Monday, January 31, 2011

Signs of hope before the storm of the decade

Monday was an interesting day. It started with a call from Judy Burman, an adult program coordinator at Elgin Community College's Workforce Transitions Program. I had called her for assistance because, given the state of the newspaper industry, my prospects for re-employment there are not terribly encouraging, and I really want to explore all my options as I continue diligently searching for a new job. And when I initially left a message on her machine, I followed up by e-mailing her a copy of my resume.

At the same time, I'm continuing to work part-time as a digital journalist, and of course the story of the day in the Midwest is one of impending doom: A monster storm system is bearing down from the southwest, expected to hit northern Illinois about mid-afternoon Tuesday with gusty winds and snowfall rates at its peak of 2 to 3 inches an hour. From thence it is expected to blanket the northeastern states.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Addendum on the digital miscues of newspapers

A former colleague commented on my last posting about a blog post by Clay Shirky that I found enlightening. I still believe many in the industry simply failed to recognize we were on the verge of a sea change in terms of the Internet. Many journalists -- editors and reporters -- viewed the Internet as a threat -- who would want to buy newspapers if we were giving away the information online?

Yet at the same time, these journalists were delighted, sometimes amazed, at the versatility of what was becoming a technological tool as a part of their very jobs -- for address or phone number checking, for quickly getting map directions to a fire or shooting.

But Shirky adds a deeper perspective, looking inside the industry's ivory towers.

He points out that industry power brokers did see the train coming, as it were, and set up a variety of plans to address the issue. But each of these missteps failed.

Clay Shirky's perspective, posted in March 2009 and titled "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable," is well worth reading. Thanks mdominis for adding the link to your comment on my last post.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Questions inspire reflection, perspective

I recently met a young journalist whom I first became aware of via my Twitter account.

I was covering a League of Women Voters forum – my first experience at live-blogging as part of a new part-time gig writing for the hyper-local Elgin website,, when Jose came up to introduce himself.

His excitement at meeting a veteran journalist initially struck me as flattering – I have enjoyed my career and, like most everyone, I enjoy seeing someone express enthusiasm for what I do. But I also felt a little awkward. After being laid off in early December, part of me still felt somewhat like a child's cast-off toy a few days after Christmas: still fully functioning if perhaps a little rough for the wear.

Still, this budding journalist said he had “all kinds of questions I want to ask you,” so I gave him my e-mail address and waited until he had time in all his own busy-ness to write.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Digital journalist: Having fun again

It's been a busy week, much of it spent scurrying about, meeting municipal officials, attending a city press briefing and then live-blogging during a forum on Elgin's form of government. In between times, I ran about looking for -- and after the third stop, finding -- a digital voice recorder with a USB port, a couple of notebooks and a satchel to carry around a Netbook.

The digital recorder was it's own little adventure. Back in the day, reporters either relied solely on notes or used a clunky tape recorder that you were lucky if you could get it into a coat pocket. Later there were microcassette recorders, a smaller, slimmed-down version of the standard cassette recorder that still was large-ish but easier to carry around.

But the digital recorders today are far smaller and far more advanced -- the USB port gives me the option of downloading an interview into my computer, where I can edit it into sound bites to accompany stories online.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Time out for thanks: Back to (part-time) work

This journey into what for me has been the uncharted waters of unemployment has not been without its shares of heartache and disappointment, the most recent of which has been a case of the shingles I wrote about earlier this week.

But as I also pointed out earlier this week, there have been some very positive developments along the way as well, as well as one particularly amusing one (see the short sidebar at the end of this posting).

And of course one of the greatest blessings to come out of this has been the words of encouragement I have received from people of all walks of life and from all over the country. Some I have known in person, others I have come to know through their blogs or their tweets.

But today I am particularly reveling in the joys of friendships built over the years as a part of my career. Of the many phone calls I made or received after I was laid off by Sun-Times Media on Dec. 2, two stand out at the moment.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All I want for Christmas is ...

I'll start first with my apologies for not updating my blog for the past two weeks, as well as for straying from my planned subject matter -- I had planned to write about dealing with shock, anger and blame. But a rough two weeks it has been.
Christmas was largely one blessing after another, despite getting laid off on Dec. 2.

For example, on the Sunday before Christmas, the church I attend held a potluck after the morning service, during which the pastor and another dear friend took me aside and presented me with several boxes and bags of assorted groceries, household supplies and some gift cards -- this after I had told them several times in the weeks prior that we were not yet in a crunch from the layoff and should be all right for Christmas. Still, they had gathered up contributions to bless us in this way, knowing that, because Sun-Times Media has been undergoing financial stress typical of the news industry in recent years, there had been no severance package when I was let go, although I was paid for the vacation time I had accrued for 2011.

But there were some stress factors in the week leading up to Christmas as well.