Entering a contest for a job… sound familiar?

A couple weeks back I clicked over to The Washington Post to read about the Redskins. This is my daily torture. The thinking is that news about the team can’t always be bad; this season has taught me that it can. My mouse missed the “Sports” pull-down menu and landed on the link for “America’s Next Great Pundit.” Clicking led me to this…

The Washington Post opinions section is asking people around the country to tell us why they deserve to publish their opinions in The Washington Post and be the next Dana Milbank or Eugene Robinson. Ten contestants will be picked from among all the entrants, and then the field will by narrowed down by rounds of challenges testing the skills a modern pundit must possess. They’ll have to write on deadline, hold their own on video, and field questions from Post readers. After each round, a panel of Post personalities and reader votes will help determine who gets another chance at a byline and who has to shut down their laptop. The ultimate winner will get the opportunity to write a 13-week column that may appear in the print and/or online editions of The Washington Post.

It’s a contest for a job, kind of like every listing on every job site, but with some publicity behind it. And I suppose most companies don’t lay out the interview process for candidates in advance and then conduct those interviews in public. Otherwise, what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a job listing. The contest also bears a striking resemblance to Reality TV, with more ink and less silicone and plastic. People can risk making fools of themselves to be the last person standing. Alas, there’s no Flavor Flav or Bret Michaels or Mr. and Ms. Douchebag Von Dingbat to boost our self images. But The Washington Post is definitely spreading the disease that’s taken over my cable box.

Their overall goal here is to generate excitement with the readership, some sort of connection to the public. The newspaper industry isn’t exactly minting money these days. People get their news online, and ad revenue is way down. The wall that’s separated the media and the public has come down. Citizen journalism and crowdsourcing are all the rage, so why no co-opt them? Maybe there’s a hidden talent out there, or at least some worthwhile free content. And all the chatter that this contest has generated among the digerati can’t hurt.

I’m alright with all this. Every last bit is just peachy-keen with me. I play the job search game everyday, for hours on end. It’s so much more fun than “God Of War” or “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” or full-contact Parcheesi. I never win, as evidenced by my ongoing unemployment and blog. But I play and play and play. There’s even a home version of the game coming to a Toys R Us near you. It’s called “A Norm’s Life,” and it’s perfect for that loved one you don’t like so much and want to scar a little. Check the discount bin this holiday season, below the anatomically correct Barbies. I also play the “here’s my content, please steal it” game. Bots scrape my site all the time, and the posts show up in random places – travel and plumbing sites being the most common. Blogging is public. Leave anything out front long enough and someone will steal it. (Queens residents should change “long enough” to “for three seconds.”)

And why not me? That’s what I ask myself whenever I send off a resume. So the question applies here too. I have opinions on stuff, and can make things up on the spot. I’m media savvy, given my college radio shows, a few TV appearances and this blog. And I defy you to find someone better looking in the punditry field, Rush Limbaugh aside, of course. Go ahead, turn on CNN or Fox News. There’s no one.

I read through the official rules just to be sure. Entry requires a 400-word article on a current issue and a 100-word paragraph describing why I’m the best choice. Everything else is pretty standard – 18 or older, US resident, no purchase necessary. So the other night, writing against a deadline, I banged out my entry. The subject is the term “jobless recovery,” and why the whole idea is more ridiculous than the premise for “Gilligan’s Island.” Maybe the actual sitcom comparison got edited out of the final draft. I had a word limit. But the spirit is there. This could be my chance, after months of looking for work. As we say in the job search biz, 7456 is a charm.

A jobless recovery means no recovery for the unemployed

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  1. Ben wrote:

    Go for it, Norm. As they say in Philly, “Why can’t us?”

    Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Patte wrote:


    I’m feeling really good about this. I think you have a really great shot at this one…The Post should be so lucky!

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

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