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Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this book?
Steve Ruygrok: My inspiration for The Decaying Pillars is simple. There’s a lot wrong with the state of journalism today. Whether it’s print, television or online, journalism has given in to its financial desperation, allowing marketers and promoters to infect what used to be a reliable profession. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone wear the title of journalist when it makes them look noble and toss it away when it means making money. Instead of journalists who serve the public interest, I see a scarce minority who is willing to honor the purpose of being a journalist, and far too many who allow greed to drive their decision making. It’s disheartening how many people lack the integrity to resist shady business models such as native advertising.
Review Fix: How much has your time as a journalist influenced this book?
Ruygrok: My time as a student, viewer, reader, online user and journalist all influenced the creation of this book. It’s easy to turn on a TV, read a newspaper or scroll through a prolific outlet and see the many ways journalism has a) departed from the editorial pillars of what journalism used to rest on and b) see the way native advertising has made its way into some of the most respected institutions, such as The New York Times. Good journalism and journalists still exist, but even then, the scales have been submerged far too deep into the waters of deceit, ambiguity and greed.
Review Fix: What was the writing process like?
Ruygrok: The writing process was about creating first and editing later. I wrote what would eventually become Chapter 5 first, and looked at it individually. After pondering what a potential book could look like, I decided to make the commitment and write a story, start to finish. It was quite the daunting task to think about, but with each weekend and week night, I made more and more progress. Creating The Decaying Pillars was therapeutic and motivating all at the same time. It took me about 5 months to complete the story and then another 7 months to edit and publish the book. Regardless of the number of people who read this book, those who do will look at journalism with more awareness than before, that I can pretty much guarantee.
Review Fix: Who do you think would enjoy it the most?
Ruygrok: I believe anyone who consumes news will enjoy this book and they will be shocked by it, no matter if it’s ESPN, CNN, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, IGN, USA Today or any other outlet. People who really care about the information they consume will finish this book with a desire for more transparency from their chosen outlets. It goes without saying that anyone who considers themselves to be a journalist will enjoy The Decaying Pillars. This is a topic and conversation that has been avoided long enough. We all must do something about it.
Review Fix: What makes these characters memorable?
Ruygrok: What people remember and the things these people do and don’t do throughout the course of the story are what will stick. Many people will remember Dustin as the one who made them laugh, a lot. Jill’s loyalty to Jack and The Times is something folks will shake their head at, long after they have closed The Decaying Pillars. Readers will gravitate toward Cameron, given the level of his resistance to both native advertising and Jack Strain’s “enticing.” Karen is going to grant readers a moment of liberation, on more than one occasion. Finally, Jack is a quintessential example of an asshole, and the amount of disgust he’s going to invoke will be impossible to forget.
Review Fix: Why do you think journalism still matters?
Ruygrok: Anyone can write something online and call themselves a journalist, but just because I can cook doesn’t mean I’m a chef. Real journalism matters because of how connected, impulsive and to a certain extent, unaware news consumers have become. The pace at which we have grown to consume news is staggering compared to say, 10 years ago. At some outlets, stories are whimsically published at an alarming rate. An outlet’s reputation has become less essential to its survival. Controversies such as the Brian Williams revelation and Rolling Stone mistake are just a few examples of why we need real journalism.
Native advertising is as effective as it is because it’s in a marvelously outrageous gray area. Before the Internet was so powerful and garnered such a massive audience, journalism was black and white, church and state as many would say. That structure has crumbled into a gray area where marketers and writers are making a killing. “What better way to market a product and garner eye balls than to work hand-in-hand, company-to-company? We’ll show you what’s going on behind the scenes if you promise to be nice with coverage or fair in a review.” Native advertising is deceptive by nature, and for those who think it isn’t a damaging business model, just wait until the elections next year. Whether it’s a gaming outlet promoting the next big game or a national news organization telling you how effective Hillary Clinton’s foreign policies will be as President, native advertising is everywhere.
Native advertising is undeniably good and it could even be the holy grail of marketing for news outlets. However, just because it is an easy solution doesn’t mean it is the right one.
Review Fix: Bottom line, why should someone read it?
Ruygrok: The Decaying Pillars will resonate with anyone who has felt something is wrong with journalism. It will confirm your instincts and suspicions. What you think goes on behind the scenes probably lives within this book. The Decaying Pillars will light a fire under those who want honest, credible information. Don’t be a sheep to someone else’s motives, arm yourself with the awareness of what is happening in journalism.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Ruygrok: My next book is going to be fast-paced, ambitious and it will blow your mind.