Saturday, May 09, 2009

From the Back Office

With the Pope on-ground in the Holy Land, Dome's Day on its way, no shortage of other things to follow floating around -- and, indeed, the costs from last month's live-from-Gotham coverage still to be paid -- we interrupt the feed for the least favorite part of your narrator's job: the humble, periodically necessary reminder that these pages' survival relies on one person (namely, YOU)... and that, were it not for this readership's support, your friendly neighborhood news-hole would go up in smoke... which the house budget tends to do every month at bill-paying time.

Along these lines, a true story: a couple weeks back, a reader asked how big "the staff" is.

Admittedly, it took everything I had to keep from hysterics... and then, realizing that at least some others might have similar illusions, to not burst into tears.

Reality is, church, I still can't hire myself. So while some folks have been mighty nice to pile on the accolades for whatever this work's been able to accomplish, to look around at day's end and find a situation more akin to an internship tends to put things in a pretty, er, interesting perspective.

To be blunt, don't be fooled by that number at the bottom of the page: sure, it's kept ticking up faster and faster toward a mind-blowing milestone... all the while, however, keeping the phone ($200 a month) on, the college loans ($1,200 a month) from defaulting and the health and other insurances ($300 a month) up and running have all remained as much of a struggle as the site-counter's total is big. Throw in the other incidentals and/or story-related travel (e.g. the days of Dolanfest or, coming up, this month's DC symposium on Vatican-US relations and June's Bench meeting) and, no joke, that doesn't so much bust the bank as deepen the hole... and, indeed, all still without owing a cent of rent.

In a nutshell, as it was in the beginning, so it is now: the shop consists solely of its scribe, the hardest-working phone and (approaching its last legs) computer around, what's doing on the wires and those little nuggets that come my way... and that's it -- no "staff" nor office space, no corporate parent to keep the shop solvent nor the bills paid: in other words, just all of you and yours truly. (And look at all the trouble we've caused....) Such is the state of things that what gets done gets done... and, indeed, being a "one-man band," more than a good bit doesn't. And for it all, I usually wind down the days mulling over what didn't get handled as opposed to what did, praying for more time and energy to just do it better going forward... and somehow, that added boost never seems to come.

For the record, as no shortage of questions have been asked about heading toward each, any other format presents a wrenching trade-off: go subscription-based and shut out amazing folks who are struggling themselves and could use the daily lift; take ads and have to both manage accounts and watch the spots become combat fodder (not to mention that, as any outlet that's relied on it currently manifests, the advertising-as-mainstay days are long gone); sell out to an outlet and watch raw, context-ridden copy get spun toward ideological ends or shredded in the interests of a wider audience; sell out to officialdom and watch the truth (and, just as much, the fun) get sucked out of it.

Each is a sacrifice of integrity I've put much on the line to not have to make. And for almost five years and well past 5,000 posts, I've been blessed that I haven't had to make it. At least, not yet. Hopefully it's looked easy, but it's mostly been harder than it hasn't, and while life could be a lot worse than dealing with its downside, the workload and time commitment the page requires and, most of all, the size of the readership (25,000 or so on an average weekday) seem to say that there's something useful and valuable in keeping things as-is without opting for the cheap security of the "easy way out."

In other words, it ain't broke, so there's no need to fix it... well, except for the part about the narrator usually being broke.

Look, gang, nothing in the world is easier and more enjoyable than doing this work, day in and day out -- more often than not, seven days a week... even 24/7 as the need arises.

At the same time, though, nothing has proven more difficult than keeping it afloat.

The former I can run with and love without a second thought all my days. The latter, however, is well beyond my reach -- all I can say is that the need remains, friends: the rest is yours to make happen. And as it's always been, but especially in these days, the one is dependent the other and can't really continue without it.

All that said, whatever good's come about here over time owes itself to the generosity of the many folks from near, far and everywhere in between, who've kept these pages up and running with their prayers, encouragement -- and, indeed, a bit of aid for the "guitar case." Even as I've failed terribly at acknowledging their kindness and support as it deserves (read: personally and individually) and can never sufficiently apologize for that, anyone who likes what they see 'round these parts owes each and all of 'em the world, our prayers and, most of all, our thanks.

And lastly, I can only pray no one minds the tough talk too much. These pages have come a long way from their initial audience of three readers and their origins as a catharsis in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. Given the backdrop, I never would've expected the world to show up here, but to quote Joyce on the church, here came everybody... to a wilder degree than I'll ever be comfortable with... and the rest I still find myself grasping to accept as the two-edged gift of Providence.

Whatever happens from here, suffice it to say, I know I've learned, seen and been blessed more at 26 than some folks are in a lifetime. That's no a perk to be hoarded, but a gift to be shared -- a responsibility to keep passing it forward, just as so many folks have been so incredible as to pass it my way over the years. And while I'll never know why it's all happened as it has, I can only hope what you find here sends it along well and faithfully.

If it does, it can't continue without your support, and as ever, the button on the right sidebar's ready and waiting to aid that end along.

As ever, all the thanks in the world in advance and, again, all apologies for the temporal disruption, however pressing it might be.

Buona domenica a tutti -- God love you all today and forever.