The AJC application asked for three sample 500-word columns, and somewhat annoyingly, provided the topics for all three. For the first, the topic was, reasonably enough, "Why do you think you are the best person for this job?"
I very deliberately set out to be combative and more than a little arrogant here. I wanted to get the message across that if the paper was looking for a nice, safe David Brooks "conservative," I was not their guy, but if they were serious about trying to reach a vast readership that they'd been spending the last few decades alternately ignoring and insulting, as well as get access to an existing readership entirely apart from the AJC's normal "base," I was the ideal choice.
I wanted to remind this specific audience that their paper is in dire trouble, and if they want to recover, they're going to have to stop sneering at their potential customers and start speaking a language those would-be readers haven't been hearing for a long time.
For a movie analogy, you can break this column down to one line from The Road Warrior: You want to get out of here, talk to me.
Like many newspapers across the country, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is hemorrhaging subscribers and casual readers at an accelerating clip.
One reason for the decline is obviously the internet, but the AJC has problems that go deeper than lost advertising sales to Cragslist. Intentionally or not, since the death of Lewis Grizzard the AJC has lost the eyes of conservatives—who just happen to comprise a hefty majority of the paper’s potential readership.
Anyone who thinks political correctness is ripe for mockery, anyone who finds the science fiction of Al Gore to be risible, anyone who dares question the deification of Barack Obama—these people have long since given up on the AJC, because the AJC has given them few reasons to pick up the paper.
If the AJC is ever going to bring these people back, the paper has to give them something—or someone—who’s not only on their side, but also engaging enough to make them want a regular helping.
There are a lot of conservatives in Atlanta. No doubt many of them can write well. What the AJC needs is a writer who can connect with the region’s conservatives and build an audience eager to come back for more.
That would be me.
Over the past dozen years, I’ve built a readership online. After I joined VodkaPundit, that blog’s readership nearly doubled. “Will Collier” is a familiar name to the vast audiences of Instapundit and National Review Online, arguably the two most prominent sites in the right-of-center blogosphere. I can bring that readership to the AJC and AJC.com starting on day one.
As a one-man show responsible for maintaining my own credibility, I’ve built a track record for solid analysis as well as entertaining copy. I’m a known quantity to major media figures like Howard Kurtz and Andrew Breitbart. You are unlikely to find any candidate more wired in to the modern conservative/libertarian ecosphere, while simultaneously not beholden to the Republican Party apparatus—with a prior career working alongside the uniformed military to boot.
I’m a native Southerner, born and raised in Alabama, and a metro Atlantan who found his home here eight years ago. I’ve lived in both of Georgia’s worlds, with half a lifetime spent in a small town, and an adulthood here in this city that I very quickly came to love.
The AJC is making an attempt to reach out to conservatives—and it’s about time. Make the most of it by giving them a columnist they can look forward to reading, one who is as conversant in technology, blog parlance, popular culture and the South’s political history as he is in national affairs. Do yourself a favor by hiring a columnist who’s proven he can build an audience among the people you want to reach.
Again: that would be me.
Postscript: This column contains--or rather does not contain--my one regret out of this entire experience, in that it gives no shrift at all to Jim Wooten, the AJC's outgoing conservative columnist. Wooten emphatically did not deserve any sort of snub. He is a fine, clever writer and a clear thinker at a paper that's sorely lacking in all of the above. I should have found at least a few words out of that five hundred to say as much.
Otherwise, I stand by this one in its entirety. I don't know what the AJC is actually looking for in this token conservative position, but if they wind up with a David Brooks, or worse, for somebody whose real job is to serve as a talisman against liberal-bias criticism, then they're just putting a new coat of paint an old rattletrap.