So you want to be a sports columnist? Go to all the games for free? Sit back and make keen observations that make thousands nod their heads in agreement?
Fine. But remember the downside. Ask Mark Whicker about that.
Whicher is a columnist for the Orange County Register. He recently had the odd idea to try to write about what Jaycee Dugard had missed in her 18 years of confinement.
That's right. It was a fun, upbeat column pegged to a woman who had been held against her will for 18 years, and raped by her captor.
Here's the column, complete with links to apologies:
A baseball blog has some interesting comments after reviewing the story; it includes some attempts at defenses from Whicker. Scroll down to find them.
All right, Whicker goofed. And the editors did too. Someone should have raised a few thousand white flags and said, do we really want to print this column?
I think there's a larger point at work here, though. As the newspaper business moves into the on-line world, the pressure to produce material quickly grows and grows. There's less time for reflection as we try to emphasize speed. So columns like this will sneak through.
And here's the bad news: There will be more of them, and not less, in the future.