Mike Albo, the former New York Times Critical Shopper columnist who was fired for attending a garish Thrillist boondoggle in Jamaica, self-published an account of the experience as a Kindle Single yesterday, entitled The Junket.
The tale of his 2009 misadventure was gleefully covered by Gawker at the time, but now Mr. Albo has finally offered his take, which is that that for underpaid freelance journalists, free swag from subjects is less about seduction and more about survival. Living paycheck to paycheck, Mr. Albo relied on free drinks and free jeans to keep himself looking the part of the lifestyle journalist, and he accepted the invitation to the Caribbean with no intentions of reporting. He simply wanted out of his unheated apartment.
“I always hated when people say, ‘You really need distance from your subject,’ but I guess in a way I did,” he told Off the Record from Provincetown, Mass., where he is “staying in a big house with a bunch of wackadoodle people and lobster fishermen.”
Mr. Albo elected not to submit the piece to a magazine for fear that his favorite parts, which deal with his uneasiness about consumerism and advertising, would get cut. Self-publishing has the added perk of allowing the author to be inventive about genre. The Junket is not at all fiction, but Mr. Albo had fun selectively disguising the friends and frenemies who surrounded his exit from the “New York Paper.”
“Think of this as a memoir with a fictional $3,000 sheer Thai silk veil lightly draped over it,” is how he defined it in the piece.
Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici, the media ethicist who brought Mr. Albo’s jaunt to the attention of Times brass, appears as “John Jerkovici.” (Although it seems there are no hard feelings. “Mr. B, yr crackerjack & don’t need ANY help with yr career, 4 sure!” Mr. Albo tweeted yesterday.) Jaynie, the 25-year-old blogger for a gossip site with “long, honey-highlighted hair, furiously texting,” who was “very tan and attractive” and “talked loudly with a Schnapps-braised, raspy voice as if she had spent all four years at U.S.C. screaming at parties,” is thought to be Gatecrasher reporter Carson Griffith.
Self-publishing, Mr. Albo added, allowed him to employ his own most trusted readers as editors, hire his own copy editor and enlist a friend to do the cover art.
“It’s artisanal!” said the still-critical shopper.
“I don’t know if I’m going to make any more money this way but I love doing this new format, it’s the last little middle finger between magazines and the New York Paper,” he added.
Indeed, money still befuddles Mr. Albo.
Off the Record asked what he was up to these days.
“I’m waiting for a couple checks to come in from magazines, desperately looking for more writing gigs,” he said.
He’ll be back in the city in September, and feels confident he’ll make rent. October’s kind of a question mark.
“Same as I’ve always been!” he said.