Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Wildwood Defense

A few people have accused me lately of excluding Wildwood from my recent shore writings and interviews I've given about the book. The most recent was from a local writer on a story I wrote about Best Beach Bargains.

Normally, I wouldn't comment - especially to a statement that is so false it's laughable.

But this kind of stuff can damage my reputation as a shore expert, and I think explaining how I pick what places go in articles, and how I chose what to talk about, would be interesting to some people.

So let's cue up the Bobby Rydell and look at what I've been saying about the Wildwoods lately.

Talking about barrier island towns with Eating in South Jersey.

At my Haddonfield Library talk, I discussed how some shore towns seem to identify with different areas in Philadelphia. That's mentioned in this report about the event. What she didn't mention was the long discussion I had with the audience about the Wildwood boardwalk, where I vehemently defended the safety of the rides at Morey's Piers, and how much the boardwalk has improved since the fatal boardwalk fires of the 1970s (not that I blame the reporter - I talked about a LOT that night)

Speaking of Morey's, I gave perhaps my longest comment about the incident to Jersey Kids. I also recommended the American Inn in Wildwood to anyone who still wanted to book a shore vacation for not a lot of money (they drop the price down the week before Labor Day).

And before the accident, I'd touted the Breakfast in the Sky deal that you could get in Wildwood on that Ferris Wheel to the Patriot-News.

Then there's the items you can't see. The Wildwoods figured prominently in my Jersey Shore trivia round at the Pop Shop on Monday night.

In August, I have not one but two articles in SJ Magazine that feature the Wildwoods heavily. I even emailed with the editor today to get one more Wildwood spot in the Best of the Shore feature because after going there on Saturday, I thought it deserved to be wormed in (she said yes).

And then there's the book, of course. It seems obvious to put that on the list, but one of the commenters, in an exchange on Twitter, admitted that she hadn't read it. I don't see how anyone can say I don't ever write about Wildwood when there's a big chapter dedicated to it in the book. Anyway.

For fun, let's go back to stories I've written about Wildwood in the past. Want another video? OK:

My first travel piece for the New York Times was about West Wildwood.

One of my favorite Homes pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer is about a house in Wildwood Crest.

Both the Starlux AND the Caribbean were highlighted in this piece I wrote for New Jersey Monthly about cool boutique hotels at the Jersey Shore.

In that same issue, I also write about Ignis Fatuus, a Moreys Piers attraction.

I wrote about Will and Jack Morey in this article for what used to be called New Jersey Life (it's no longer available on the magazine's website, so please excuse the reprint link).

And Wildwood's beaches got the top spot in this piece about free things to do down the shore.

I could go on...but I think I've proven my point.

Which leads me to how I pick what I write about and what I talk about. Here are three general factors:

1. What are editors buying? For every story I get into print, at least five ideas are rejected. This year, Wildwood stories just weren't selling. They sure did last year (which is one of the reasons I put up that list of previous stories), but this year? Editors wanted Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Ocean City and Cape May. Those are the story ideas they bought from me, or assigned to me, so that's what I wrote. The other ideas about other towns will go into my pitch file to be brought out again next year. Sometimes they sell. It took me three years to get this one into print. I'm persistent in stories I believe in. Some of those are Wildwood stories. They just didn't get past the editorial hurdle this year.

2. How many spots am I given? One post that received one of the Wildwood comments was this one. Chris asked me to give him five places for the entire Jersey Shore. So that's five places out of the 140+ miles of beach that is known as the Jersey Shore. There are dozens of shore towns. I'm not slighting someone but not putting them on the list. It'd be impossible to include everyone. Even in the long feature I did for Edible Jersey about shore foods, I couldn't include everyone. I tried, but this isn't the All Star game. Not every town gets a representative.

3. What do they want in their round ups? This goes for stories that I write, guest blog posts, and interviews. Before the interview with the Patriot-News, I was told that he wanted what would be considered luxuries. Breakfast in the Sky was one of them. For the piece where one of the comments lies, my editor said that he wanted a free beach with free, easy parking. That beach is Strathmere, not the beaches of the Wildwoods. They're too crowded in season to be considered beaches with easy parking. Plus, there's meters where Strathmere has none. So Strathmere made the list. Back to that post for Chris, he wanted very VERY specific things to recommend, and not the obvious places, which is why I picked the items I did. I was criticized for not writing about the Wildwood Boardwalk. That's too obvious. So was Lucy the Elephant, who also didn't make the cut. Instead, I chose to write about one special ride on one pier in Ocean City. That's not a slight to Wildwood. That's doing what Chris asked me to do.

I don't keep a tally of what towns get mentioned where. There is no keeping score. I'm not paid by anyone to talk about their town more than another. That'd be against the journalistic ethics I maintain. I'm rarely pitched by PR people on what to write about, and they never pressure me into making sure they get mentioned in every article. While I'm conscious of trying not to repeat the same places over again, I'm going to write about or talk about exactly what I think the audience wants to read or hear about, whether that's an editor assigning me a story, or a blogger asking me to do a guest post. If you ask me to recommend a family friend boardwalk, I'm always going to say Ocean City. And if you ask me the best place to take teenagers for rides and/or water parks? The answer will always be Wildwood. I can't control the kinds of questions that are asked, or who asks them. I just answer them the best that I can.

I know, that's a long response. But this has really bothered me. For these people to dash of something they're assuming by looking at a sliver of my body of work - it's not just unprofessional, it's potentially damaging.

So there. I had my say.

Now, shall we end with a video? Take us out, Floss Stingel:

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1 comment:

Joy said...

Well put Jen! You know I love Wildwood, and I sometimes get bent outta shape when people look down on it or forget about it. But I also know how what we're presented with in the media gets there and I'd never ever think you were trying to leave it off the list of places to visit down the shore.