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Not missing a self-promotional trick, Hanania maintains, by his own count, seven Web sites—one to promote his radio show, another his column, a third his comedy act, and so on. And about a dozen blogs. Call his cell phone and his voice-mail greeting invites you to leave a message—"or you can also listen to my radio show Monday through Friday every morning at eight o'clock on 1530 AM radio."
One of his Web sites promotes a book he came out with last summer, Secrets of New Media Networking ("Make your message more effective in a hostile environment of mainstream media bias and exclusion"), while on Facebook he's touting his "new reality show" Star Chef Chicagoland. He says, "I find a celebrity chef who makes a recipe and I bring three celebrity judges together and we film it." The show's taped in a surf-and-turf restaurant in Orland Park and aired on public access TV.
To Hanania the comedian, his career, like his ethnicity, is material. "Jeez, when I think about it," he says, "I've won four Lisagors. I was only making money on the first Lisagor, at the Sun-Times. The second was for the Daily Herald in 2004 at 30 bucks a column. Then I won two for the Southwest News-Herald where I make no money. So it's been a steady slide straight down. I don't want to win another Lisagor because it might cost me money."
Journalism, he observes, is becoming as pristinely amateur as the Olympics of old, a competition open only to ladies and gentlemen of independent means. I called Rick Newcombe to get his thoughts and discovered Hanania has been recently on his mind. "I think the world of Ray," Newcombe said. "He's what we need now, some balance"—meaning the idea of a moderate Palestinian Christian columnist might appeal to more editors today than it did in the wake of 9/11. "I think it would make sense to relaunch him," Newcombe said. "We could at least put him on our Web site, with a 'Click here if you want to see him in your local paper.'"
The business has changed, Newcombe said. Thanks to Google Analytics and the Internet's "click here" capacity, Creators Syndicate can now feature new writers on its Web site and let interested editors see for themselves what kind of an audience these writers might draw.
And if you put him on the Web site, I asked Newcombe, will you be able to pay him anything?
"Probably not," he said.