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How my day was saved by a Zombie, and a long overdue THANKS.

December 4, 2009

This poor woman. She has no idea what a huge effect she had on my crappy day.

I teach a weekly Photoshop class at Warehouse 21 here in Santa Fe, and have fun helping kids learn how to do various and sundry things with PS like cut pro wrestlers out of photos and paste them in midair over the Himalayas (that was three weeks ago) or…tweak the facades of unsuspecting musicians whose pictures happen to get posted on Morgue File (a free photo website and fabulous resource for Photoshop teachers like moi).

But before I go into that, I need to detail a long overdue THANKS…to the invisible bunch who organized, and just disassembled, the New Mexico Free Press. Up until Tuesday at about 5 pm, I was the Art Director for this “community” paper. The title had become a bit of a misnomer–in August I opted out of full-time employee status and became a contractor during heavy production days. I stopped writing my column for them a couple of weeks later, and tapered off doing photography and any other writing. Why? I just couldn’t deal with what the paper had become (but, uh, still needed the money thanks to those rather ravenous and lovely kids I have living in my house).

I was hired in January 2008 to help build what was supposed to be a positive community newspaper. I was encouraged to bring all my skills and passion to the table. The clouds in the masthead? Those are mine, shot a couple of years ago on a daytrip to Wagon Mound with my mom. Through this position I could be creative for 35 hours per week and get paid pretty well for it to boot. I was given free rein to write a column documenting various adventures in my life as a mother of four (all the backstory is in this blog, of course…every single installment I wrote) and was also given the opportunity to be a journalist. I developed story ideas and wrote them up. Covered various events, conducted interviews, went on assignment as “PRESS.” It was exhilarating, and I grew to love journalism more deeply than I thought possible.

Thus, I want to thank those invisible people for that opportunity.

Along the way, however, I came to realize I had become planted in some sort of brave new world. While the publisher danced around the truth about the founders’ intent for the paper, especially when talking to the employees (namely me), the pages grew slowly more conservative–generally following board meetings. One afternoon, I pointed out a problem I had with one of the Viewpoints pages–that we were repeatedly running super-conservative Cal Thomas on the top of the right-hand opinion page while alternating weekly, below his vampiric visage, the more moderate perspectives of Leonard Pitts and Mary Sanchez. I asserted that it amounted to tokenism, smacked of white privilege (not the only instance) and was, in any case, a terribly inaccurate reflection of the community in which we were publishing.

I got shouted down. Literally. Shouting occurred (and yeah, I participated, mostly before a long crying jag in the bathroom followed by cranking Green Day on my iPod at my desk and angrily wondering wtf I was doing working in such a place).

That was only the beginning.

Eventually, Leonard Pitts got a little too excited about Obama, so he was removed from the editorial calendar. Mary Sanchez dissed Palin, and she became columnist-non-grata. The Viewpoints pages became suddenly very white and very male.

Things pretty much regressed from there, and I came to understand that essentially, my worldview clashed entirely with their worldview. They simply were not complementary at all, and yet…

I needed a job.

Further, even in my most miserable moments (more often than not) I felt like it was silly to just give up because our beliefs and attitudes differed.

So, I set out to bring what balance I could to the pages. I did my best to photograph and write about my hometown–the real Santa Fe that the rest of the Free Pressers had no clue about (I can’t count how many times I corrected pronunciation of Spanish names in that office…and spellings in the pages of our paper). I also did what I could to learn what I could about the issues that moved me. I researched climate change like crazy, when I found out that everyone else (with one exception) didn’t believe it was anthropogenic. I wrote two stories about it….and did what I could to bring some truth to the pages. It was something that had to be finessed, lest it be censored, and I strove to keep my opinion out of it (the hallmark of good journalism in any case).

I was happy with how they turned out. (Click to my coverage of a screening of “The Great Global Warming Swindle“…and a feature on an energy breakthrough at MIT.)

In September of last year I insisted on covering Obama’s visit to Espanola, and was beside myself while I was crouched down in the press pen, camera in hand. Though only a pullback crowd shot was published along with a short cutline, it was worth it…partly for the experience, partly for the fact that they really really didn’t want me to go.

“I’d cover McCain’s visit here too, if he ever comes,” I told them. “This is news, for crying out loud.”

But it wasn’t their news.

The entire experience with the Free Press was all at once disheartening and uplifting…frustrating and delightful. Life-changing and…depressing as shit. Really really depressing as shit.

But I owe a huge thanks, again to the invisible ones, for challenging me and holding my assumptions about the world up in my face so that I may get to understand them better, and not take my beliefs for granted. In doing so, I grew. Thank you all for that.

Thank you as well for the repeated opportunity to practice dealing with difficult people. I am forever stronger for that experience.

And finally, thank you for paying me for my time and effort to design and produce your paper. The paychecks helped greatly in my efforts to feed and clothe four members of the newest generation of super liberals.

As I’ve said before and will say one last time…just once more. Onward.

But about that musician….

You see, this fall has been a real downer. A real serious string of depressing and downright sad events. From the disappearance of our friend Mel, to the sudden death of another,…from the end of a very short, but delectable, era…to this newest of news, the end of a longer one. And so many things in the spaces between.

Mostly, it’s all been too much. My perspective has waned.

But this morning, I saw a raven delightedly playing with a Lotaburger bag. It was so cold and icy, the sun shattering the morning edged in snow….and I smiled. Yeah, so many things have sucked lately but sometimes, you turn your head and there’s something amazingly perfect right there waiting to be seen. The raven being dragged down by the fast food bag. Or, last night, the moon rising through scudding golden clouds into the blackest of skies. Life is so beautiful when I stop and just look.

It’s also fun. When asked by one of my Photoshop students if I could help him create a zombie, I sat down to walk him through the process…and found even more of my smile and optimism along the way.

So thanks as well to you, anonymous harpist on the internet. Zombifying your smiling face was ultimately the highlight of my day.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2009 2:52 pm

    Ana, you are such a trooper! You fought the good fight. I especially loved the image of you fuming away with Green Day pounding on the iPod – I have those days!
    I’m glad you got to have all the good parts of that job. Onward and upward, angel!

    • ana june permalink
      December 4, 2009 5:44 pm

      Thank you, Sharon. 🙂
      Another joy I experienced as “Art Director” was publishing wonderful photography by talented people such as yourself. I always just got happy when I knew we’d have another featured photographer/photo of the week/photo contest in the offing… That made at least some of the crap worthwhile.

      Onward. Upward. YES! x0

  2. December 5, 2009 2:07 am

    I know I’m going through an optimistic phase over here, but I just can’t shake the thought that you are on a very definite and excellent path right now, leading to something that will reveal itself soon. From where I stand way over here, it seems like the NM Free Press has been one of the bricklayers of the path, and I for one can’t wait to see where it goes…

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