Probably most people already know what sort of publication The Baltic Times is. Formed from the merger of two earlier and reputable newspapers that boasted input from ‘real’ journalists like Ed Lucas, these days it is something of a standing joke. But not a very funny one.
Justin Petrone has written a nice blog entry on the sorry decline of TBT here so I will try not to repeat it. Like him and many other Baltic-based journos, I have in the past worked for TBT and its occasional sister publications. Relying on a steady supply of fresh-faced foreign ingenues, gap-year students and earnest but ultimately disappointed editors, for years TBT has seemingly been on the verge of collapse, each successive weekly issue looking likely to be the last.
Yet it always struggled into some sort of existence despite the lack of anything that could accurately be called a budget, a staff or indeed a raison d’etre.
Resembling a poor-quality student magazine, any halfway decent competitor would surely have snuffed it out long ago, but the lack of any form of Darwinian competition meant TBT was able to keep on churning out the same old warmed-over press releases and letters from the same three people, safe in the knowledge that the various universities, schools and libraries that formed most of its subscribers probably didn’t even bother reading it and were even less likely to bother canceling a subscription taken out years ago.
The remaining editorial staff finally threw in the towel recently, somewhat miffed at not being paid for several months, so they claimed, and the publication such as it is has consequently built on its already high standards of unintelligibility and unintentional surrealism.
This week’s edition, put together by a man with big blisters on his copy-and-paste fingers, is well worth a look for several reasons. First there’s the headline news that a Lithuanian woman has triumphed in the massively significant “Mrs. Universe” pageant – a sort of obscurely-belted cruiserweight version of what are already irrelevant international beauty contests.
There’s also what appears to be a sort of Marinetti-inspired commentary on the equally vacuous New Wave song contest.
Oh, and there’s uncredited use of one of my very own copyrighted photographs! At least I think these two pictures are the same…
It is of course possible that someone of exactly the same height as me was standing behind my left shoulder on January 30 outside the Estonian central bank and managed to catch exactly the same reflections in the windows, exactly the same lights inside the bank and the flags in exactly the same position after the rain had stained the walls with exactly the same pattern, and was using exactly the same camera. But somehow I doubt it.
And while we’re on the subject of dodgy dealings, another client, freshly returned from holiday, rang yesterday to inform me that his publishing house had unfortunately filed for bankruptcy on June 18th, a fact he had previously neglected to mention during my numerous attempts to contact him about a large overdue payment for work I completed in January. I will refrain from naming this ‘reputable’ Western European publishing company for now, in the faint hope that his half-hearted assurances that I will see my money come true.
To my surprise, it seems this company has not mentioned its bankruptcy on its glitzy corporate website and I was told it had no plans to do so, which smacks of sharp practice at best and probably something worse. But rest assured that unless what I’m owed is on its way by the end of the month, I’ll be naming and shaming not just here, but to all of his blue-chip clients and advertisers.