What Is The Daily Banter? Part 5: A Way Out

A couple weeks ago while I was back in Miami for my holiday vacation, I started having thoughts I’d rather not have. They involved the TV news business and the question of whether or not it would be a good idea to get back into it. I have very close friends in powerful positions within the industry and despite the eight years I’ve spent mercilessly tearing TV news apart online, believe it or not there are people out there who remember that I used to be a pretty decent producer and who for some reason value my pain-in-the-ass honesty. I was envisioning myself once again stalking around a newsroom with my ’97 Marlins World Series bat in my hand; back in the darkness of a control room with my old headset on; wearing the plain white t-shirt I always wore on the first day of sweeps, my one and only concession to superstition. I’ve always known that if the right offer came along I’d consider getting back in, but for the first time in a very long time I was feeling like the threshold for that “right offer” might be lower than I’d convinced myself.

But then I remembered something: TV news is a fucking nightmare and I struggled for years to get out of it. It’s only the fact that I’ve been removed from it for as long as I have that I’m able to romanticize life in a television newsroom. Yeah, the extraordinary benefits that come with working for a big media company would be nice and I admit that I occasionally long for the pirate ship camaraderie of working with a group of people who all suffer together, but what I have right now is better than all of that and I know it.

When Ben first came up with the idea of having each of us explain what the Banter is, I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak for anybody else here nor would I be able to speak for the readers. I have no idea what this site means for my colleagues other than what they’ve communicated so far and I definitely don’t know what it means for you. All I can say is what the Banter is to me — and that’s the gig I always dreamed of getting. Throughout my life most of my idols have been people in the miraculous position of being paid to be themselves and that’s what each of us has here at the Banter. We have near-complete editorial and creative freedom and what I hope it’s created is a publication where our individual personalities not only shine through but are invaluable, together making up this site’s singular voice. I get to wake up every morning, plant myself on the couch and write about what I feel like writing about — saying what I think needs to be said or at least what I want to say — and somehow get paid for it. I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder or telling me I’m out of my mind and that what I want to do can’t or shouldn’t be done. I think that freedom is what makes me better at what I do.

It’s no secret that there are times I’d rather do anything other than write. Yes, I get paid to do something I enjoy but output is still a requirement and after a while you start to go nuts trying to find the drive to put arguments onto the digital page. Working here means I have to pay attention to politics and the media and every little thing that’s pissing people off on Twitter — and there are days that I want to do nothing of the sort, days I want to just bury myself under the covers and not have to deal with any of it. It gets to you, not being able to tune out completely. But that’s where the freedom comes in. While what we do here needs to be topical and it tends to be left-leaning but practical politically, no one is forced to cover a topic he or she doesn’t feel in their guts somewhere. One of the things Ben understands is that if you’re asking people to produce not only decent copy but a hell of a lot of it, you’ve got to give them latitude to go after mostly what they’re passionate about. We’re paid for our personalities and the individual prisms through which we see the world as well as our ability to churn out entertaining, hopefully informative content.

A couple of years ago, Ben approached Cesca and me about coming to write for him. He had already helped to fund our respective blogs and he made it clear right off the bat that what he wanted to do was see the two of us get paid for what we’d essentially been doing all along. This was his mission: to set up an outlet where writers with distinctive voices could do what they were best at, removed from the bureaucracy and ideological demands that bog down many opinion sites. What’s more, he wanted to make sure his writers were paid for their work and paid relatively well. While I loved my blog and still do — it will always be my home on the internet — I had lost a high-paying job at CNN and made myself a pariah in the only industry I’d ever known, all because I wanted to be a loud-mouthed little shit online. I wanted to be paid to be me and here was that chance. I’m really glad I took it, because what you read here every day is what I spent years working toward. I sacrificed a hell of a lot to be able to say what I wanted to and still be able to keep a roof over my head.

Yeah, I still wonder about a life back in TV news sometimes. But then I remember what I’ve got here. I remember how absolutely fucking lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing: writing for The Daily Banter. And doing it mostly in my pajamas.

Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.