Interview with Christopher Ortiz, co-creator of the Stuff Journalists Like website
In a Westword Q&A published earlier today, Stuff White People Like author Christian Lander rattles off a list of websites that pay a form of tribute to his Internet creation, which shares its name with a bestselling book he'll be talking about and signing at the Boulder Bookstore tonight. Among those he mentions is Stuff Journalists Like, launched by Colorado residents Christopher Ortiz and David Young.
Ortiz is refreshingly honest about the imaginative spark that led to the project at the heart of the December 24 blog "Stuff Journalists Like: A Disturbing Look into the Mind of Newsies." As he laughingly acknowledges, "We weren't inspired by his site. We completely ripped it off."
A graduate of Colorado State University, where he majored in journalism and history, Ortiz has worked at various newspapers over the past five years, the most recent being the Greeley Tribune. Shortly after hearing about the Stuff White People Like site, he found himself gabbing with some fellow journalists about their own faves, and the conversation was so funny that he began seriously considering putting up a page that gave Lander's deadpan format a reportorial twist. This notion became a reality in mid-October, when he was stuck waiting at his desk for someone to return a phone call -- and within two weeks, he says, "I was getting e-mails from the Chicago Tribune and CNN and the Wall Street Journal. It just sort of snowballed."
That's putting it mildly. Ortiz says the website is averaging around 4,000 page views per day -- a number that ballooned to 30,000 on the day after it was featured on boingboing.net. Granted, there are some drawbacks to being scrutinized by so many writers, editors and so on, including the propensity of journos to look for and correct errors. "They pick up every single typo or grammar mistake," he acknowledges, adding, "I have David proofread my posts now, and I proofread his." Still, the positives far outweigh the negatives. "It's crazy that we have so many readers," he concedes. "And even though everything we do is tongue in cheek, it's all in homage to our profession. We love what we do."
Or, in Ortiz's case, what he did. He resigned from the Tribune in November, certain that job cuts were coming, and he was right; Young, his Tribune colleague, was among those laid off at the paper three weeks later. Young subsequently landed another newspaper job with the Fort Collins Coloradoan -- a rarity in this day and age. Ortiz, however, hasn't been as fortunate. If another position at a newspaper came along, he'd jump at it. But he's also considering a career switch -- new media is among his options -- as well as a change of scenery. His potential destinations include New Mexico, where he's got a lot of family, and New York City.
On the Stuff Journalists Like editors page, Ortiz displays the same sort of wit about his current situation that's in evidence elsewhere on the site. He describes himself as "a newspaperless reporter in Colorado," and urges anyone who "knows of a good and caring newspaper, web site, blog, TV show or family newsletter that can take him in" to e-mail him right away. And in a footnote, he writes, "Chris is currently not a journalist. He feels like a fraud but writing for this site is the closest thing he has to writing for a newspaper (but here, the hours are better)."
Oh yeah: Number 666 on the list of Stuff Journalists Like is "Layoffs." The entry reads:
Being a journalist is hard work. There are the long hours, the little pay and don't forget the unappreciated effort. Journalists live very unglamorous lives. That's why shareholders editors and publishers are doing journalists a favor in laying them off.
With the thousands of layoffs of late, the percentage of journalists leaving the industry is, for the first time, higher than the percentage of readers leaving newspapers.
In fact, editors, publishers, senior editors, managing editors and deputy managing editors have been so busy lately laying off journalists, they can't even find time to think about strategies of ways to save the newspaper business.
Now, instead of worrying about how to juggle four court cases, finding art for the weekend's centerpiece and finding the time to write three stories and four briefs before deadline, recently laid-off journalists now only have to worry about updating those resumes and deciding when is it too early to start drinking.
These former journalists now have all that free time to write that book they have been meaning to get at, decide which newspaper and magazine subscriptions to cancel (which can only make things better) and explore their new interests in working at call centers and running fast-food restaurants.
And all these layoffs are great news for the rest of the newsrooms. No more long lines for the vending machines or waiting for the copier. It might also mean a new desk and chair and a closer parking spot.
Also, no more worries about their stories making A1 since it's now more than likely they are not only writing the lead story but also the rest of the paper.
Obviously, Ortiz knows whereof he speaks.