Urban Tulsa Weekly last column

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This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I've covered a variety of topics: First Presbyterian Church's exciting plans to replace a surface parking lot with a beautiful new addition to their downtown complex, whether the BOK Center should charge a per-ticket fee to cover Tulsa Police Department overtime relating to event nights, and a few parting thoughts on the PLANiTULSA process.

That's right: parting thoughts. This issue contains my last column for UTW, at least for now.

I had written a brief farewell at the end of the column, but it was edited out, presumably for space reasons, so I'll post it here:

And with that I'll say goodbye for now. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been part of the UTW team for almost four years. Many thanks to the UTW readers who took time to read my words, who wrote in with praise and with criticism, and who voted my blog, batesline.com, Absolute Best of Tulsa two years in a row. Best wishes for continued success to the staff, management, and advertisers of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

I'm sad to be leaving but pleased to have made a significant contribution to UTW and, I hope, to the public debate. By my count, starting with the September 15-21, 2005, issue, I produced 194 weekly columns -- without a break -- plus several extra op-eds, cover stories on Tulsa bloggers, the 2006 city election, the history of our plans for the Arkansas River, and PLANiTULSA, and a few other feature stories and news items, and even a handful of photographs.

In the process, I've had the pleasure of working with some very creative and talented people, attended a dozen or so editorial meetings, met a lot of interesting Tulsans in many walks of life, spent a lot of time at the Coffee House on Cherry Street and Shades of Brown, and even handed out candy in the Boo-Ha-Ha parade. It's been fun, and there's a lot I'll miss about it.

It's no small feat to start an independent weekly paper and to keep it going for 18 years, and Keith Skrzypczak and his wife Julie (who oversees the paper's operations) are to be admired for their achievement. I'm thankful, too, that Tulsa's alt-weekly truly is an editorial alternative to the daily paper, publishing free-market and pro-life voices alongside the left-wing columnists and cartoonists more typical of the alternative press.

So why will I no longer be writing for UTW?

Recently UTW established a "freelancer's agreement," a standard contract for all freelance contributors, including writers and photographers. The agreement includes a "work made for hire" provision, which means that UTW would own all rights, including the copyright, to anything I submit for publication during the term of the agreement.

For many freelancers, that won't be a cause for concern, but to borrow a phrase from Roscoe Turner, "I've got a problem with that." By giving up all my rights, I could be setting up problems down the road should I want to incorporate into future projects any of the material I would write under the agreement.

In my weekly column, I've researched and analyzed current local issues and tried to put them into historical and political perspective. I've discussed urban design and planning concepts used elsewhere and applied them to Tulsa's circumstances. Beyond the immediate value of a column to the public conversation in the week it's published, I think there's some long-term value as well.

That value might take any number of forms, such as a book or a documentary on the history of Tulsa in the early 21st century or on Tulsa's post-World War II transformation. Such a project is many years in the future, I suspect, which is all the more reason for me to avoid agreeing to something now that creates obstacles for me in a decade or two. What if UTW is sold to a chain of weeklies or goes out of business? (God forbid on both hypotheticals.) Those possibilities seem very remote today, but a lot can happen in 10 or 20 years, and if they happened, who would own the rights to my work under the agreement? Would I be able to get permission to use my own work? Who knows?

At the very least, I would want to continue to retain enough rights for anything I write to be able to keep it accessible on the web.

There are no hard feelings here. UTW is doing what it deems prudent in requiring a standard agreement from all freelancers. I'm doing what I deem prudent by choosing not to submit work under those terms.

I will continue to post news and vent my opinions here at BatesLine on a fairly regular basis, along with interesting links (on the left side of the homepage) and the occasional tweet on Twitter. (My latest 10 tweets can be found on the right side of the BatesLine homepage.)

As for long-form commentary, I'm exploring some possibilities, but for the immediate future I will be using my now-free Sunday afternoons and evenings to catch up on chores around the house. I've been thinking about doing a podcast. (If that's of interest to you, let me know. I'm not much of a podcast listener myself, but I know many people prefer it to reading articles online.)

I wish the staff, management, and ownership of Urban Tulsa Weekly all the best for the future.

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13 Comments

Ardent Author Profile Page said:

Sorry to hear they decided to go work-for-hire instead of a licensing agreement with contractors. It's more of a sledge-hammer approach that is not surefire unless the contributors are employees. I had to decline a job offer a few years ago myself as it included a sweeping intellectual property and anti-competition agreement that was just too far-reaching. It's tough to stick to your guns when it costs you the job.


With your demonstrated ability in observation, research and communications, I feel sure that opportunities will present themselves and you will see this as simply starting a new chapter.


Personally, I'd prefer written to podcast as it is easier to review, reread and quote.


Best of luck,
Ron

RecycleMichael said:

Good for you. Now you can write longer blog entries about your life instead of politics. Really, only you, me, and a couple dozen people really care about politics.

There are thousands of us who would rather read about Tulsa history or your personal stories of travel adventures with your family.

Sorry, Michael. I'll still be writing about politics :), and I think you underestimate the number of people who care.

Definitely keep blogging on politics! And I echo Ron - written form is easier to catch than podcast, although an occasional podcast might be nice to mix things up a little bit.

Mike Mansur said:

I'm sorry to hear that you won't be in Urban Tulsa Weekly anymore, but I understand. Unfortunately for them, your column was 95% of the reason I picked up and leafed through their paper every week.

As for you creating a podcast, I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the podcasts from Chris Medlock and the Wynn’s (and perhaps Mr. Roemerman, now?) and I know I would enjoy a podcast from you, as well. I just don’t know how you find the time to contribute all that you do to public discussion.

Brian said:

Thank for all the great reads on UTW. Picking up the UTW will never be the same.

Yogi Author Profile Page said:

Hey I'll miss your column Michael. I didn't always agree with you but I thought your pieces were well thought out and consistent.
On the topic of urban development and zoning I gradually came around to embrace your views. I've lived in Tulsa for 17 years and have worked downtown the whole time and have seen tons of properties turned into parking lots and lots of downtown businesses shut down. It bothers me a lot.

Bob said:

Michael:

I agree with Mike Mansur that 95% of the reason that I picked up an Urban Tulsa Weekly was to leisurely read and even re-read your excellent column.

Sorry that it was necessary to part ways with them over the intellectual properties rights issue, but you are right to think of the future. You may have a book (or two) in you, and that material published in UTW may be useful in your future authorship.

I look forward to continuing to read your weblog, and other venues where you expound on the local political scene and urban planning.

Ted D. said:

Podcast yes. For me it's easier and all in one place with the others I listen to. I consider podcasts and blogs not to be exclusive of each other but a great supplement to each other. I actually listen to most of my talk radio favorites as a podcast.

Now I won't have a real reason to pick up a copy of UTW. I hope they can come to an agreement with you that will allow you to maintain rights to your work. I think you both were an asset to each other.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and podcast feedback.

Ted, I hope so, too. I think there are arrangements that would meet both sides' concerns.

Jan Thomas said:

I will not be compelled to pick up the UTW either. You were the highlight for me. Sorry UTW you lost on this one. Good luck Michael! We will find you wherever you go. For now- I will just keep checking the website as I am not"a twitter"!

Robert Lawrence said:

Michael,

I understand the copyright conflict, and strongly agree that you should retain those rights. However, I will really miss your column, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it over the years - like many of your fans it's the first thing I turn to.

One thing I've noticed and always disliked about UTW is that ex-writers immediately become unpersons; no farewells, no suggestion that they ever existed. If they had a masthead group photo we could look forward to seeing your picture mysteriously vanishing overnight.

I hope they change their minds and you come back. On the other hand, I've been asking *you* for a while to change your mind and run for office again. Hey, if you can't work for UTW I'll settle for you being mayor.

Brent Isaacs said:

Michael:

Even though I always didn't agree with your positions or tactics, the columns that you wrote were insightful and good at raising issues that the Tulsa World too often doesn't address. My hope is that you will find another print outlet to continue the commentary on issues important to Tulsa.

Brent Isaacs

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 28, 2009 12:34 PM.

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