Monday, September 3, 2012

A greater gratitude for Labor Day

In December 2010 I was laid off and struggled for the next 19 months to juggle multiple jobs even as I searched for full-time work. This year, Labor Day is more than a day off. It’s a symbol of answered prayer.

It used to be just another holiday. In my book, Labor Day had some obscure relationship to work, but as far as I was concerned, it’s greater significance was that it meant a three-day weekend. I learned early on as a young adult that three-day weekends were a rarity to be appreciated, and so I did.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Change comes again with new job, new name for this blog

It’s been a busy month since I last posted. Change, one of the immutable facts about the universe, has been happening, and I start this month again writing about change, and changing the name of this blog.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Laid off at 51, picked up at 53: Eager to be a full-time journalist again

First off, I should apologize for writing so much. But I've been carving today's tome since yesterday.

Late last week, part of me was dreading the Monday ahead. It had the potential to be a tough day.

It was, after all, the second day of yet another month — in fact, 19 in all since the start of one of the toughest personal challenges I have ever faced. The second of each month has come as an increasingly bitter milestone of sorts. Some have been harder than others; some have slipped past with little fanfare.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Maligned media, Part 2: The truth will out, but it can take time

Sometimes they shoot the messenger.

It’s an expression related to the idea of killing off the bearer of unwelcome tidings — as if the messenger really is to blame for unwanted or bad news.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Maligned media, Part 1: Sometimes the negative perception is justified

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Journalists often are a maligned lot.

I would blame some of that on the nature of the work we do, particularly in competitive markets or when a big news story breaks in a small town, drawing hordes of journalists.

In our most visible

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Then and now: Peaks and valleys on a journalist's career roller coaster

Over the past 18 months or so, I have found that working through an extended season of un/underemployment can be a roller-coaster ride.

There are flat stretches when not little more happens than the passage of time. There are hills — solid job leads for which I must slow down and carefully consider my steps. Hopes rise with an initial email contact, then soar with a phone screening and the prospect of a face-to-face interview.

Until now, there has been a thundering, rapid descent into blackness — perhaps with the realization, a week or so later, that

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Are newspaper paywalls a corporate recognition that the end is near?

If you aren’t concerned, you should be
The debate about paywalls continues as more and more newspapers gravitate toward requiring online subscriptions to their websites. For me, the debate grows more fascinating at each turn, and in the past several weeks, I have come across some interesting reading material related to the debate, whether directly or indirectly.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hospitals can be symbols of peace, great joy — and sometimes dread

For me, it’s kind of like water.

Gentle waves lapping at the shore can have a deliciously calming effect, instilling a feeling of peace and relaxation, a salve to the raw nerves of a tense day.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

More stress in store for Sun-Times?

Growth plan to strain overworked newsrooms

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I read with a fair amount of skepticism Lynne Marek’s story in Crain’s Chicago Business about Michael Ferro’s plans to make the Sun-Times and its ragtag fleet of daily and weekly suburban papers the nation’s top local newspaper.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

There are heroes among us: Meet Sgt. Tom Linder

For as long as I remember — perhaps it was growing up with John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart as TV staples, or Clint Eastwood, either as Dirty Harry Callahan or the gun-slinging cowboy — I wanted to be the hero, someone’s knight in shining armor riding in at the last minute to save the day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

New levels of discouragement

Throughout this ordeal of prolonged underemployment, I have tried to remain pragmatic but positive, knowing full well that the job market is tight, that it is trending more heavily toward freelance work, which I neither trust as stable, nor want to continue for any significant length of time. Never in my adult life have I desired to be self-employed.

Never. Not once.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Labor law protections diminishing

Increasing use of freelancers aids business more than workers

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When news came out Monday that the Tribune was laying off a score of its suburban TribLocal reporters and editors in favor of outsourcing the work to another company, it caught me unawares and left me disappointed, but it failed to shock me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When truth is merely relative

Trib's Facts ‘obit’ highlights huge dilemma

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The eloquently written obituary admired a lifetime of achievement that ultimately was doomed to fail in a modern culture which appears to value the loudest, most insistent voices over mere details such as fact or truth.

The obituary published online Thursday was written by Chicago Tribune reporter Rex W. Huppke about the life and times of Facts, 360 B.C.-A.D. 2012.

The impetus for Huppke’s sad report was the claim by U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House are communists. That, Huppke writes, was the fatal blow to Facts.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Making local news relevant again

Amid all the talk of pay walls, the decline of newspapers, and what the industry needs to do to save itself, many seem to overlook the idea of media relevance. They may give the idea lip service in the greater discussion of rebuilding revenues, but it seems to me that such discussions miss the point.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Back after two busy weeks and a short break

Heading into the weekend, my head was ready to explode. I’d had two weeks of lots of Adobe software training — four daylong sessions each week, plus a fair amount of work from my various freelance jobs.

But freelance work tends to come in spurts and, generally, not according to an prearranged schedule. Consequently, I was operating on three, sometimes four hours of sleep a night for much of the past two weeks. Friday night was the first night I got eight hours in bed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crashes, consequences, providence and newspapers

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The headlights of the approaching vehicle were all wrong.

Frank and I were headed back to the dorm from a state park near Winona, Minn., when I first saw the headlights moving around the curve. But they were jumping up and down erratically, and then they began to spin.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pew report notes key weaknesses

March 5 study highlights obstacles to change

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I have been dying for the time over the past week to sit down to write about the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism report about the newspaper industry’s search for a new business model. The report was released Monday and was the subject of a couple of excellent analyses by writers Rick Edmonds and Andrew Beaujon.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pay wall avalanche gains steam

As expected, the avalanche of newspapers planning to launch pay walls grew substantially in the past week with announcements by the Los Angeles Times and Gannett that they would seek a fee from users of their websites. I believe readers in the Midwest and across the nation should expect to see more of the same for some time yet.

I’ll be curious to see how long the pay walls last.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bloggers/journalists friction redux

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It still amazes me how both pride and fear can contaminate what might otherwise prove to be a rational debate. On Feb. 22, I came across a LinkedIn discussion thread for the group Online reporters and editors, in which a blogger was trying to drum up support for a petition to have bloggers declared journalists en masse.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fending off the black dogs

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The park’s name escapes me now — I could not even find its name on Google Maps  —  but its eastern edge butted up against Deerfield Drive, just south of Clearview Avenue on the West Side of Fort Collins, Colo. Our apartment building was several blocks further east, and I often would walk to the park with my oldest son, who was about 4 or 5 years old on this particular occasion.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is journalism hung up on tradition?

Core should remain; tools change
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Although the discussion has been ongoing for two months now, it was only within the past week or so that I had stumbled upon the thread, which was hosted by the LinkedIn Online reporters and editors group. I am not sure why I had not come across it before, because the question at the center of the thread has been a common discussion within the profession for years.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Flu fight and fleeting sight

There were two incidents of laughter on Monday evening, after the flu had laid me out flat on my back most of Saturday and on Sunday, a day that turned into an emotional  rollercoaster as I realized I had experienced some vision loss in my right eye.

So comic relief was in short supply and in high demand on Monday afternoon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Industry’s past mistakes still live

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News always has been a tough business. There was a time when it was not unheard of for the hawkers at one publication to sabotage — whether by theft or by force — the sales of another.

Fistfights among newsboys were not unheard of, and scoop-hungry reporters once were known to bribe police and other officials for news tips, sometimes even for access to crime scenes.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Looking back, moving ahead

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They were the dog days of summer, when the Midwest heat and humidity wring the sweat out of you with nary a move.

We lived several miles west of Elgin at the time in a small subdivision called Wildwood Valley. It was the early 1970s, and this little tract just off Coombs Road and a little north of Highland Avenue still was considered “the country.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Settling in after you’ve been axed

Some of the first steps you need to take

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I have been told there are some people who have greeted the news that that were being laid off with great joy. I was not one of them, although in time I would come to realize it is both a blessing and a curse.

My layoff came on a Thursday — I worked Tuesdays through Saturdays, so it was my “hump day,” meaning I was over the week’s hump and it was downhill from there. Of course, that was more profoundly true that week.

Without getting maudlin, that day just 23 days before Christmas 2010 was a roller coaster ride all of its own, starting with the walk to Human Resources, calling my wife afterward, packing my desk and then saying goodbye.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Elgin layoffs a tough story to write

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You cannot cover the evolution of a city budget with a $13 million hole in it and not expect to write about the consequences down the road.

I was born and raised in Elgin, Ill., and when I left for my first newspaper job in Rawlins, Wyo., in late 1983, I vowed I would return only as a visitor. That changed in 1994 — some would call it fate, I would call it God’s will — when I applied for a position with The Courier-News. There is much more to that story, but I will save it for another time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sun-Times ends endorsements

Smart move or more homogenization?

Crain’s Chicago Business on Tuesday reported that the Chicago Sun-Times no longer would endorse political candidates, a move that likely will raise eyebrows among readers and perhaps in the industry.

My initial reaction was to scoff that this is just one more step in a long line the company has trod toward homogenizing its printed and online products for the sake of efficiency and mass appeal.

Perhaps my initial reaction was wrong. But I do not believe it is.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

An eye for an eye, but in a good way

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I emerged from the ethereal fog of anesthesia far more rapidly than I would have imagined was possible, largely, I guess, because of the long needle that had been inserted into my left eye to administer an antibiotic.

I had been warned something this might happen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

WIA opportunity knocks

Program to pay for retraining as Web master

It’s been more than nine months in the making, apparently delayed largely — in recent months anyway — by the state of Illinois’ interminable bureaucracy. But this week, the paperwork went through and I now am preparing to begin training for something that may or may not expand the possibility of continuing my career as a journalist. But ultimately I hope it will serve to open doors.