Girls just wanna have fun, boys just wanna be dumb, and writers just want to write. Better yet, they want people to read their writing.
This is what a devoted diaspora of now-freelance journalists continues to do in West Michigan. We join legions of writers nationwide set loose into the marketplace by the downsizing of the newspaper industry. Nobody’s sure whether newspapers will survive in the long run, but you can bet that writers will still write wherever and in whatever form they can.
We pin our hopes on our passion for words, the belief that someone will always want to read them – and on our faith that the writing and reading of stories can still make a difference.
Let me introduce you to two of these talented and faithful freelancers: John Sinkevics and Ruth Butler, both longtime friends, smart observers of this thing called life, and truly gifted writers.
John – better known as Sink to his friends and coworkers — is my intrepid bandmate for 26 years in our eternal garage-rock project The Honeytones, and former longtime music critic for The Grand Rapids Press/Mlive. Besides playing a mean keyboard and belting out surprisingly savage vocals on “Beds Are Burning” and “Hey Bulldog” – not to mention playing through a downpour at Festival one year and draining the rain off his keyboard — Sink is a consummate pro and skilled, insightful reporter.
Since leaving the Press earlier this year, he has maintained a music blog, Spins on Music, which you will find in my blog roll. It is an entertaining and reliable guide to the latest in the West Michigan music scene, continuing John’s faithful coverage that earned him an award at the WYCE Jammies this year. From troubadours and guitar heroes to sound guys and promoters, Sink knows local music like the back of his keyboard, and it shows in Spins on Music.
Recent entries include a piece on the regrettable closing of the Ottawa Tavern as a jazz club – when will such a thing take hold in our fair city? – and the carryings on of the Electric Forest festival in Rothbury. Aided by a smartly composed video, John helps us city slickers envision what goes on up there in the woods. To me, it looks like Tolkien’s elvish realm of Lothlorien invaded by percussion-hammering, hula-hooping hippies and light-show wizards from the Sixties Fillmore Auditorium.
It’s altogether entertaining and informative, taking me places I couldn’t get to but can experience a bit of thanks to Sink.
If Sink’s writings take him from jazz clubs to Meijer Gardens to forests where the wild things are, Ruth Butler’s musings take us from pop culture to politics to the little annoyances-slash-blessings of daily life.
Ruth Ann, as I affectionately call her, is well-known in these parts as a longtime columnist for The Press, and a TV critic for many years prior. She was also my editor on the religion beat, gently correcting my mistakes, suggesting improvements and saving me from embarrassing foolishness in print.
Ruth and I go back a long ways, including years working in the features department formerly known as Flair. There we enjoyed sparring, over our desks and occasionally in print, on issues of the day great and small. OK, mostly small, like the real reason men wear neckties (you’ll have to ask Ruth).
Ruth, like me and several others, took a voluntary buyout from The Press in 2009. She now maintains a freelance blog and smartly designed Web site, also to be found on my blogroll.
Here, in a regular Sunday column and other postings, Ruth zeroes in on issues sometimes overlooked by the major media. She recently and rightly zeroed in on Ann Romney for her flippant comment that she loves the fact some women don’t have a choice but to work and still raise kids. Writes Ruth, “As in: I LOVE the new Coco-inspired jewelry.” Ouch!
Ruth Ann also took a well-aimed and fully deserved shot at our state legislators who silenced the Rep. Lisa Brown for using the word “vagina” in debating an anti-abortion bill. In her usual cut-to-the-chase style, Ruth wryly observed, “mentioning body parts is only offensive in places where people have the power to make laws regarding them.” Ouch again!
Whether commenting on the halls of power or the woodland playgrounds of hipsters, Ruth Ann and Sink have things to say well worth reading. As a fellow writer in the freelance wilderness, I highly recommend their words. I guarantee you’ll find them agreeable and informative company.