The granddaddy of Brooklyn advertising circulars, Newsday’s Marketeer, has folded after more than 20 years, depriving tens of thousands of coupon clippers of local business bargains.
For me, the loss is personal.
Before Marketeer was purchased by Newsday in the late 90s, I was a columnist. It was my first writing gig, and I was all of 13 years old. I wrote a kid’s column for about half a year, part of the paper’s effort to expand offerings by adding value for parents. Without much guidance, a school buddy and I wrote weekly columns about video games, toys, local shops, et cetera.
We got the jobs just after getting our working papers. We were both eager to make money to buy – I don’t know what – and after school we went up and down the main drags in Sheepshead Bay going business to business. No one wanted so much as someone to sweep the floor, and the day was getting depressing. On our way home, as a last ditch attempt, we decided to see if Marketeer could use us alongside the Caribbean immigrants who tossed papers in front of people’s doorsteps.
But we walked in at what seemed to us a miraculous perfection of “time and place.” They must have just been discussing the idea of having kids write a kids column, and they sent us on our way, grins as wide as the Grand Canyon on our faces, to start our weekly columns.
My first article appeared on Valentine’s Day of 1997. It was about a local pet shop on Sheepshead Bay Road, and the care the owner gave to her pets and her clients that differentiated her from other pet stores in the area. My buddy, Jeff, wrote a comparison of N64 and Playstation – both recent releases (neither of which he had actually used).
They never paid us. They said it was against their policy to pay minors. They said maybe they could give us savings bonds.
We were hoodwinked. What we eventually got were occasional tickets to Mets games and WWF matches, and I think once a hockey game. I sold all of mine to classmates and probably in the entire time of working there made a whopping total of $150.
But I still made off from my little gig at the Marketeer. That job is probably one of the most important that I’ve had in my life. Until then, I had never written for anything but school. My teachers never complimented my writing, nor should they have, as I was a bratty 13-year-old who blew through reports just to get done. I definitely never considered a career in it.
Fast forward to what was probably my eighth column. Remember those dolls that pee’d and poo’d and cried aloud, “Ewwy pee, Mommy! Ewwy pee!”? I hated the commercial for that doll. I’d sit there, munching on some cereal in the morning before school, or a pallet of Ellio’s Pizza when I returned, and that thing would cry out about crapping its pants. It was as disgusting to me as ill-timed tampon commercials were when I was around 15.
I wrote a scathing review of the doll, expressing every ounce of my bilious disgust. I protested its poop, and questioned why anyone would want a doll that pees, cries, and craps. I really hated that doll. I still do.
But that article taught me a lot about writing. I received about 10 letters – about half in agreement, half against. Before that, no one had ever sent a letter for anything. It was a moment of triumph, a moment of victory.
That was my first lesson in journalism: anger provokes a response.
I was power hungry. I figured I could go on like this forever, pull in millions of fans who subscribed to my weekly bloodthirst. I’d be a prophet of the pissed, pulling a hat trick of hatred.
For my next article I tried the same thing. I ripped into something else, I don’t remember what. I did the same for the one after that. I feigned a lot of it. I phoned it in. I just wanted the responses. When none came, I felt like I was stripped by some superior force of all my glory, all my pride. I sat forlorn.
That was my second lesson in journalism: Don’t be a one-trick pony; always be genuine.
One day towards the end of my run (I had decided to leave because I wanted money, not promises of tickets to see steroid-abusers grapple each other), I received one last letter. It was from an older woman. She thanked me and my buddy for our work. She enjoyed reading it, and she gave them to her daughters.
That was the final lesson from my stint as the Marketeer’s kid’s columnist: Be confident, and keep on writing. Someone will appreciate it.
Ten years after an advertising behemoth toyed with the notion of running content alongside its ads, the paper has shuttered.
So long, Marketeer.