Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More lessons from Main Street

You can't write a blog post suggesting a radical approach to revitalizing an industry without expecting some flack, and yet several days after suggesting that the national Main Street Program's four-point approach to bringing new life to downtowns also might work well for the newspaper industry, I have yet to hear a single response.

Not even a “Ted, what were you thinking?”

That surprises me for several reasons, not the least being that my March 23 post (“Lessons for newspapers from Main Street”) was the third most-read of my blog posts, behind “When your best ain't good enough,” which actually was my second most-read post since I started this blog on Dec. 14 My first post, “First stunned, then pain and grief,” in which I chronicled my layoff, continues to be the best-read post I've ever had.

I am grateful to you who jump on to read my posts. “Laid off at 51: Seeking joy in change” has been far more successful than I would have expected just in terms of page views over the past three months or so.

But it can be difficult to gauge impact. Few people add their own comments to my individual posts, fewer still send e-mails with their thoughts. And I'm surprised that at least a few copy editors haven't written to point out the typos that occur from time to time (any editor worth his salt will admit that perhaps the biggest challenge is editing his own work because he knows what he was trying to write and therefore is likely to skate right past mistakes without recognizing them).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lessons for newspapers from Main Street

Over my years as a journalist, I've covered many events, both as a reporter and as an editor, that resonated within me, personally.

That was true again on Tuesday night as I covered a meeting at which the Downtown Neighborhood Association in Elgin, Ill., gathered with residents and business representatives to continue their look at ways of revitalizing the city's downtown, including battling the lingering perceptions some have about the area and how to combat them.

It occurs to me that what this group is trying to address has interesting parallels that newspaper industry leaders might pause to consider.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Will Tyree partners be true to his word?

I read sadly Wednesday night of the passing of James Tyree, the financier who rose to lead Mesirow Financial for nearly 20 years and the force who rallied a group of investors to buy the bankrupt Sun-Times newspapers with the intent of inventing a new business model for the ailing publications.

Whether Tyree's efforts come to fruition remains to be seen. My heart goes out to his family for their loss. And my thoughts and prayers are also with my former colleagues at Sun-Times Media, many of whom I am sure are pondering how the death of the 53-year-old leader of the investment group that saved their jobs will affect them.

By many accounts, both published and word of mouth, Tyree was more than a successful businessman.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In this case, no news is still bad news for newspapers

This week, what most of the journalist world already knew was coming, and what many print journalists dreaded, arrived with little fanfare although perhaps to some it sounds a lot like that other shoe everybody's always saying is going to fall.

More people in 2010 said they got their news online rather than from newspapers. And, also last year, more advertising dollars went to the Internet than to newspapers, a clear reminder that if the industry does not hurry and catch up on the new business model it should have started shaping 10 years ago, it will go the way of the dodo bird.

That might not be a bad thing. Journalists will still be out there but will have to find other ways of plying their trade if their employers are not.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Age discrimination concerns, tough choices and the WIA

As part of my search, I am also having to come to grips with the possibility that the news industry may not have any room for a guy with my well-established skills but who may not be as tech-savvy -- or as cheap -- as the budding journalist right out of college.

Age discrimination is illegal but darned near impossible to prove in the job-search market. It's difficult to hide the practice in the workplace because people -- employees -- notice patterns, and sooner or later, someone will blow the whistle. No company wants to risk the financial liabilities associated with any kind of discrimination lawsuit.

But in the job market it can happen and no one is the wiser.

Job applicants send in resumes and cover letters, or fill out forms on a website, and all too frequently never hear anything back. Most, like me, assume their experience or qualifications just did not stack up against others among the myriad resumes employers find themselves sifting through in this economy. What many of us do not consider is that we may be giving ourselves away with a resume that show 27 years of experience, for example, or a college graduation date.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fears, failure and faith

Some days you're the pigeon, other days you're the statue.

The first time I heard this expression, I had to laugh – it's a humorous turn on the glass half-filled or glass half-empty analogy about optimism and skepticism. If you're a human being, chances are, you've had both kinds of days.

It's also reflective of the roller-coaster ride that can accompany stress, although unemployment has been, for the most part, far less stressful than I would have anticipated. Yes, there is that nagging question always hovering overhead – When will I ever find a new job? – but between unemployment and part-time work, there's enough to pay the mortgage and utilities, although some bills go unpaid. And of course that makes creditors unhappy.

My intent when I started writing this blog, at least initially, was to sift through and tap into some of the emotions I was feeling, to make sense of things and share them with the hope that perhaps someone going through something similar might realize he or she is not alone. I've strayed from that at times, but not by much, I think.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thoughts on a tough story to write

Generally speaking, I've never had difficulty writing a news story.

Usually, like many things, the hardest part is getting started. For journalists, that start is called the lead. To the layman, it's probably better known as the introduction – usually a couple of sentences, sometimes a couple of paragraphs.

And for me, hard news typically has written itself. I can't tell you why except perhaps to describe it as if gathering the information for a story is, for me, like focusing a camera on your subject. Once I've gathered the information, the image is clear and I write.

But feature stories – stories that are not necessarily news, but perhaps paint a portrait of an individual, a family or institution, or even an event – those are the ones I've struggled with most. They also tends to be the stories that are in many ways most rewarding.