As she chugged her sixth Yoo-hoo and listened to her chief sponsor, Mr. Aiken from Max’s Auto Mall, tap-dance in the cell phone clutched to her ear, Melanie Vincent decided she hated three things about her life—turning thirty, being single with a Valentine's birthday, and being a man; each sucked in its own special way.
“Uh, well, er, uh, business has been slow; advertising dollars are tight. I'm sorry. Tell your boss that if he finds a way to get more visibility and expand his audience, we'll reconsider renewing our contract. For now, the answer is no."
"But Mr. Aik—"
"I'm sorry. That's my final answer."
My final answer?
This wasn't a game of Family Feud; it was the dwindling remnants of her dream to run a successful sports blog—The Vin Report—spiraling into hopelessness and despair. Mel had long desired to cut up and burn her man-card, but her livelihood and, indeed, her survival depended on it. To boost the sagging readership of her sports reports, she penned her blogs under the name “Mel Vin,” a name she invented during a drunken Bahamas Mama cruise; it sounded more clever in her inebriated haze. While she provided the brains and edgy journalism, her best friend, Dylan Starke, served as her male stand-in. For a small fee, he fronted for her during in-person interviews with her favorite local sports heroes on the rare occasion she scored meetings. To her surprise, the ingenious plan worked—at least for a couple of years—almost quadrupling her audience in a matter of months. But when she traded in her puff-pieces for hard-hitting coverage, the quality of her followers increased and the quantity thinned, sending her sponsors scampering for more fruitful shores.
Had she broken the rules and stretched the bounds of journalistic conventions by not using her true name? Absolutely. Readers had a right to know the identities of those who delivered their news, and writers maintained a responsibility to publicly stand behind their stories. Anonymity was a sin for which most mainstream media organizations would rake her over the coals. But the choice to use “Mel Vin” was never driven by a desire to deceive or hide behind untruths, rather, in the testosterone-laden world of the NFL, the fact that Warrior football players and Dylan were born with like genitals convinced them that he was a better sports journalist than she. Beyond the cesspool of sexism, she wanted her views to be taken seriously and to protect herself from the kinds of unsavory comments and shameless stalkers that haunted female journalists the world over.
Compounding her business problems was a crisis of conscience.
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