Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My New Gig on

My posts here have been sporadic lately, owing in part to my paying closer attention to a new writing gig I began about two weeks ago.

I really fell into it at random. Somehow I found myself on the page of the Charlottesville Events Examiner and I noticed a button marked "write for us." Curious, I clicked on it, and within minutes I had filled out an application to fill the vacancy for the "Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner."

The instructions indicated that it could take as long as two weeks to process the application, so I left it there expecting to hear back sometime in the future. Yet within 24 hours I had received an email saying that my application had been accepted, but in order to confirm my interest in being a writer for, I had to post something within a day.

I scrambled to put something together, wondering what would fit's rather specific guidelines for good article writing. I finally settled on repurposing a blog post I had written in February about "affordable housing." That became "Concerns about the affordability of ‘affordable housing’ in Charlottesville," the first of my (so far) 17 articles on politics and policy on

In my next piece, I drew upon video I took at a Students for Individual Liberty event at the University of Virginia, at which Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education answered a question I posed about the case before the U.S. Supreme Court called Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  Both FIRE and Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty filed friend-of-the-court briefs in that case.  The Court heard oral arguments in CLS v. Martinez on Monday, April 19.  My piece was called "Will the U.S. Supreme Court uphold freedom of expressive association?"

Let me note, parenthetically but with some pride, that GLIL's brief was cited favorably by William McGurn in Monday's Wall Street Journal.  McGurn writes:
That public/private distinction helps explain why CLS has also found allies in the libertarian Cato Institute and Gays & Lesbians for Individual Liberty. In their own brief, this latter group stresses that it was the ability of gay Americans to form gay associations—whose membership rules they defined for themselves—that gave them a collective voice in the face of an often hostile majority.

Presumably Gays & Lesbians for Individual Liberty do not share the CLS view of human sexuality. But they understand exactly where Dean Martinez's logic is taking us.

"[U]nder Hastings' forced membership policy, only majority viewpoints (or those viewpoints too banal to interest the majority) are actually assured a voice in Hastings' forum," argues their brief. "That is a patently unreasonable way to 'promote a diversity of viewpoints.'"

Exactly. Traditionally the American contribution to diversity has been the encouragement of thriving—and competing—private institutions and associations. Unfortunately, on American campuses today we see the opposite: an expanding government role in everything from research to how schools are accredited and how student loans are administered. One unintended consequence is that our culture wars are going to escalate as our courts are forced to take up a great many more cases like Hastings.
This is a digression; I hope to write more about CLS v. Martinez before the Supreme Court issues its ruling in June.

My next also recycled something I had written earlier, with a local and current hook: "Is 'income inequality' a serious problem?" With this article, I first experimented with searching the AP archives and using an AP photograph, which I could never do on this blog because that would be stealing, but which I can do on because the parent web site has permission -- actually, pays for a license -- to use AP photos. That's why the article has a shot of Alan Greenspan testifying before Congress.

With my fourth article, "Five reasons to be a libertarian," I began another experiment: carrying with me an audio recorder and asking people to talk into it in response to questions I ask them. In this case, I asked five members of the Jefferson Area Libertarians to explain what it means to be a libertarian.

The next four articles were the result of my attending a Cato Institute briefing on transportation issues in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.  I was able to speak briefly with Cato's Randal O'Toole, the Heritage Foundation's Ronald Utt, and the Reason Foundation's Robert Poole.  The articles drawn from those interviews are: exclusive - Randal O'Toole on Virginia high-speed rail
Aviation policy expert Robert Poole talks about transportation privatization
Heritage Foundation's Ronald Utt discusses commercialization of highway rest areas
Meadowcreek Parkway and suggestions to improve transportation policy making
My first candidate interview, with Fifth Congressional District GOP candidate Ken Boyd, appeared on April 12. Subsequently, I published interviews with Third District Libertarian candidate James Quigley, who will be facing Bobby Scott in November, and Eighth District Republican candidate Matthew Berry, who will face Jim Moran in the fall should he win the June 8 primary.

Other articles include a truncated version of my review of Fiddler on the Roof at the National Theatre, called "Reevaluating 'Fiddler on the Roof' from an economic perspective," and a report on the Tax Day Tea Party in Charlottesville.

I also interviewed John Taylor of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy about Thomas Jefferson's birthday, historian Jennifer Burns about Ayn Rand, and the Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey about "liberaltarianism."

What comes next?  I'm not sure, but I have several interviews "in the can" that require transcribing and transforming into article format.  My aim is to have at least six articles a week.  (Did I mention that offers financial incentives for posting good articles?)  Within two weeks, I have already made the "top five" of Charlottesville Examiners, with double and triple the average page hits in the "Charlottesville" and "Politics" categories -- even based on statistics since the beginning of the year.  Somehow the Charlottesville Pet News Examiner keeps beating me out for first place.

I guess I just have to be more dogged in my approach.

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