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This is a follow-up to the previous post and was written to run in the News-Topic.

It takes a special kind of jerk to respond to a young person’s exuberance with bitter cynicism and bile.

That would be the kind of person who, seeing a young boy cheerfully walking along with a helium balloon, pulls out something sharp. Best to pop the balloon and make the child cry – after all, life is hard, and you better get used to it.

There is a financial writer named Felix Salmon who is one of those people. He works for a website called Fusion, and last week he wrote an article with the headline To all the young journalists asking for advice ….” From the way the article starts, I take it that Salmon regularly receives email from young reporters asking for tips on how to get into the business, or into Fusion itself, and saying how much they would like to talk about it over coffee if they could. That’s the kind of thing that the job-networking website LinkedIn and other places that give job-hunting advice recommend that you try to do – reach out to someone working someplace that you would like to work, ask for advice, try to meet for coffee.

Salmon illustrates two pitfalls of that strategy. One is that the advice is now so widespread that anyone a young job-hunter may contact might just be tired of all the unsolicited attention and requests for advice and coffee. The other is that the person you email out of the clear blue may be a bitter, old fart who’s more likely to insult you than to try to help.

Salmon’s “advice” was discouraging, to say the least. Not only that, it was contradictory.

“In fact, life is not good for journalists. And while a couple of years ago I harbored hopes that things might improve, those hopes have now pretty much evaporated. Things are not only bad; they’re going to get worse,” he wrote, immediately after a paragraph that ended, “I think this is probably the greatest era for journalism that the world has ever seen. I also think that some of today’s fast-growing digital companies are going to become the media behemoths of tomorrow, making their owners extremely rich in the process.”

In other words, despite all the positive things he sees going on, his takeaway on the world of journalism is “Life stinks and then you die.”

Way to be a Debbie Downer, Felix.

Journalism is changing, which is true of a great many occupations – and always has been. Do you see any businesses around here that sell horse-drawn carts? That used to be one way to make a living. When cars came along, carts and buggies went away. But even cars aren’t constant. A couple of years ago I did an interview at a business that used to be a car dealership – for the Hudson Motor Car Co., a brand of car that most people now have never heard of. Remember when furniture companies started moving jobs to Asia? They’re never coming back, everyone said. Now a number of those jobs are coming back. Things change.

A lot of the upheaval affecting journalism and news organizations is related to the Internet. But the Internet is not a monolithic force. Things change there too. Remember Friendster? Probably not. It was Facebook before there was a Facebook. It got replaced by MySpace, which got replaced by Facebook.

How does the Internet come into your house? It used to be that the only way anyone got online was with a modem that dialed a phone number. Companies that made those modems have had to either quickly adapt as technology changes or go out of business.

Dell Computers built a production plant near Winston-Salem 10 or 15 years ago to make desktop computers – and within a few years it was obsolete because people started buying laptops instead.

Things change. What’s important is what you want to do. What do you like? What sort of work makes you feel creative or productive and fulfilled? In the case of those young people writing to Salmon, it is writing and reporting – telling stories. The technology of doing that is changing, so the details of doing the work is changing. The revenue of some parts of the business, such as newspapers, has declined, and maybe will keep declining – or it might stop. The things that make the work appeal to certain people haven’t changed that much. No one ever got into writing for the money.

Better advice was once given by David Carr, a prominent reporter for the New York Times who died Thursday:

“Being a journalist, I never feel bad talking to journalism students because it’s a grand, grand caper. You get to leave, go talk to strangers, ask them anything, come back, type up their stories, edit the tape. That’s not gonna retire your loans as quickly as it should, and it’s not going to turn you into a person who’s worried about what kind of car they should buy, but that’s kind of as it should be. I mean, it beats working.”

That’s the kind of advice young people deserve to hear.

UPDATE: Another good one to read on this topic. Sample: “I was disappointed about how I had been taken in by someone projecting his own feelings of discouragement onto a group of people younger than himself.”

I haven’t met Dylan Howlett, but I hope I will because his recent blog post, Advice for Felix Salmon: Stop giving advice, is very well written. In case you don’t have time right now to go read it (find the time eventually, please) or the piece it refers to, here’s a summary:

Salmon wrote an article, To all the young journalists asking for advice …, not only discouraging anyone from trying to pursue a career in journalism but insulting them for thinking of it. Howlett responded smartly and hilariously, calling out Salmon’s bitterness and the massive gaps in his argument.

Howlett aptly sums up why I stay in this business. It’s true that after I was laid off in 2012, I looked for an exit ramp to something else. My thoughts at the time were not as dark as Salmon expresses, but they were in that general path.

But my previous job in journalism wasn’t very rewarding, emotionally. The one I have now is. No surprise, I now work directly with reporters and their writing and do a fair amount of writing of my own. And you know what? It’s nice to be in love. It’s true of people and it’s true of whatever you do.

Also, this, from Salmon: “And while a couple of years ago I harbored hopes that things might improve, those hopes have now pretty much evaporated. Things are not only bad; they’re going to get worse.”

That reminds me of this: For more than 20 years, I worked for Media General. When I started, the company’s stock was trading somewhere in the $20- to $30-a-share range. At one point in the early 2000s it got to over $70 a share. But then much of the media world started getting “disrupted,” and the stock dropped. A few years ago it got down to around $1 a share. Along the way, a lot of people decided it was never going to get any better — prodded by some stock analysts who predicted the company was doomed — and they dumped all their stock. Today it’s trading for over $15. Obviously, $70 a share was ridiculous, but so was $1. Yes, Media General is now a TV company with no newspapers, but that’s the point: Who saw that coming? A point that Salmon, oddly enough, makes unintentionally by pointing out developments in journalism that came out of nowhere.

There’s a saying related to stock trading: Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Salmon, despite his financial-reporting background, seems to believe otherwise — which is all the more puzzling, given that he admits “I’ve also never really had a career, in the sense of a planned-out sequence of jobs, each one slightly better than the last, working my way up towards some grand ideal position. I arrived where I am randomly, and I could not have replicated it if I tried.”

That pretty much sums up the career of almost everyone I have ever met.

Here’s my advice: If you fall in love, follow your heart.

When the news came out last week that NASCAR driver Kurt Busch testified in court that his ex-girlfriend was a trained assassin, and he cited the things that made him think so, like a lot of people I had one thought:

There are perfectly reasonable explanations for each of those things.

For instance, the time that his ex, Patricia Driscoll, came home wearing a trench coat over an evening gown that was covered in blood. The exact same thing happened to me. My wife had left our house, as Driscoll did, wearing camouflage gear, and she said she was going to meet some friends. Four or five hours later, I came out of the kitchen with a snack of microwaved hot wings, and suddenly Jane was standing there in the foyer, her hair mussed, wearing this stunning, off-the-shoulder, white dress that had large, red spatters all over the left side. I didn’t even hear her come in, which happens all the time – we joke that she moves like a ninja.

“I should have told you, it was an engagement party, but a few of us decided our group should arrive as just us girls, so we didn’t tell our husbands and changed clothes on the way,” she explained, and I was so relieved, because I get so bored with her friends’ talk of travel to places like Moscow and Baghdad and their midnight meetings in dark alleys.

And she said the red on the dress was just chocolate syrup with red food coloring, just like they use in movies for fake blood. The bride-to-be, she explained, loves red – it’s going to be a big color in the wedding – so there were red Kit Kats and red-velvet-cake bites on sticks that everyone could dip in this fountain of red chocolate, which someone who had way too many red mimosas fell into and knocked to the floor, and the chocolate spattered everywhere, and Jane happened to be standing fairly close it.

There’s always a reasonable explanation.

Again, take the testimony by Richard Andrew Sniffen, a friend of Busch’s who is a Christian music minister, that after Busch broke up with Driscoll, she said to Sniffen that she would take Busch down.

“I will destroy him,” Sniffen said Driscoll told him.

That reminded me of one night recently when I thought Jane was really mad with me after I yelled at her for having left her Bushmaster Carbon 15 with collapsible stock and red-dot sight leaning up against the bed, where I tripped over it.

“I’ll murder you,” I thought I heard her mutter.

“Did you say, ‘I’ll murder you’?” I asked.

“What? No,” she said, smiling. “No, I said, ‘I’m really sorry.’” She came over to me and caressed my face. “You’re so silly,” she said as she tugged a lock of my hair. She tugged it a little too roughly, really. It hurt. She’s stronger than she looks, I keep reminding her, and I have the bruises to prove it.

But she kissed me, picked up her rifle and went to the study to finish reading this month’s “Soldier of Fortune.”

If I hadn’t asked what she really said, think of the misunderstanding and hurt feelings that could have resulted.

Really, it’s obvious why Busch and Driscoll broke up. Clear communication and understanding are the cornerstones of any serious relationship.

Nice column by the L.A. Times’ Michael Hiltzik about the breathless greeting every billionaire who buys a newspaper company receives. Summed up:

“Why do we keep getting taken in? Partially it’s the recognition that the economics of news-gathering are daunting in the modern age, solutions hard to come by, and the success of everything that’s been tried is still uncertain at best.”

I wrote something similar the summer of last year after Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, but I hadn’t revisited any of the cases I raised there. Hiltzik’s column saves me the work on Bezos (“The Washington Post has done superb work under its new owner,” he writes, and I would add that while it’s still early to judge the financial performance, things appear encouraging) and Aaron Kushner’s Orange County Register (“the Register is staggering financially”), plus adds a couple of new cases of billionaires jumping into journalism (though not newspapers).

But I still like my post’s ending better.

My heart ached as the sixth-graders walked one by one to the microphone at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center, gave their first name and said what they want to be when they grow up.

Most appeared nervous. In some, that translated into a stiff gait, gaze locked forward. Some walked as if they were on a high wire, so conscious of the eyes on them that they perhaps feared tripping or stumbling. One skinny, gangly girl’s nerves made her long limbs jiggle as she walked, and she flashed a broad, self-conscious smile.

Some, like that girl, had begun the physical growth spurt that soon will make their parents feel suddenly much older. But most, even the taller ones, still had a child’s voice.

As each one, still brimming with a child’s energy but not yet a teenager’s bravado, spoke into the microphone, that child’s voice announcing a career ambition stabbed at the place in my heart where I keep sentimentality locked away.

“I want to be a technology designer,” a boy said, and the sweet earnestness bored into me.

These 41 children were this year’s recipients of Dream Awards from the Foundation of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. They were nominated by their teachers and guidance counselors because they show great potential to achieve these goals – or others that may replace them in the coming years.

“I want to be a paleontologist, vet or author,” a girl said, and the broad range of options she is considering swept me along like a river. She believes in these, I saw it in her eyes, she believes she can do it, and hearing that child’s voice speaking it, I wanted to pick her up and help her along.

These are all children who could become the first members of their families to attend college. Sixth-graders surely don’t realize what a barrier that is, but it is one, as adults come to understand. The understanding is part of what creates the ache when you look into a young face full of life and energy and dreams. An adult knows how many obstacles will come along.

A lack of money to pay tuition may be the least of the problems a child will confront before graduating high school, but unlike so many of those problems, it’s one that is easily addressed.

Not easily enough, of course. The 41 recipients of this year’s awards are not the only students who would be worthy of this attention. The money the foundation has raised goes only so far.

“I want to be a pediatrician,” a girl said, and I thought how many other girls might have said that but weren’t lucky enough to be chosen and brought to this room.

During their 25 years the Dream Awards have helped hundreds of students take a critical step closer to achieving their dreams.

It’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough.

As I sat at the office daydreaming about a coming shipment of fresh, raw Liberian monkey meat – it’s Africa’s sushi, you know – a friend posted a link on Facebook to a list from Britain’s Daily Mirror of the top 10 tips for avoiding catching the Ebola virus.

This, I thought, fits the very definition of “news you can use.” On “Morning Joe” just this morning, one of the show’s guests was practically beside herself over what she saw as clear parallels between the Ebola cases in Texas and the 1995 movie “Outbreak.”

“How can anyone say no one could have guessed what would happen when things are playing out exactly, exactly, like they did in that Hollywood movie,” she said more than once, which was big news to me because I had not realized until that very moment that the Ebola virus has mutated and become airborne so that it is as easily transmitted as the flu, which is the entire basis of the movie and the earlier novel by the same name. She had to have meant that because she repeatedly used the word “exactly,” which I believe the FCC forbids unless you have first read a dictionary and know what the word means so you can use it without sounding like an idiot.

So, knowing that the virus now is spreading “exactly” as it did in those works of fiction, I was eager to read these tips on how to prepare myself for avoiding the coming plague.

For the most part, though, the tips were disappointing.

“Wash your hands.” Wash my hands? I need medical experts to tell me this? My mother told me this all the time, and her college degree was in journalism, which anyone, including my state’s governor, can tell you means she had no skills.

“Avoid contact with anyone you believe is infected.” Uh huh. Got it. If you see me walking down the sidewalk toward you and I suddenly cross the street to avoid you, go see your doctor because clearly you don’t look right.

The Mirror added that “should you need to go near someone with Ebola you need to be wearing protective gear, including a face mask and gloves,” and it helpfully provided a link to Amazon (use the link or go to Amazon and search for “ebola protection”), where you can buy a Honeywell Liquid Tight Safety Coverall with integrated Gloves and Overboots for about $110.

Buying that means I’ll have to tell my wife we need to skip a couple of “date night” dinners downtown to keep my credit card bill down, but for the sake of escaping Ebola, I know she’ll agree it’s worth the sacrifice.

“Avoid dead bodies.”

I’m waaaaaaay ahead of you there.

“Do not touch bats, chimpanzees, monkeys or gorillas,” the Mirror warned.

OK, define “touch.”

“Or their blood or fluids. And do not eat raw meat prepared from these animals.”

What?! No raw monkey meat treats?!

There goes my weekend.

Why is the governor picking on me?

Well, Gov. Pat McCrory’s not picking on me personally, but he says he wants journalists to go away. That’s already happening at a fast enough pace without any outside wishing.

“We’ve frankly got enough psychologists and sociologists and political science majors and journalists. With all due respect to journalism, we’ve got enough. We have way too many,” McCrory said Thursday in Greensboro while announcing a plan to visit businesses in every county in the state to learn what skills high-demand industries need.

His line got laughs, the Triad Business Journal reported. He also mentioned lawyers as being too numerous.

“And journalists, did I say journalists?”

Yes, sir, you did. A real comedy machine, you are.

The Business Journal also quoted McCrory on the importance of raising the prestige of industries such as trucking, which incidentally is one of the Lenoir region’s higher-paying and faster-growing employment sectors.

“I’m very impressed with the people who can drive trucks and are qualified to drive trucks,” McCrory said. “I don’t know how you back it up, I don’t know how you go forward, I don’t know how you park it, I don’t know how you drive such long distances.”

I’m sure McCrory enjoys tweaking journalists because they so often catch him or his appointees saying or doing things he probably wishes could be said or done over again, but if not understanding how to do something is what it takes for him to hold a profession in high regard, then he needs to rethink his wish for there to be fewer journalists.

It was journalists from the McClatchy newspaper chain, including the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer, who recently uncovered what no one in state government had – that the construction industry has been improperly misclassifying workers as independent contractors, which not only robs those workers of benefits and protections but allows the companies to avoid payroll taxes. The journalists found that if the level of misclassification at only 64 government-backed housing developments they examined in North Carolina extends to the construction industry as a whole in this state, the state and federal government are losing $467 million a year in taxes, the newspapers reported.

You might think it’s a fine thing for businesses to avoid taxes wherever possible, but what this reporting found is illegal cheating. If you want your taxes cut, do it the legal way – buy a politician. Otherwise you are leaving tax obligations for the rest of society to pick up. Those avoided taxes include money that otherwise would help Social Security and Medicare stay solvent.

Journalists found that.

If it’s not difficult to find places where tax cheaters are blowing half-billion-dollar holes in the budget, why didn’t anyone else find that?

On the other hand, maybe McCrory wasn’t really knocking journalists. Before mentioning journalists, he said there are too many political science majors. Since McCrory himself has a degree in political science from Catawba College, maybe his speech actually was an expression of existential angst – to be, or not to be? – and his own yearning for a job that made him feel more fulfilled and less constantly under attack, perhaps tooling down the road in a big rig as little boys in the backs of SUVs passing on the highway make the tug-down gesture, the universal plea for a trucker to blast his horn.

No one criticizes a trucker when he blows his horn. Not even journalists.

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