Christian Toto is a Denver-based freelance reporter specializing in arts reporting.
He can be heard on three US radio stations, as well as occasionally on “The Dennis Miller Show,” which airs across the country.
He got his first byline as a young boy with his hometown newspaper. He reviewed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the paper misspelled his name.
Howard Stern, the radio bad boy, once read one of his columns on the air.
This is his story.
This isn’t exactly the best time to reinvent oneself in journalism. If newspapers aren’t dying, they’re very sick and doctors aren’t sure what to prescribe.
That didn’t stop me from quitting my job at a metropolitan newspaper and traveling across the country for the chance to start a family and buy an affordable home.
Priorities are priorities, but I feared giving up doing what I love for a living – writing movie reviews and entertainment features.
Thanks to the Web and some creative thinking, that hasn’t happened – yet.
Since moving to Colorado I’ve been able to continue my movie reviews but in a freelance capacity. The adjustment to being my own boss has been enlightening. My commute entails shuffling from the bedroom to my office, with no reason to check shadow traffic reports for fender benders or overturned trailers. Nice.
But the amount of rejection I face each day makes me long for the security of a regular gig. That’s where the Internet came in. I decided to create my own Web site, attempt to brand myself and see where that might take me. I know less than zero about HTML – heck, I didn’t know it was now referred to as XHTML, and I had never heard about CSS either.
For starters, I decided to leverage my last name, Toto, as something that sets me apart from the competition. Thus www.whatwouldtotowatch.com was born. Silly? Perhaps. But after decades of “Wizard of Oz” ribbing, that name had to start paying dividends.
I began the site on a blogger platform, but I soon changed it to have my own domain name.
But boy, was the site genetic. It took me weeks of poring over a comprehensive XHTML starter book to learn how to tweak the site and add some usable content.
That learning curve remains steep, and my site still needs a considerable amount of work. But web design wasn’t the only area where I needed to stretch my brain. Marketing my Web site required another skill set I lacked. The Web actually helped me out here, and with a few google searches I found a number of ways to spread the news about my new site.
Today, www.whatwouldtotowatch.com receives a modest amount of visitors, and every time I pitch a story I direct the editor to my home on the Web for further details. Blogging on a daily basis also makes me a sharper writer, or at least one who can pound out paragraphs at a steady clip. That efficiency will serve me well someday, I bet.
In a year, I might be writing press releases for some faceless think tank, or correcting grammatical errors for a local company’s human resource division. I’ll probably double my salary in the process, but if I juggle my web efforts just right I can avoid that fate.