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Shredder and me 

This documentary 'reveals' an infamous columnist's secret identity

New Times made a movie that finally answers the question on everyone's lips. Who is the Shredder? Find out by clicking right here right now.

Shredder and Me: A Love Story from Johannes Beals on Vimeo.

This newspaper you’re reading is actually a very public website distributed across the entire freaking world every week. A lot of people read this thing looking for local news, artistic profiles, and fun events, but there’s something sinister lurking in the pages. Its name is Shredder.

For some reason, our editors decided long ago to give a soapbox and a wide audience to an utter lunatic. They don’t disclose the writer’s name or even its gender. They simply let it rant and rave about local politics for 900 words every Thursday. Sarcasm, curse words, and alcohol are the writer’s weapons of choice, used mercilessly to skewer and shred any public missteps. No one is safe.

Our editors might defend the column by pointing out its entertainment value, how it makes the boring but important minutiae of city hall seem interesting to the average Tom, Dick, and Harry. Or, they might explain how an anonymous columnist can speak honestly without cutting ties to valuable sources. There’s also the argument that there’s more to news than facts, that anger and absurdity have a place in the public discourse.

Still, the first thing they teach in journalism school is that the Shredder sucks out loud. It’s an odd introduction to reporting, especially for students in the hundreds of colleges that aren’t Cal Poly or Cuesta. The fact that they (the government) stand so vehemently against anonymity shows how dangerous it can be and why it must be stopped.

That’s why I went on a secret, undercover mission to bring this coward to justice. I searched everywhere for clues, working nonstop and neglecting my wife and child in the name of truth. I found nothing. No one outside the newspaper had anything more than unfounded rumors and wild guesses. I had to get inside.

Despite my master’s degree in classic literature, I enrolled in community college pretending to be a naïve student interested in journalism. I kissed ass everywhere until my instructors suggested me for an internship at New Times, at which point I rubbed my palms together and laughed wickedly.

Once I earned the paper’s trust and learned their secrets, I thought to myself, “Hey. I should make a movie about this and write an article to promote said movie.”

And then I did.

Calendar Editor Nick Powell risked life and limb to unmask the Shredder. Thank him at npowell@newtimesslo.com.

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