There goes that revenue stream

It appears I no longer have a business relationship with a magazine that I scored several articles with last year — enough assignments, in fact, to pay for a long Fourth of July weekend at the Shore. I know exactly why it happened, too. I could even see it happening, but like one of those nightmares you first read about in H.P. Lovecraft, I was unable to halt the horror that unfolded before my eyes.
The problem started when an assistant editor asked me to do a profile of an auto company executive under conditions and limitations of time and space that were frankly insane. She wanted to do a Q&A format within a word count tighter than a flea’s navel, with the theme of the Q&A to emerge somehow from the information to be garnered through the interview with the executive.
At this point, I could have given her one of several responses, ranging in politeness from “Gee, I dunno, maybe we oughta hone that down a bit before we use up this guy’s time,” to “Are you on fucking crack?” Unfortunately, I the answer I gave was precisely the wrong one: “Sure, let’s go.” After all, I’ve had promising editorial contacts go up in a puff of smoke because I wasn’t immediately available to turn an editorial brainstorm into a pile of finished copy. In the freelance world, it’s Mr. Yes who gets his phone calls returned while Mr. No sighs and fires off some more inquiries.
So the chopped-down article was a disaster, and the executive — who had been under the impression he would be the subject of a much longer profile — ended up pissed off that his time had been wasted. Who was to blame for this terrible situation? Hmmmm . . .
There may be a parallel universe in which assistant editors do a Kulervo and fall on their swords when an article gets screwed, but we don’t live in that universe, and frankly I get a full measure of blame as well. I should have done like the title of the blues song and told her to find another fool.
So — no more assignments from that particular source. I said yes when I should have said no. Oh well. I’ve been in situations where I did the same thing and the consequences were much messier and much worse.

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