Friday, August 23, 2013

An open letter to my former boss, Jim Menneto.

Dear Jim,

For the eight years I worked at Hemmings, you made it painfully obvious that if I wasn't sitting at my desk with a Word document open, you didn't think I was working. You and Rich Lentinello showed me over and over and again that you felt any time spent out of the office was too long, that a full day was too much time for a feature photo shoot three hours away; and you repeatedly publicly belittled those of us who sometimes "only" worked 8-5. The ludicrous, if informal, "three stories/day" rule for travel served only to generate a great number of truly terrible stories, none of which were ever rejected.

Since quitting, I've written just as much as I did while working full time. But with the luxury of being able to do some actual research, the quality of my work has improved. And when I don't have anything pressing, I'll stop and read a book, or go for a walk, or play a game, or watch a movie, or just stay home.

Because writing isn't an assembly line. If I'm not there pressing the keys, the factory doesn't stop. There weren't investors walking through the editorial department saying, "You run a tight ship here, Menneto." Maybe someone in the head office in Charlotte once gave you grief, but if so your job was not to make us conform to someone else's vision, it was to stand up for us.

I can write a six page feature story in four hours, but to do so requires another 40 hours in my head, Everyone's process looks different, but it's generally messy, and sometimes its invisible. That doesn't mean it isn't happening, just that it's happening in a way you don't like. Yes, you've demonstrated you can attempt to make people fit into your idea of how writers should act, but you've seen the results--crushing morale, high attrition and poor quality. Treating people like factory workers has created a factory product--bland, unimaginative and devoid of promise.

To quote Craig yet again, "They took what should've been a fun, engaging, interesting career and turned it into a soul-crushing experience." Congratulations--you're Henry Ford. Now go ship your 10 millionth magazine.