Local gazette needs to buy a dog

by Ogi Overman

The other week one of my loyal readers, a member in good standing of the Sizzling Seventeen, asked me if I were going to apply for the columnist position in the Greensboro News & Record. My reply, although true, was incomplete. I told my friend that I was quite happy here at YES! Weekly and plan to stay here as long as they’ll have me. Again, true ‘… but there’s more to the story.

First of all, there’s no guarantee that I would be one of the folks selected for what the N&R is calling its Community Contributors Board. There are a slew of fine writers out there, many of whom are far more accomplished than I could ever hope to be. Take the Lovin’ Spoonful lyric about 1,352 guitar cases in Nashville and apply it to writers, and you catch my drift. Plus, they are attuned to the community, have well-defined beliefs and are begging for an outlet to express both their creativity and opinions.

Second, there’s that small matter of my own opinions conflicting with theirs. Over the years I’ve had occasion to be rather critical of the local daily and have not been shy about putting my disparagement in print. OK, let’s be up front about it: I’ve been calling them the Newts & Rectum for 22 years and in seven different publications. If you Google ‘“Newts & Rectum’” you may, in fact, find a column or two with my byline on it.

I fear that somewhere, buried deep in somebody’s files or hard drive, there exists a list, black in metaphorical color, that says: ‘“Do Not Hire Under Any Circumstances ‘— Ogi Overman.’” Maybe it’s my own paranoia, but dating back to Jerry Bledsoe’s departure, I have applied for no fewer than six positions and the most I ever received was a form letter from ex-Executive Editor Pat Yack saying columnists were not high on their list of priorities but if they changed their mind they’d give me a call. In the vernacular, that’s called the ‘“Hell freezes over response.’”

One time I was whining and ranting about why the N&R wouldn’t give me a chance, when my even-tempered wife replied, ‘“Do you think that ‘Newts & Rectum’ stuff might have something to do with it?’”

Guess I should’ve thought of that, huh?

But there is a third reason that I opted not to apply for yet another position at the paper. Even on the outside chance that their blacklist got misplaced, the one compelling reason that I would not do it is that it’s a freebie gig. Not that I’m the second coming of Mike Royko or anything, but I don’t do gratis work for for-profit organizations. Sorry.

I have a notepad with a quote that sums up my feelings on the matter quite aptly: ‘“People work for money. If you want loyalty buy a dog.’”

While on the surface, the idea of using regular folk from the general populace as columnists seems not such a bad idea, it strikes me as disingenuous on several levels. Coming on the heels of their gutless decision to drop the New York Times wire service to save 30 grand ‘— and deprive us of Maureen Dowd, Tom Friedman, Frank Rich, David Brooks, Paul Krugman, et. al. ‘— it has all the appearances of yet