18 9 / 2013
"I had the pleasure of arresting Mr. McCollough [sic] in Tennessee when he and his girlfriend were in Knoxville. They both had too much to drink and were arguing over Marlboro points when they were in town looking for the hotel where Hank Williams Sr. died. He asked me if I would keep his goat for him while he was in jail. I did. Willy and Freda both left town on bond and never came back. He would call a couple of times a year to check on his goat. The goat died five years later, but Willy still called to say hello at Christmas. I still have his Zippo lighter he left in the back seat of my patrol car."
03 7 / 2013
I interviewed Steve Carell in a fancy hotel room by the ocean. We discussed how tired we both were, our pre-occupation with Preston Sturges, and how much he loves Taylor Swift. There were so many things I wanted to say to him.
A nicer man there may not be.
28 6 / 2013
"Of course if you get that much positive attention you’re bound to get a fair amount of negative attention, and I don’t much enjoy that. One learns to be philosophical. One learns to discount a whole lot of stuff. If you can’t discount praise, then you’re in for a lot of trouble. I’ve tended to discount everything, and the longer I live, the more I discount it. It’s the only way to keep your wits, really, and not just be torn to shreds by being noticed or not noticed."
24 5 / 2013
08 4 / 2013
"Besides selling banner displays and short ads that play before its videos, Vice offers its advertisers the option of funding an entire project in exchange for being listed as co-creator and having editorial input. Advertisers can pay for a single video, or, for a higher price—one to five million dollars for twelve episodes, according to Vice—they can pay for an entire series, on a topic that dovetails with the company’s image. (The North Face, the outdoors company, recently sponsored a series called “Far Out,” in which Vice staffers visit people living in “the most remote places on Earth.”)"
When I drove around the country for 10 weeks in 2011, it was during a road trip sponsored by Ford and Visa, almost two years before “native advertising” was printed in seemingly every other media story you were reading this week. The credit card company didn’t ask me to do a single thing during the project; Ford asked that we make a video inside an enormous production facility on the fringes of Chicago that, as reporters, we would have been prohibited from visiting. We were guided by minders to specific areas of the plant but we were never told what we were or were not allowed to shoot. Ford did not approve our final video or our final story.
A few weeks later, Ford asked us to contact a dealer in, as I recall, the Carolinas to set up another shoot. When I called the dealer and left a voicemail, he didn’t return my call. I took that as a sign that I was off the hook. I didn’t hear another word from Ford for the rest of the trip, even after I attempted to bake cookies on the engine block of their loaner vehicle while driving the Natchez Trace Parkway (failure) or after I warmed up some Pop Tarts on the engine block the morning of the final Space Shuttle launch (success). In multiple published photos, Stephen Greenwood, the videographer who was on the road with me, was standing on top of the vehicle, which is probably not in line with the stated marketing goals of the company. And yet, my phone didn’t ring.
Meanwhile, because we had the financial backing of two sponsors and, at this point, complete editorial freedom, we decided to do stories about a nascent art colony in small-town Kentucky, a community-minded T-shirt shop in New Orleans, the rebuilding of a tornado-ravaged town in Missouri, the weirdness of Marfa, Texas and a “spaceport” in the New Mexico desert. I also called South of the Border the country’s biggest tourist trap and pointed out that “lazy Mexican” is not an appropriate theme for a highway rest stop, a point with which some AOL readers took considerable umbrage.
In a post-mortem of the 10-week project, a business-side manager who helped broker the sales package recognized that we did a fantastic job hitting our deliverables, which were, both in his mind and on paper, a set amount of traffic from both viral clicks and placements on the front of AOL.com. Because of our story selection and execution, we hit the goals in five weeks, not the allotted 10, and I thought that was something worth bragging about. He disagreed: Couldn’t we get the same amount of clicks without sending people out on the road to create this kind of original content?