In what feels like a different life at this point, during my final year in San Francisco I wrote a number of articles for an online publication called “The Bold Italic”. This was 2011 and while I’d been writing a great deal to that point, it was mostly for my website The Tender or a bit of wine commentary. But, the work on The Tender, which I feel was and still is some of my and Editor-in-Chief’s best work led to a meeting with the editor of this Bold Italic at a neighborhood bloggers meeting.
The Bold Italic (a name I never liked as it was in love with its own cuteness) was created by media giant Gannett and given that they really had no clue what they were doing in the digital realm, they worked with a company called Ideo to build and release it. Along the way, a girl who was a project manager at Ideo came on board as the Editor-in-Chief of this new venture. This is of course despite having no background in editing, writing, or much of seemingly anything other than answering emails and scheduling meetings.
This is why it was all-the-more curious that sending emails with story ideas to this new venture went nowhere and it wasn’t until this bloggers meeting (which was actually for something else) that there was a tiny glimmer of connection. This did not immediately spark any form of prolific flame however and it was literally months of emails wherein I’d reply to then be unanswered until a few weeks later. Let me emphasize that this dragging process was for a single story idea that had long been agreed upon but seemed impossible to commit to. I assume because it was about the Tenderloin and that wasn’t “cool” back in 2010 when the email conversation started. Never before and never since have I had a pitch cycle take that fucking long, even with print publications.
The problem was that Gannett was throwing ungodly sums of money into a project that was being run by a type of editor I called the Editor-in-Kneeboots. Being a freelance writer, I work with a lot of editors who are almost all women and the ones where I have an ongoing professional relationship are fantastic. Whether they’re a writer themselves or not, it’s irrelevant as they take an article I send, work it over for their length requirements, and then come back to me to make adjustments where needed, which are thankfully scant. It’s not really that hard if you’re competent.
The Editor-in-Kneeboots is not. It’s a type that has become incredibly prevalent in both digital publication startups or then the digital arms of print publications. It’s also a type that is mostly seen in the US. They’re the type that replies to an article pitch asking how it’s “newsy” or once you submit something they commissioned they might just decide not to run it without any explanation, or then they’ll make idiotic edits just to show they’re doing something to the text, and they will always, always change the title of the article. Make no mistake, there is a male version of the Editor-in-Kneeboots, but they make up only 10% of the entire lame editor demographic so I don’t even have a good name for them other than Editor-in-Hipsterpants.
Needless to say, one Editor-in-Kneeboots begat multiple Editors-in-Kneeboots as well as one or two token Editors-in-Hipsterpants. The Bold Italic unsurprisingly failed after spending who knows how many hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. As their asking price when deciding to sell it was $5 million, one can only assume that they’d sunk upwards of that into the thing. By the way, it was bought be some techies for assuredly much less and has now been left to whither on the web.
Its legacy is that it was generally reviled in San Francisco because it was overall shallow, superficial, and pointless. You could expect little more with the finely-honed, knee-booted team that was running the joint. Amazingly, they did shit can this first editor that I was working with, so someone there had sense along the way. Of course, I think it was mainly due to the fact that she wasn’t figuring out any revenue streams and not because she was the worst editor I’ve ever had to work with.
Despite all of this, the articles I wrote there I was generally happy with and given that someday this site will fully vanish, I’m moving all of them here to my own site for the sake of posterity. It’s shocking to think that this here heap of bits has been around for 14 years already, but it’s proven more resilient than websites with an actual budget behind them!
Below are all the articles and backdated to when they actually ran. Because of this, I’m going to put them up over a period of time so as not to inundate my two readers with a wall of text. Otherwise, enjoy! And beware the Editor-in-Kneeboots :(