I don't usually have favorites when it comes to writers. I like good articles. Period. Every writer has good and bad ones. So why then does Mike Sager impress me so? The Esquire writer's ability to tell a story of substance like it was prose helps. And it's his approach that gets him there. Sager doesn't believe a story is built on phone interviews and research. He goes to where the story is. His most fabled journey into a world outside his own is when he joined a group of homeless drug addicts and shot up with them for arts sake. Embedding himself in the reality of the story is his calling, his cache, his id. And it works wonders. When I saw his interview with Media Bistro, I had to commend him. So I sent him an e-mail, highlighting one quote in particular.
"If you don't have to write, go get an MBA or go be a boring lawyer. But if you have to do it -- like Gene Kelly sings in that old movie, "Gotta dance!" -- try it for a few years and see what happens."
I happen to get joy out of writing and business. But I also realize the business approach to modern media, which churns out short, weightless things (I can hardly call them articles) is killing quality. I ranted about it a bit in my e-mail and shared my desire to work with not just noteworthy publications, but publications that happened to actually give a damn about putting out something worth reading. Part of his response fit a lifetime of encouragement into less than 20 words.
"Heart is everything. Stay true, work hard. Don't compete, be yourself. I love your name. Great lookin byline."
Sager, by the way, just started writing a bi-weekly opinion column for sandiego.com. And I look forward to it. Opinion on pop culture by any old writer is one thing. But Sager's experience in the field, so to speak, gives him a variety of real life perspectives to draw from and a cultural lens that I imagine would help him hone in on the real life ramifications of pop culture better than many. The approach is exemplified in yet another quote from the same mediabistro.com interview.
"As a human being, you need to get out of your house, even if you don't like to, which I don't, and go see how other people live. You can't sit in your room and get smart, no matter how many books you read or Web sites you visit."
First up? John Edwards, Tiger Woods, and the age of infidelity.
Read entire article at sandiego.com.