial staff in Jello AND American currency).
Beano was older than the asbestos ceilings and approximately as clever. Under her helm, “leading” needn’t even entail “bleeding” — maybe it had a bruise, or an ouchie, or a mole that should really get checked out there was just NO STORY TOO SMALL. With Beano at the wheel, bullshit filler ran in front, mistakes were edited IN, and college interns (who were content to be paid exclusively in prayer) outnumbered salaried reporters. Pat was erratic, indecisive, forgetful and so bi-polar even the MORMON reporters joined odds on how she’d serve up the next dose of crazy: would it be unhinged tantrum, or unhinged laughter? Nobody wins!
What with all the reward and incentive, covering our metro beats soon came second to debating exactly what was up Pat’s grizzled crack. Was it late-onset menopause? Second-stage dementia? Was it working at the Standard for so long, and if so, were we all turning into Pat RIGHT NOW?
I’d had one or two fine editors in my career, and then I had Pat, who — in wanting this little star to shine! — saw to it I covered Pulitzer-grade assignments like:
- A Boy Scout canned-food drive
- A book signing by that Dean of American Letters, Nicholas Sparks
- A fat-kid fashion show
- Homer Hickham speaking to college audience about memoir “October Sky,” virgin students of both sexes diddling themselves every time he mentions Jake Gyllenhaal
- Every last ground-breaking involving suits, superfluous hardhats and a gold-plated shovel EVER
Now in my time there, Utah was a journalist’s MOTHERLODE: the legislative theocracy, the sanctioned ass-raping of the environment by industry, the then-national leader in Superfund sites/antidepressant use/bankruptcy filings — truly, a gold mine of reportorial possibility. So how in Heavenly Father’s Name had I been assigned an editor who thought if something was important enough for a press release, then darn it, it was NEWS! Was I really that karmically fucked? And when would that cretinous twat finally stroke out over the police scanner and END OUR LIVING HELL?
So when Daron asked me to move with him to Seattle — a city I’d never even visited, in which we would conceivably be unemployed and setting up house in a Sub-Zero box — I gleefully fled Zion and what was inarguably the worst job of my life. Even my current job doesn’t come close to competing with the shittiness of working for a halfwit slag in a journalistic ghetto, and my current job involves BOOGER EXTRACTION AND LITERAL PILES OF SHIT.
Bryan, who followed us west a few months later, puts it like this: “The thing I hated about the Standard was that it sucked, AND NO ONE CARED. At least at other shithole papers, we were embarrassed by our shortcomings and tried hard to make things better, but there, no one bothered.”
In strangely concurrent Standard news, a photo intern is juggling national media attention after a javelin pierced his leg while covering a high school track-and-field meet. Surprisingly, the editors who DESERVE to be impaled by a javelin escaped injury. Unsurprisingly, the Standard‘s own headline on the incident is misspelled.
(Shaking head, rolling eyes, replacing that year on my resume with less embarrassing “Traded anal for rent.”)