Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Little Ditty About an Out-of-Work Sportswriter

I am an out-of-work sportswriter, laid off on January 15, 2013 by the Newark Star-Ledger, where I was a baseball columnist and fill-in baseball beat writer. I don't expect anyone to feel sorry for me.

The Daily News - another place where I worked - recently laid off some of the best sportswriters in the business. This was humbling for me. I could never turn a phrase like Filip Bondy. Bill Madden has broken more stories than I've written. Wayne Coffey was my mentor as a feature writer.

I'm nothing compared to those guys.

But I'm going to share some of what I've experienced the last three years, as I've searched for a job to help me support my family, which includes two teenage sons.

Just to set the scene for you, I'll let you know that for the past four months I've worked a seasonal job at a golf club. I was the locker room attendant. I cleaned and polished golf shoes. I vacuumed the carpet several times a day. I kept the bathrooms clean, which sometimes included heavy lifting.

One day, a golfer (a guest) asked me, "Where's the locker room guy?"

"That's me," I said.

"Oh," he said. "I thought you were one of us."

Honestly, it's not as bad as it sounds. I always dressed for work in proper golf attire. It's a nice club. Perhaps I wasn't as "ethnic" as the past locker room guys he'd met. I was not offended.

I was never shy about sharing my story with golfers who wanted to strike up conversation. "Yeah, I used to be somebody..." That's the way I'd begin to tell them about my 25-year career as a sportswriter. "I worked for Sports Illustrated, the New York Daily News, was a columnist at the Star-Ledger. And for almost 14 years, I was a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine."

I wasn't trying to impress them with my story - okay, maybe a little bit - but for some reason I thought maybe one of the well-to-do members would say to me, like in the movies, "Here's my card. Call my secretary tomorrow and she'll discuss your salary and benefits package."

That didn't happen. Usually,  the more caring members would give me a pat on the back and a "hang in there, bro." If I had a dollar for every "Hang in there, bro," I'd have a few dollars.

No one had a job for me, though one guy insisted I apply for a job at UPS. So, I went through the whole background check thing on their website, was asked to schedule an interview, and then was greeted with the disclaimer: "You will be on call 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and make $10 an hour."

Okay, then. Next.

Lots of people had ideas. The one I hear the most is, "Write a book." My response to that is usually, "I will write a book one day. Probably when I retire. But right now, I need a job."

My favorite suggestion was always, "You should start your own sports blog." But when I'd follow up with, "Yeah, there are a lot of those, and I'm not really sure too many of them make money..."

What I've learned in three years is that in my chosen profession, right now there are assignments, but not jobs. I've hung in there for three years, grabbing assignments with reputable outlets like SI.com and the New York Times. The reality, however, is that I'd have to write 300 stories per year for those two outlets to make half of what I used to make at ESPN The Magazine. It's impossible to write 300 stories per year. If  you crushed it, you could write 150, which would mean I'd make a quarter of what I used to make. I have not crushed it. So, maybe that explains why I became the locker room guy.

The reality in sports journalism in 2015 is this: You need to be willing to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and do so with a smile on your face...and not worry about being well paid. I think I'm willing to work hard. I think I proved that in 2012, when I was asked to give up my columnist job at the Ledger and become the Yankees beat writer. It had been 17 years since I'd covered a beat. That was before the internet, boys and girls, but I gave it my best shot.

I would tell you that - not gonna be humble here - my writing was really good. I will also tell you that my other skills - live tweeting, posting random photos of things in the stadium, in the press box -  were really bad. Why? Because I was an old dog trying to learn new tricks. And like I said, it had been 17 years since I'd worked a beat and I decided to focus on, ya know, working the beat.

I felt I was taking one for the team when I went on the beat. Not that I had any choice. My editor told me, flat-out, "Another writer is not walking through the doors of the Star-Ledger..."

When I finished the 2012 season, I was brain-fried. And them came Sandy, which crushed the Jersey Shore, where I have lived since 1993, so I then became a baseball writer who was also trying to help my 80-year old parents get back in their home. I think I performed admirably.

And then I got laid off.

At first, I was relieved. The beat was taking me away from my family. My son had just played his first season of varsity baseball - as a freshman - and I saw about three games. That killed me. There was no way  could envision myself missing his baseball games for the rest of his high school career, or my younger son's soccer games, as he was also about to enter high school at the time.

So, I was relieved. I was also excited to look for work outside of sports writing. I got my foot in the door for an interview as editor of a college alumni magazine. Made it to the final round, but didn't get the job. "In the end we went with a candidate whose past work experience more closely meets the job description." Some version of that reply became the all-too-frequent response to subsequent interviews. I was in the running for a job as director of communications for a senior living community. I got in the door to try to manage sports marketing/communications for a major investment firm. I was a finalist for a communications position at a prep school. I went through four months of interviews for a position with a Major League Soccer team...and the same thing with one of golf's major governing bodies. Those last two rejections were especially painful because, for some god unknown reason - the guy doing the hiring told me the salary and benefits, and asked me if those conditions would be acceptable... ummm...hell yeah...only to give me bad news the next day.

Now, it's been a year since I've been able to get past a phone interview with Human Resources. I haven't met for a face to face interview with an actual human being in a year. I apply for a job a day on-line, which has only led to ridiculous amounts of viral spam in my mailbox every day.

In the end I have much to be thankful for. My wife is an amazing teacher who loves her job. My dad taught me a few things about saving money "for a rainy day." Don't get me wrong, I need a job. But because of the two things I just mentioned, I was able to quit my job as a car salesman after two months when I realized, much to my dismay, that the car business is shady, shady, shady. I have been able to watch my sons play their games, been able to make two trips to see my oldest son at college, have begun to take my younger son on school visits. Were I working 24/7/365 as a sports journalist, I would not have been able to do those things.

Money can buy a lot of things, but it can't buy back time.

But it's tough. One of my brothers, every time he hears about me not getting a job, or not getting an interview, comforts me by saying, "You're a good man, Jeff."

It means a lot, but I don't know anymore. How do you keep pushing for work - jobs that pay less than what you were making in 1990 - and continually hear you're not the right fit for the job?

I have never, ever, told anyone I was a great sportswriter. I've always felt I was lucky. Lucky to get a foot in the door. Lucky to get some chances I probably didn't deserve. Lucky to have a few editors at ESPN - in the beginning - who told me, "Jeff, you're good at explaining stuff."

Well, I guess that's why I just wrote this blog...I felt like I had some explaining to do.


157 comments:

  1. Hang in there, br...... I've got nothing. All I can say is that I can tell just from this piece you are a talented writer. I truly wish you best of luck and good fortunes. Cheers.

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  2. Hi Jeff, I really enjoyed reading this.

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  3. Jeff, this is pretty much my story. Including the daily applications and rejections. Well, I'm not working in a good clubhouse...but I would if I could get hired! Even been rejected for a grocery store checked out job.

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    1. Marianne CostantinouNovember 24, 2015 at 4:52 AM

      Ditto. Didn't even get callback for Costco or Trader Joe's. It's not just our profession. No one is hiring. It's all micro gigs for lousy pay -- especially if 50+. It's scary out there. xoxo

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  4. You didn't go into why you were laid off, is this industry wide? Are sports writers just not part of the future which involves tweeting, social networking, etc? Has this got to do with collapse of print media?

    If so - then it seems like you're waiting it out, watching your kids ballgames hoping for the return of an industry which will never return, in the same way.

    The cool (and terrifying) thing bout life is it changes, always changes. I can't believe you've sat at home for 3y applying for one job a day in your 'chosen field' that's like waiting for life to come to you. Like you said - your attitude at the club is to hope that someone will give you a business card and job. Life rarely comes to you - you have to go out and and get it.

    Technology changes things, I used to go to the bookstore and buy books, haven't done that in 10 years, used to pick up magazines or watch news or buy DVDs etc - all going extinct. I'm sure this has put many people out of jobs as well. But technology also creates new opportunities.

    Why haven't you written a book, or started a sports blog - god knows if you're only applying for one job a day you have the time. Will a blog replace your income - no probably it won't, but that's not the point. You can't just sit around waiting for you same job title and salary to come around for you. You have to start somewhere. Maybe the blog you started leads to a book leads to reputation leads to another job somewhere else for you.

    Sitting at home in a box leads no-where. Like I've read in the realm of authors - a blank page is the only enemy, because you can't edit, you can't make a blank page better etc. You have to do the hard work and get the words on the page first.

    If you've approached other businesses in the writing field but been rejected then maybe it's either your approach or maybe it's the LOB. Nothing else you want to do? 3 years at home is an awfully long time. You could train in IT online, learn technical writing, start a teaching degree, just about anything.

    My point is - that past performance is no guarantee of future success. The past is past. That past paycheck you earned - forget about it. You can do ANYTHING you want - follow ANY strand you want. Stop waiting for someone else to come along and save you - and learn to save yourself.

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    1. Hey anonymous, learn to read a$$hole, the writer isn't feeling sorry for himself. And maybe take a trip to OZ and find a heart.

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    2. The biggest jerks always seem to post anonymously...

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    3. Always great to read someone offering up advice that doesn't want to attach their name to it.

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    4. No offence, but I thought his criticism was somewhat constructive. I would never blame Jeff but if he's hitting a wall maybe a different approach would help. Just my 2¢.

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    5. Please don't judge. I am in the same position as Jeff, so I totally understand what he's going through. I was laid off by Gannett. I'm freelancing for several different newspapers and making 1/4 what I made before, and also working a minimum wage job, hoping it eventually leads to a new career. I've heard the book and blog advice more times than I can count.The profession we devoted our lives to is disappearing and it's rough out there. I have so many journalist friends looking for work. Hoping you find something soon, Jeff.

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    6. Mr. Anonymous, you are breathtakingly clueless.

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    7. SlowSyncFlash, here is why Mr. Anonymous' advice is not constructive:

      First, he knows astonishingly little about the newspaper industry, which has been hemorrhaging jobs for almost 10 years due to the economy and the Internet. Virtually everyone is aware the industry has collapsed; if be knows so little, perhaps he should not comment.

      The "some jobs go away, but other opportunities are created" meme is cold comfort in the field of journalism. These new opportunities due to the Internet generally pay a great deal less than veteran journalists are earning, and at the top of their careers, journalists earn less than almost any other professionals -- so when it comes to, say, staying away from foreclosure, journalists have. very little wiggle room.

      Writing a book or blog while unemployed, for the purpose of earning an income, can be pretty dangerous if you are on Unemployment. Reporting even minimal income can get you kicked off. Only an utter fool trades $350 for $20.

      And only in a world of fairies and unicorns can you do "anything you want." There are legitimate barriers to different choices. A home business, working for oneself, can be impossible if one lives in certain states where health care remains unaccessible for some. He may need to stay in a certain geographic area because of ageing parents. He may be under an alimony order saying he must find s job paying the same as the one before -- I was. Without knowing more, advice is simply condescending.

      Somehow, in today's society, simply being realistic about what you can and cannot do has become anathama, because with positive thinking, everyone can be the President.

      Apologies for typos. On the phone.

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  5. FTR, I've gone through much of the same after being laid off from an IT job. My career has meandered but I've managed to keep working. But yeah, the rejection hurts. Hang in there (again).

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  6. FTR, I've gone through much of the same after being laid off from an IT job. My career has meandered but I've managed to keep working. But yeah, the rejection hurts. Hang in there (again).

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  7. Jeff,

    I truly enjoyed your writing over the last 15 years or so. I am a little sad with the tone in some of your tweets but if no pain came through you wouldn't be human.

    You ARE a talented writer and appear to be a better dad.

    I hope you find what you are looking for or something unexpected finds you.

    Dave

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  8. To anonymous...

    I got laid off because...I got laid off. This has been happening at newspapers all over the country. My goal since being laid off was to convince someone that I could excel outside my "chosen field." But no one's been willing to take a chance on me. Not for lack of trying.

    I work about four jobs right now.

    In addition to working at the golf club, I teach a course at Monmouth University. I helped launch a line of baseball gloves, which I market and try to sell. I still try to write at least two freelance pieces per week.

    Thanks for reading.

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    1. Jeff you don't have to explain yourself to arrogant tools. Especially when they are cowardly anonymous posters.

      One thing I would suggest from my own experience is to create a profile on Seek.com or similar. With a profile created it takes 2 seconds to apply for a job (3 minutes if u include a cover letter) then don't apply for one job a day but 70-100.

      Also if u can handle the occasionally soul crushing nature of it apply for communications roles at corporates, I've seen ppl with no experience beyond customer service or sales get those jobs and they pay ok. .. around 80k here in Australia just for writing internal communications to staff and the odd press release.

      Anyway good luck

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  9. Sure, and my intent is not to come across as a dick (which I've probably failed at). Your article and response just reads as if you're whining a bit. The 'it's not fair', 'no-one will take a chance on me', 'why won't someone take responsibility for my previous salary' attitude.

    I applaud you taking 4 jobs. I grew up in a household where my father was laid off in his late 40's from a technical job and went through similar years of painting houses, selling alarm systems, working as a bouncer and security guard etc. Before winding up as a photographer and then woodworker before he died. I've changed careers three times in my life (so far)...

    It just seems like the cycle of life - if your vocation is no longer in demand you have to pivot and find a new career. If people don't want your expertise as a sports writer - then find something else to do? Surely you're intelligent and capable.

    Writing a blog looking for sympathy and waiting for fairy godmother - meh. Society doesn't owe us anything.

    Newspapers and magazine are vanishing - along with the jobs they supported. That's reality. (shrug)

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    1. Dicks wrie anonymous posts that criticize others. Regardless of your intent,

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    2. Yep. We are aware that newspapers are dying, Anonymous. Believe it or not, we read the memo.

      People get laid off. It happens. People lose their health care and often their health. They lose their homes to foreclosure, and their credit rating with it. Medical or other bills can pile up and lead to bankruptcy. Layoffs lead go marital strain and often, to divorce. They are also tied to heart attacks and suicide. And all displaced journalists KNOW they have to do something else, because their occupation is gone. Many of us are in our 50s. People aren't hiring a lot of middle-aged people at entry-level positions with no experience in a career.

      So, you know, whatever. Some people are just dicks.

      Shrug.

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  10. Working on finding that new career. Just as I've been doing for three years.

    You don't get me at all...but thanks for reading.

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  11. Jeff,

    Thank you for the article. I was laid off from a local (Abq, NM) software firm after 15.5 years. Since then I have applied for over 275 jobs in my field. I have a Bachelor's in IT and an MBA and thought I would have no problem landing a new job when I got laid off. I too felt some relief as I looked as the lay off as a chance to start over. Still hoping for that new start... :-)

    Anyway, I have always enjoyed reading your work and reading about your situation it has made me realize I am not alone and helped my spirits. Thanks again. I wish you and your family all the best. Now back to my search...

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    1. With those skills have you considered applying for business or Web analytics type roles. That's the field I work in, it pays pretty well, low 6 figures here in Australia and I am no where near as qualified as you

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    2. Ozsportsdude,

      Thank you very much for the response. I have applied for a couple of Web analysis jobs, but what I have been told (the couple of times where I get something more than a canned response) is that because of my qualifications, they do not think I will be a good fit as I will either be bored/disatisfief or out of their price range. This despite me saying I am willing to start out a rate similar to a recent college grad and willing to work my way up.

      Laurence

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    3. Only 275 jobs? Why, you're just sitting on your hands!! Make a goal of 750 applications a week. This is no time to be lazy.

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    4. Ah ha! I knew I was doing something wrong! 750 this week it is. Thank you for giving me the guidance that will surely make the difference. :-)

      Laurence

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    5. Ah ha! I knew I was doing something wrong! 750 this week it is. Thank you for giving me the guidance that will surely make the difference. :-)

      Laurence

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  12. Jeff,

    I really like reading your blog. It's very eye opening to me and mostly to the point.

    Thanks,

    Ivan

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  13. I'm sorry. Did Anonymous miss the part about how you're taking freelance work from SI.com and the Times? Because while it's not steady work, freelance is zilch to scoff at. (FTR, I don't think you're whining...)

    Jeff, it's a tough world for writers -- and I have a ton of respect for you and your colleagues. Keep kicking butt.

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  14. Well, let me just say that's terrifying. That story and Diane's comment, for that matter. I have three teenagers of my own. I'm 54. And I've always assumed, if the day comes, someone will say, "Hey, have I got a job for you . . . "

    Lovely piece, Jeff.

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  15. I was luckier than you; I've been laid off twice (not counting the startup that went bankrupt and took $10G of my money with it) but have been fortunate enough that I was able to get hired somewhere else before things got too dire and the freelance work dried up.

    Happily, I've been able to diversify myself; I've been a writer/editor/copy editor for wire services (print and broadcast), magazines and now the Internet, both in and out of sports. The willingness to expand my horizons was invaluable and gave me more arrows to shoot.

    One hard thing is that freelance work is tougher to get; there are far fewer magazines (especially in sports). Ten years ago, I could make $20,000 a year freelancing. That's not the case anymore.

    I've read some of your work and enjoyed it, and I hope you find a new home for your skills. In the meantime, I'm glad you have the kind of family support that you do; without it, a layoff can be unbearable.

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  16. I don't have a job lead or anything tangible to offer, but I am so glad that you are keeping your writing chops sharp. That will lead to good things.

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  17. Very well done Jeff. What can I say? Writers write. Thanks for writing it.

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  18. So many talented people are no longer in the business because they made too much money -- you know, a real living wage. Finding a decent job that involves the written word often comes down to luck these days. It sounds like you're due.

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  19. Jeff,
    Nice post.
    You will never regret the time with your children regardless of the reason why you have the time.

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  20. Have you considered creating another revenue stream while you continue to look for other opportunities to write.

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    1. Didn't he say be has 4 jobs? Those aren't revenue streams? How many jobs does he need for them to count?

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  21. Jeff:
    After 43 years in the biz, I got the old, "we've decided to move in a new direction." I've been working since I was 18. I got out of newspapers in 2008 and went to work for the Big 12 Conference as their website correspondent. Learned some new tricks, did more video stuff than writing but two weeks ago - kaboom.
    I doubt seriously I'll find anything involving sports. Despite your disclaimers, you were good enough to work at some of the top outlets. The best I ever did was covering national college football and basketball for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. That was a sweet deal. And overall I was able to spend 43 years doing something I enjoyed.
    Reading that it's been three years and you've had trouble finding ANYTHING close to your skill set is sending a chill up my spine. Some of the comments also don't make it sound very promising. I've adopted the user name "WillWrite4Food" for some of the job search sites I visit.
    There's not much I can tell you that isn't trite and there's no advice I can provide. About all I can say is that I completely understand your situation. Best wishes.

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  22. Jeff Bradley,

    Clearly you're still influential -- You even get trolled on your personal blog.

    Please forgive anonymous' lack of empathy. Sometimes the doucheyness can infect a person's compassion, you know?

    A lot of young writers (myself included) aspire you to be like you, and maintain the type of sports writing that you helped shape. It's a shame so much of the industry is crumbling.

    Godspeed.

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  23. I don't know if it's because I'm in my 50's, but sportswriting is a lost art. There are a few people that are still allowed to practice it, Peter King of Sports Illustrated is an example, but it ain't what it used to be. Nowadays, you're lucky to get more than a couple of paragraphs in game recaps on espn.com or si.com. Most of the time, they are on the same on both pages, something scribbled off by some nameless hack from AP. The same goes for game highlights, it used to be they'd show enough plays for you to get the feel of a game. Now, even after a scintillating game like the Patriots at Giants last night, all you get is a replay of Gostkowski kicking a 54 yard field goal to win it. I guess it's changing times, it's too expensive to pay a good sportswriter real money to crystallize a whole game into a decent length column that captures what truly happened, or to pay a video editor and find a sports anchor to talk to a decent set of highlights. It's easier and cheaper to jot off a few lines, and let a bunch of ex-jocks yammer on inanely than cover sports the way it used to be covered, with real insight. Oh, and too many idiots only care about the fantasy stats these days too.

    Seems to me like there would be a market for more in depth sports coverage, but maybe that's just me.

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  24. Did you actually read that, or were you too busy being pedantic? He has applied many places that were in different fields. He worked selling cars, for god's sake. didn't get any sense he was waiting for some magical intervention. And do you know how many pennies one makes from a sports blog? You could probably buy a Snickers at the end of the month. Next time you want to berate someone for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, do us all a favor and don't.

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  25. I've felt that pain of being laid off and the ensuing fear of having no idea what's next. It's a really hard place to be, but you're pursuing the right routes (communications positions). Have you tried Indeed.com? I've gotten many good leads there.

    I'm a former ink-stained wretch myself, and I've found a new career in digital copywriting. It wasn't easy making that pivot, but I finally made it work. I would be more than happy to talk to you about this line of work -- reach out to me if our like to discuss and I'll help however I can.

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  26. feel your pain and share it ... so many of us sportswriters are in your situation .. I have a few guys I can thank for giving me seasonal stringer work, but nothing fulltime.....

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  27. Shady, shady, shady as your description of the car business made me sad-- for a second. Then I remembered that I've heard that sports writers are those guys who can criticize but not do. Obviously, that doesn't pertain to all, just as shady, shady, shady doesn't either.

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    1. Yeah, the place I worked was shady in my opinion. If selling cars was just about being a good guy, being honest with the customer, treating them the way you or I'd want to be treated, i'd still be doing it... Unfortunately, where I was working, it wasn't about that. It was about seeing if you could win a game of three-card monte and pull one over on the customer. Management thought every "up" should be a sale and "finance" didn't like if you attracted cash buyers. I'm sure where you work it's more reputable...jb

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  28. Thanks for this, Jeff. I was the national baseball writer at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer when it ceased publication in 2009, and the ensuing years have been tough indeed. People pigeonhole you as a "sports guy" instead of recognizing that the experience gave you the ability to write about anything, quickly and cleanly.

    I faced a crisis and ultimately decided I wanted to teach. I remember telling my wife, "I can't switch careers now. If I went back to get a masters to teach, I wouldn't even start until I was 43." She said, "You have have 20 more years to work, and you're going to be 43 whether you're a teacher or not."

    So now I teach kindergarten. It's a pain in the ass like any other job, but I feel like I landed well. Best of luck to you.

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  29. Jeff,

    Thanks for the post. Wish great luck to you in the future.

    Not sure why people feel that print journalism is going away. Ads have fled to online but a large portion of the population still loves and wait for their magazines and papers to arrive. Businesses offshore everything they can blind to the fact they are creating an endless downward spiral.
    I am positive that this trend will reverse once people realize the damage. Hopefully the changes will bring back what we should have not lost anyway.

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    1. I honestly wish you were right. But I'm afraid you're not, and there are some tangible reasons why.

      A huge one is the cost of the paper itself. Other than personnel, paper is a newspaper's greatest expense, and it grows every year. Connected to that are all the costs of delivery, including gas.

      The sad truth is that it doesn't matter that the people want and love the newspaper.(On paper!) My job was to edit 77 special sections that were in the paper products only, not online. I got emails every week from readers telling me how much they enjoyed them. But they couldn't be sustained.

      In this economically stressful time, advertisers are cutting costs too. Online ads are much cheaper, because overhead is loser. So when the ads migrate there, the paper product loses its revenue.

      Everyone in town can love the paper products, but if the cost of paper, print and delivery is more than ad revenues bring in, it has to go away. And it won't be back. Paper and gas will only increase in costs, and the number of pulp readers shrinks as you go down in age, with the eldest preferring pulp and the youngest preferring digital.

      It's quite literally dying out.

      Sigh.

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  30. This says everything I have been feeling for quite some time. I spent 30 years honing my writing and find there are few meaningful places to practice it. There are far too many of us out there looking for work/assignments. God bless us all.

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  31. Enjoyed the thoughts Jeff. Don't worry - its been hard for us as well. The quality of writing has deteriorated to an astonishing low level. I am tired of reading articles that merely sum up tweets of athletes and other writers. Currently I live overseas and rely on written articles to keep me up to date. That and a few select podcasts - Kornheiser and Whitlock to name a few.

    Losing writers such as yourself is seriously dumbing down society and preventing meaningful thought on any matters - sports, politics or current events.

    I hope things turn around in the media and that there is a wave for you to catch within that change.

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  32. Jeff:

    Can considerably relate to your situation. Worked for years at a private school and when they closed it, we were all left by the curb to rot. And even at 51, the one thing that never crosses your mind is that you can't find another job. So now I work twice a long for half the money, lost the house i lived in for 30 years and muddle along from paycheck to paycheck. Thank god I have benefits or i'd be really screwed. Good luck to you

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  33. I suppose the blog will help pass the time until you find something. As much as writing a sports blog might keep the skills up, as well as keeping one's tabs on current sporting events in one's own words, your background annihilates anyone who might think you don't have the stuff to take on a new sportswriting job. So is it necessary? No, but it's something to do. Hopefully you can find enjoyment in writing whatever you please.

    Outside of moving or, like you said, sacrificing your family life for some sub-par dollars, I can certainly see why you feel stuck. Keep applying, keep networking, and perhaps keep hoping that someone somewhere decides to retire or quit. Maybe someone will be looking for an impressively experienced writer like you. Good luck, Jeff, and let us know when you find something.

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  34. Hi Jeff,

    You're a talented writer and an even better human being. I wish I could wave a magic wand and create a corporate communications job for you, I think you would be a great hire. Keep the faith and keep your head held high.

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  35. Hey Jeff,

    Feel your pain. Was a senior editor at the Mobile P-R. Laid off in 2008, just like all the other talent at that pub. Applied for gigs all across the country, just to make it to the final few before being told I wasn't the right fit.

    My response: trade school. Earned a surgical tech certification in 11 months in 2010. Got good, very interesting, very meaningful work right away. Still doing it. Also put my j-skills to use and started a little medical writing practice. It's slow but building. Also started nursing school. Soon I'll be able to work anywhere in the country. Anywhere I choose.

    Since I initially got laid off, I freelanced for a local SWFL paper. And I crushed it. Was doing those 250-300 stories a year, plus the surgical job ... plus being a dad to our young son. A few months ago, the paper told me the freelance budget was slashed, that maybe every now and then I could cover something like jv badmitton. Meanwhile, the stories and events I should be covering, were covered by interns. OUCH!!! I wrote one last story, just happened to be on my boyhood idol, Sugar Ray Leonard, dropped the mike and left journalism behind.

    And I'm the better and happier for it. I know a lot of people in the newspaper industry, and not one of them is happy or and everybody is shitting their pants that they'll have a job tomorrow. The newspaper business is a real shitty biz now. It didn't suffer a talent drain; inept management and lack of vision caused it to flush its talent down the drain.

    Look into trade school. There's a lot of good and meaningful jobs out there that can be gotten with a year's worth of training. For instance: coding. I'm thinking about it myself. Here's a NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/29/technology/code-academy-as-career-game-changer.html?_r=0

    Best of luck!!!!!

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  36. I completely empathize. I've never been at the level you've written at but after writing about all kinds of sports over the past several years and only getting a couple small freelance checks from Baseball America, I'm at the point where I've given up hoping to make a living at it and just write because I love writing.

    Good luck reinventing yourself, Jeff. Don't give up and be glad that you HAVE had the time to spend with your family. I have no advice (you're getting plenty of that already) beyond urging you to keep writing as long as the passion's there for you...passion can't be quantified by dollars and cents.

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  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  38. I see you've still got the masterful newsroom touch with "Thanks for reading."


    - Still At My Desk, Who Knows For How Long

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  39. Jeff,
    Hi. The friend who sent me this link said she thought I had written the piece, there is such recognizable experience and angst. It’s been a year for me, after 32 years in Norfolk. I think we went for the same job at the golf governing body …
    Anyway, I wound up in university communications, writing academic features, not sports. As you say, I had to convince them I could write something other than touchdowns and double plays. It was touch and go, but I did, and I am. Huge pay cut. Whatever.
    I wish I had something to say to lift you. Just wanted to reach out to a fellow traveler – far too many on the road now -- at this ridiculous time in the business. It’s hard, but try to plug away, value that family time, and keep the faith. I’m sorry, and I wish you well.

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  40. Jeff:

    I feel your pain. I'm a former sportswriter, actually, former "salaried" sportswriter because I still write stories/columns for our local newspaper for free since they will not pay for submissions due to the fact that so many area writers are willing to write for a byline only.

    I've been told the same thing as you... start a blog... still have not figured out how you get paid with a blog. My only "pay" comes from friends colleagues in the form of kudos for my newspaper features. As I tell my wife, I appreciate the accolades; but that and $3 gets me a Starbucks coffee.

    BP-Amelia Island, FL



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  41. Dear Mr. Bradley,

    I just want you to know that your work was amazing and a big part of my adolescent. People like you and Michael Lewis at the Daily News fed my soccer loving soul at a young age, especially at a time where it was not "cool" to follow the sport like it is now. Your stuff on MLSnet.com with Tino Palace was weekly reads. I feel bad the game has not shown you the love that your skill deserved. As a Grad Student in History who has not worked a real job in his life, I want to thank you again for this post, because once again, you gave me the truth that I needed to hear as someone who is soon entering the job market.

    Thank You, Stay Strong, and Best Regards,
    A reader of yours

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  42. Let me cheer you up.
    At least you're not a photo editor!

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  43. Jeff,

    I like many others here empathize and even relate to what you're going through, me included. Its a tough world and recruiters and HR people are incredibly obtuse. I also side with you on anonymous 1, clearly he needs a reality check and will get it at some point in his/her life.
    Anyway, my point: Scrap the 'sports', you are a writer and developing content is at top of a lot of companies interests. Every company no matter what is now looking to drive leads and good writing and keeping up constant online presence is priority.

    I love sports like most, but scrap that piece and in my humble suggestion, look to companies seeking to build out content, there may be opportunities there.

    My best wishes!

    LA

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  44. I left journalism after 10 years for medical school. I worked full time as a nursing assistant while going back to college and applying to medical schools across the country. But I don't have kids, I empathize with your journey and wish you the best of luck. I hope something shifts for you and you get the next one.

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  45. So sorry to hear, Jeff. It's a loss for journalism. The profession is governed more and more for the worse by frightened bean counters and incompetent editors who in turn hire unimaginative, sycophantic writers on the cheap. Language is abused, perspective is lost, and editorial integrity is compromised by the business side as credibility fades. I always enjoyed your writing. Best of luck.

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  46. Jeff:

    Thanks for the kind words and the eloquent personal tale. Seems as if, in our business, 50 is the new 66.

    Like to think your talent, integrity and work ethic would lead to a great gig, but who the hell knows in this climate of self-promotion?

    Cheers buddy, Filip

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  47. Jeff,

    A poignant piece that former daily journalists, including me (laid off three years ago), can relate to. However, I think you and I are very lucky men. Here's why:

    On the telephone with my doctor, while working in the newsroom of a major-metro daily, I learned of my cancer diagnosis. He said something about a 37-percent survival rate and I hung up the telephone.

    At that moment the job became irrelevant. Thoughts focused only on my wife and teenage kids. Surgery and treatments ensued. I was no longer a newsman but focusing on family life and cherishing the time spent together. Even winning a Pulitzer, now stuffed in a box somewhere in the garage, meant nothing compared to time with family.

    Now cancer free I reflect on that time in my life and how my self-identity changed. Work and what I did to earn money mattered little compared to being part of a loving family.

    My layoff three-years-ago was tough, household income has taken a huge hit and I too work multiple jobs. But our being surrounded by a loving family, which it appears you are, make us extremely lucky men.

    Best to you and your family

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  48. Boy, your story is heart breaking. And it hits home with a lot of people, especially me. Sure, I have a job and I'm grateful to have it, but I'm an out-of-work journalist. I used to be an editor and reporter for newspapers, news sites and magazines.

    And I can't tell you how many job interviews I had where I was oh, so very close, but nothing came of them.

    It's very tough out there. I think I would have an easier time of it if I could somehow surgically remove the passion I have for journalism. I think it would make life a lot easier if I simply didn't care about the profession, but it's not going to happen. It's in my blood. It's in all of our blood.

    I wish things could be different for all of us. I wish the newspapers and news stations, the whole darn industry, started making money like mad and the publishers and editors started to care about the quality again and we can all have the jobs we want.

    But getting paid a good salary with benefits and working the journalism job you want shouldn't be like asking for the moon and the stars.

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  49. I got laid off on June 1, 2013, at age 54. Had three real job interviews since then. All the jobs went to people who were internal candidates.

    It sucks that the skills one built up over time aren't worth anything, but what do you do? I guess one does what they must.

    Anyway, here's my story at the two-year mark of unemployment - http://www.billdoskoch.ca/2015/06/01/bill-doskoch-unfulfilled-job-search/

    All the best.

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  50. It has been only six months for me after taking the buyout from USA TODAY after 32-plus years as a sportswriter, sports columnist and sports editor. So much of what you write, Jeff, I've experienced. Applying for a senior editor job at the retirement community where my mother lives. Hearing back nothing. Becoming one of two to pass the Bloomberg/BNA editing test, coming in for the interview, never hearing back. I drive for Uber, where if I happen to mention, no, this is not my life's dream, I get downrated for not allowing the riders a "relaxing, professional" drive. I babysit. I tutor. I also try to apply to at least a job a day. I wander to downtown DC at 5 pm on a Tuesday to attend a training session for a delivery service that proffers $35/hr -- but fails to say it's a restaurant delivery service. I can't see me showing up with a Big Mac and fries -- some 45-plus years after I worked at a McDonald's. Six months to go, then the house goes on the market. Waiting for my son to make it on "Big Brother, his dream, to then get recognized and on his way to a career as a screenwriter or comedy writer in LA -- and me on the way to writing the last chapter, whatever that is.

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  51. Every time I hear of cutbacks at media outlets or journalists I've looked up to getting laid off, it makes me angry. Quality journalism is essential and important- for a democracy, to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, and to entertain. As a PR person, I have to tell my clients that the media is shrinking and to get coverage for their business is more of feat than ever. But what makes me the most upset is the dumbing down of the media, the listicles and the fact that most of our population gets their news from Facebook or "news" sites. I've always admired great reporters, and I will continue to respect journalists like you.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for this. Our Democracy is in danger because of the loss of so many actual journalists. It is a massive loss.

      Delete
  52. I haven't been in the business as long as you were, nor have I had as accomplished a career. This business, this life we've chosen, has dramatically changed and not for the better, I do fear. I've seen far too many people with real talent and passion for the job they did get dismissed for a cheaper, younger replacement that 9 out of 10 times, is vastly inferior. We used to care about telling the stories and getting it right. Now what do we really care about? I wish you the best in your future endeavors and I hope to hell you get the job you want and deserve. Don't let the bastards get you down.

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  53. To Rachel...long-time reader of your stuff...

    Here's to the last chapter.

    JB

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  54. Amen. Health and family above career and professional fulfillment.

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  55. Jeff, I've been where you are in many of the same ways. Not in journalism, but I made a decent living writing and editing. Then lost my job and tried to find a new one. I applied for I don't know how many jobs; I had approximately one interview per year, for three years. I never got an offer.

    Then I decided to make a switch in careers, and do something I thought would feel more worthwhile anyway. It meant going back to school and taking out student loans, but it was that or keep flailing away fruitlessly at trying to find another job in my old field.

    Your wife, being a teacher, may be able to back me up when I say this: Jobs in school psychology are going begging. Three years of graduate school (including, in some states anyway, a paid internship in the third year--it doesn't pay much but it does) and you can have a professional license and school districts fighting to hire you. They won't care how old you are, and you won't have priced yourself out of the market because you'll be as brand-new as any 25-year-old. But you will be making well above minimum wage.

    You will spend a lot of time writing evaluation reports for special education. It will use every skill you've already learned so well: interviewing people, sifting out valuable from less valuable information, synthesizing lots of information and summarizing it in clear writing, understandable by the average person, on tight deadlines. You will then have to communicate it in meetings with parents and other people with an interest in a student (possibly the student, too). You will collaborate with school personnel to address students' academic, social-emotional and behavioral concerns. You will support them in crisis situations. You will help the ones with special needs get what they need to be successful. None of it will be a far stretch from what you have done so far. What you don't know already (say, how to administer an IQ test), you can learn.

    If it sounds like it might even half appeal to you, talk to your wife. See what she thinks.

    Oh, and if you do it in a public-service job for 10 years and pay your student loans off faithfully all that time (and you can apply for income-based repayment), the balance will be forgiven.

    It's just a thought, but maybe you'd find that it's an answer.

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  56. Get your teaching credential-- you could be an outstanding high school journalism teacher and maybe help coach a team- maybe your son's school who knows?

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  57. Just wondering if the relentless "dumbing down" of sports writing is duplicated in national, world or political journalism.

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  58. After a long and fulfilling career in print and broadcast, I'm in the same leaky dinghy. An ad-supported website and some freelance bring in a bit of money, but I also work at a local golf course - cutting the grass on the greens and fairways. The owner is a penny-pincher who pays employees under the table in cash - and less than minimum wage - while charging golfers a premium price for the area. Minimum wage is $9.15 an hour in my state and he pays employees anywhere from $8.50 to $9. I've been told repeatedly, "Hey, we're paying you illegally so we can pay whatever we want." Were it not for proximity, the camaraderie and the fresh air and sunshine, it wouldn't be worth it. Wouldn't trade the career, though, for all the money in the world.

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  59. Jeff, this is a terrific piece of what I call cathartic writing, and it takes courage to do what you just did. Cathartic writing occurs when someone in the storms of life expresses clearly and honestly just what's happening to them and how it is affecting them. Since most people can't express themselves well on paper, they grasp onto writing like this piece and they use it to help them show others how they're feeling and thinking. Witness the number of me-todos in your comment section and then multiply that times x to see how many people have been served by your candor. It helps to know they're not the only ones struggling with this; it makes it less lonely for them. So you stand tall, especially against someone whose life is so miserable (re anonymous #1) that he/she strikes out at you to heighten your pain.
    You're doing heavy lifting in the stuff of life right now, and when you're running in mud it's a thing to be admired that you keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. Would that I had a job to offer, but I don't. In the meantime, I'm praying, asking God to give you both strength as you go forward, and a job very soon. I know how feeble that sounds in a storm, but I hope you find some comfort in knowing a stranger is moved enough by your words to carry your story to heaven in his prayers.

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  60. I am about the same boat as you. I was let go from my job as a sports writer for a small town paper four years ago.
    It was partially my fault but the sports editor and publisher weren't my biggest fans.
    Since then I have gone through the unemployment, 401 and whatever cash I could get my hands on.
    Now I am on food stamps and received some cash through a yard sale.
    I have applied for a lot of jobs over the years and now my health isn't as solid as it was once was.
    Also, I don't have a great relationship with the family and have doubt.
    I don't feel I have hit rock bottom but I am pretty low.
    I have slightly given up but I keep trying with the hope I get lucky.
    It is troubling that I am not alone but it is also assuring.
    I don't want to be the six gazillionth person to say hang in there so I won't.
    Wishing both of us luck.

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  61. Jeff, I have said this before and say it again: You ARE a great writer. One of the best I have ever worked with over the course of nearly 40 years at Sports Illustrated and ESPN, so that's saying something. If there is a story to be told, no matter how complicated, sensitive, funny, sad, crucial or just plain informative, nobody does it better, or with more dedication and determination. I have never once seen you miss. We were very lucky to have begun our careers in the still-golden age of journalism. Whoever expected our skills to be devalued so quickly? Ironically, even as that has happened, never has there been a greater need for quality storytelling than there is today in our mega-media-multiplying world. Please do me a favor. Next time you find yourself with a foot inside the door of someone who needs a proven professional, versatile and excellent communicator, tell them to call me.

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    1. John, Congrats on getting in the Suffolk County Hall of Fame

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  62. What an honest refreshing read. I was in the waiting room, about to get yet another scan for stage IV, when I found your piece. Your authenticity was inspiring and even took me out of the moment, which is no small accomplishment. Unfortunately, moments later, I had a panic attack while inside the CT tube and ended up making quite a scene. #WorldsWorstPatient. I re read you again today and like everyone else find myself rooting for you. So many industries collapse and create so many individual stories of pain and loss. I hope somehow you can feel the collective hope and prayers coming your way from many of us that read your story. We're pulling hard for you. Keep us posted, I don't doubt you'll be thriving soon.

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    1. JP: I will pray for you.

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  63. Thank you for the read. Although I am not in your position at this time, I have been. Your story helped me feel grateful and re-engerized about my own job. It is a scary advanture at times and refreashing at others, but keep swinging. Best of luck to you.

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  64. Same thing happened to me, though I cover business. Only thing to do is to accept the shitty state of the business and either a. get out or b. do the crummy clickbaiting thing at Deadspin or something like it. (I'm doing the latter as a freelance). Unemployment is really low now and there's a ton of freelance to be had. Good luck! But you have to make your own, as you know.

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  65. I almost wish I never got into the Sports Business. I have some stringing work in radio but I can totally relate. My suggestion to you is learn social media from your children and keep plugging away.

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  66. "So, I went through the whole background check thing on their website, was asked to schedule an interview, and then was greeted with the disclaimer: "You will be on call 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and make $10 an hour."

    Okay, then. Next."

    See that's not good. Gotta get that ass up off your shoulders, my man. Might be a dick thing to say, but we don't know each other, so what the hell. You have a wife and 2 kids. Run rabbits and dig ditches if you have to.

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    1. It can depend on whether someone is on Unemployment or not. It ain't much, but it can be revoked if one is working even just a few hours a week. In addition to that, I used to ghostwrite a job hunting blog, and the advice is not to take a job far below your skill set unless you are starving because you can get stuck there.

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    2. It can depend on whether someone is on Unemployment or not. It ain't much, but it can be revoked if one is working even just a few hours a week. In addition to that, I used to ghostwrite a job hunting blog, and the advice is not to take a job far below your skill set unless you are starving because you can get stuck there.

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  67. Really enjoy your work Mr Bradley and wish you the best. You are a talented journalist and not a "whiner" at all.

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  68. Your insights on unemployment are spot-on. Pivot, blog, re-invent become meaningless when gatekeepers use the mysterious "fit" line as an easy excuse to discriminate and eliminate candidates. I appreciate that you wrote the truth and not some hallmark haiku YOLO comment. Fingers crossed for promising news in the near future. Peace.

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  69. Downsizing has hurt many industries over the last 25 years. Now instead of merely writing about it, journalists are experiencing it. As a former journalist of 20 years who left for a new career in 2000, I can only say part of the reason was that I didn't want to be old and irrelevant in or out of the newsroom. You have so many talents, the trick is not limiting yourself to communication or journalism jobs. Good luck.

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  70. Hey, anonymous...I work four part-time jobs that allow me to do better than $10 an hour. UPS was not going to improve anything for my family. On to the next application. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Also, if a low-paying job will interfere with communicating with potential employers and going to interviews, it's best not taken -- unless you live in a state where you must take any job offered no matter how ghastly or lose your unemployment. In which case you're screwed.

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  71. Jeff;

    I recently took a buyout at USA Today (the same one as Rachel). Not because I thought my job was in danger, but because anyone over the age of 50 was being marginalized and it was likely to get far worse with my editor and several plus 60 staffers also jumping at 12-months of pay. The whiz kids in charge have little to no actual reporting or editing experience, unless its a year or two in Bumfuck. Their recently annointed bosses aren't much better. Most of the copy is ripped off from other news sources or so thinly reported that the holes are evident to even the most casual reader.


    Journalism as we knew it is mostly dead. My suggestion is to use the considerable skills you've gleaned over the years as a reporter into something else. Seeking out law firms to see if they need someone to rewrite copy or quasi-investigate issues. Looking for work as a writer at a corporation. Hitting up every trade journal and consumer magazine (AARP) for freelance work that could result in a regular or semi-regular paycheck.

    It's obvious from your blog that you have talent. Sending in resumes blindly for jobs posted on the Internet is a waste of time. Based on age alone, you won't get past the gatekeepers, electronic or otherwise.

    And as others have said, hang in there.

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  72. Jeff-

    I looked up to you ever since I showed up at ESPN Mag for, among other things, your ability to turn around stories so quickly and still produce really insightful pieces, and do so in any variety of lengths. That is quite a talent in our business.

    I think the story you've shared here hits home with many folks, especially in sports media because deep down we could see things playing out in a similar fashion for us.. I was touched to see John Papanek's comments above. That's quite a tribute given his career/perspective. It's also not surprising to see given that many of us who have worked with you in the past feel the same way about your talent as a writer.

    Hope things pick up soon.

    Bruce Feldman

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  73. Switched from sports to news later in my "newspaper career," but much of the rest of the story is the same, right down to who owned the last paper I was employed by. Somehow I went from being someone who was trusted and regarded enough to cover the presidential campaign to someone who could not do anything right. Of course we all know the reality, that a "pledge" is only good for polishing furniture and in today's clickbait environment, and if you were lucky enough to earn a decent salary at one time, you are ripe for replacement by someone younger and cheaper.

    I was lucky, or so I thought, to land a press secretary type job with a local government. The pay was significantly less, but the benefits are decent. But as a political appointee, my job security pretty much depends on my employers winning elections, and last time around they did not. So in all likelihood come January I am back on the streets.

    While I would like to think my experience in this second career will help me land a similar communications gig somewhere else, I am starting to think that will only happen if a situation arises where I have a connection, or an "in." I have applied to countless jobs for which I am very well qualified, and have gotten to the interview stage only a few times. Even though my current salary is less than I made in the newspaper biz (which was decent and respectable, but hardly exorbitant), it seems nobody is interested in even talking to someone who expects a wage high enough to pay their bills.

    I, too, do a lot of sports freelance stuff (though for much smaller publications). The only gig that really paid a good fee was short-lived, as I feared it would be, because it was with a web site that I knew from the start was paying way more than it could afford given its limited ad revenue.

    Wish I could offer some encouragement, but when I see folks like you and some of the commenters above -- folks for whom I have the utmost respect -- all in the same boat, the already dark and rainy sky seems even gloomier.

    I know one thing for sure. If I had the money to do it, I'd launch a new sports web site. Because there are so many extremely talented writers available for hire, it would be damned near impossible to not build traffic. Turning that traffic into revenue, of course, is a different story. Hope things work out for all of us. Not optimistic, sorry to say.

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  74. Hey Jeff,

    If I don't have you confused with someone else, I think I interviewed you in 1999 or so when I was doing a story on your brother for the Chicago Sun-Times, where I worked at the time. As I recall, you were lovely to talk to.

    I was happy covering soccer and college sports, and then got moved to high school sports, which are great to do and, I'm sure, coach, and, depending on the situation, watch as a spectator, but ultimately not so much about writing. It had its moments, but it was time to move on. So I've had some decent jobs since then and have one now, but had a couple of years where I was dramatically underemployed. It sucks, and I'm sorry. Meanwhile, most of the people I knew at the Sun-Times have lost their jobs. I don't know what else to say, but I hope maybe some empathy helps. Also, tell your brother I said hi.

    If I do have you confused w/ someone else, there's another Jeff Bradley who has a very similar career trajectory to yours, as far as I know. The rest of what I had to say still applies.

    Best wishes.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jeanie. You've got the right Jeff Bradley. I hope you're well.

      JB

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  75. Jeff:

    You and I are about the same age, and crossed paths a few times as young sportswriters in the late '80s and early '90s. I always admired your talent and your personality, and it wasn't surprising to me to see you attain the kind of heights in sportswriting that few of us ink-stained wretches could have even dreamed about. To see the arc of your career (and many of our talented colleagues of the same vintage) in recent years is really gut-wrenching...

    Personally, I got out of sportswriting about five years after I started, because I could see the future of not just long hours, low pay and poor family life, but formulaic stories, uncaring management and technological disruption on the horizon. I also knew my limitations - I was never going to be as good at it as you, or Filip Bondy or Rachel Shuster. So I gave up the sports dream, got an MBA (so I could at least speak the language of business) and became a brand consultant (a big part of which is corporate storytelling). It's not the sports life I once had, but it does allow me to write and persuade for a living, and more importantly, I don't have to lift anything.

    Bottom line: I hope you can envision yourself as more than a sportswriter -- you are a storyteller. At our age, the job offers don't come anymore. Re-invent yourself with the skills and talents you already have, so you can be your own boss and you won't have to accept jobs that don't require your considerable skills. Wishing you all the best!

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  76. Thanks for sharing with all of us, Jeff. I found your blog thanks to Ed Sherman's fine piece on Poynter. I was one of the fortunate ones: I got to pursue my career as a working journalist for 35 years, catch the tail-end of the dot.com boom around the turn of the century (the 20th, not the 19th!), and then transition successfully into a second career as a full-time educator. In a sense, I got out of the way twice, allowing others to take their time and place in the business. I wish I had been more balanced in my priorities, something you seem to perfectly understand. There are a lot of very talented journalists and editors commenting here. We could put out a hell of a newspaper or website or TV station or radio station -- or all of these platforms. We've all been fortunate to live our dream, Jeff. You have, too. I hope you can continue to find satisfaction as a sports journalist. But know your life priorities. Know when it's time to move on, to transition, to live life on your terms to the best of your ability. I wish the best for you and your family.

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  77. At age 54, I'm loading trucks for UPS. My last IT gig blew up unexpectedly a month or so ago, and this was the best I could find. Granted, there are prospects, but you'd think that a talented IT guy, with a BA and master's degree, wouldn't be loading trucks part-time in a seasonal job. But here I am.

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  78. Why do people write posts anonymously? If you can't use your name, don't say a thing. I think Thumper's mom said something like that, sort of.
    Anyway, I have great respect for Jeff Bradley's writing, always have. We are in a strange spot in the journalism world, overwhelmed by the citizen journalist, unpaid freelancers,free ads, and the ability of anyone to publish anything, anytime, and, of course, the relentless sprint of technology towards somewhere.
    I often think it's the future of satisfying work, generally, that is in danger. But we will never go backwards to simpler, more understandable times. This is what we humans want: progress,efficiency, speed, limitless communication regardless of quality--so we get Uber, Facebook, Air BnB, Craigslist, 50 million blogs, a billion apps--all wildly disruptive to some established industry. Self-driving cars? Yes! Unless you're in the auto insurance business, because you will be unemployed.
    John Papanek, Filip Bondy, Jeannie Chung, Bruce Feldman, Seth Davis, Rachel Shuster, Bill Pennington, Diane Pucin--I know or know of you all. Brethren, is how I see it. I'm wavering, but for now I still believe deeply in the printed word. --Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times

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    1. Thanks Rick...always enjoyed fact-checking your stuff at SI...another line of work that's taken a beating, fact-checking.

      I keep a copy of a piece you wrote for Men's Health, about how every man should own a piece of land. Wish I'd followed that advice.

      Much respect, JB

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    2. Thanks Rick...always enjoyed fact-checking your stuff at SI...another line of work that's taken a beating, fact-checking.

      I keep a copy of a piece you wrote for Men's Health, about how every man should own a piece of land. Wish I'd followed that advice.

      Much respect, JB

      Delete
    3. Thanks Rick...always enjoyed fact-checking your stuff at SI...another line of work that's taken a beating, fact-checking.

      I keep a copy of a piece you wrote for Men's Health, about how every man should own a piece of land. Wish I'd followed that advice.

      Much respect, JB

      Delete
  79. Jeff,
    I admire your grit in doing what you have to do for your family, and your courage in writing so openly about it. We all know that ego can prompt us to work hard and accomplish amazing things but that it also can prompt us to make bad situations worse. I lost my Web editor job almost six years ago at a weekly business newspaper. It threw me into a lengthy, seriously downward spiral. I started freelancing right away, and I'm still doing it, but it's been consistently uneven income. Still, I feel lucky to have some work flowing in -- work that I still love to do.
    You're an inspiration. The one brother you mentioned is right.

    ReplyDelete
  80. Jeff,
    Thanks for sharing your experience, and I echo what Papanek and Telander said. You've always been a pro and a stand-up guy. I've only been able to keep afloat freelancing for the past eight years because I'm single with no kids and living in reasonably priced Arkansas. Never prolific, I've been able to cobble together a living editing, copy editing, teaching and writing. I got to do a book I really wanted to write, pursued an editing project that has rippled out into speaking and other opportunities (an anthology of Charles Portis's work), and another editing project that earned me no money at all but brought me enormous satisfaction (bringing Gil Rogin's novels back into print). Just this month, I started a job as a senior editor at the Oxford American magazine, based here in Little Rock, where I'm working with a really talented group of younger editors who value the experience I bring, most of which I learned from the other consummate pros at Sports Illustrated, in addition to Papanek and Telander, like Alex Wolff, Sandy Padwe, David Bauer, Rich O'Brien and Merrell Noden (whom I dearly miss). But what also touched me was your mention of helping your aging parents, something many of us in our 50s are finding consuming, frustrating and, yes, rewarding. My dad's 94 and still lives on his own four floors below me in my apartment building, but I've taken on managing his health care and finances, and it can be, as one man put it in a recent New York Times story about taking care of his parents, a full-time job in addition to his job. Thanks to you, and those who've posted here, for your honesty about the difficulties facing journalists now. I think your post and this thread will be required reading for the Magazine Writing course I'm teaching at Arkansas-Fayetteville next semester - provided enough students sign up for it. Best wishes to you and if I can help, I'd be happy to. Jay

    ReplyDelete
  81. Jeff: I worked in both journalism and PR/corporate communications. My journalism degree is from Rutgers. Many of my fellow RU J-school grads, like K. Coughlin, are now gone from the Star-Ledger and other NJ media outlets. If you are NJ Shore-based like me, can I suggest you reach out to Joule Staffing?(http://www.joulestaffingsolutions.com/) They have offices, including Edison and Toms River. I have a P/T gig until early January, and then I often pick up something from Joule. Not an ideal situation, of course. I would rather be working in a journalism setting. Thanks for a great, very relevant article.

    ReplyDelete
  82. Jeff very poignant story that is playing all over the United States. The Stories more about how companies are doing business these days, the last 10 years, they've had to deal with the stinking economic model which they created when they thought the way to handle the Internet was to be greedy. As we all know the publishing business before 9/11 was a very lucrative market which had a lot of people that ran it make lots of money. But just like what the banks did with the loaning industry between 2004 and 2007, the publishing industry did the same and a lot of companies made a lot of money short-term but are paying for their greed today. These companies are seeing shrinking profits, but are able to exist because they have cut back on manpower, and taking advantage getting younger workers that will work for much lower wages. They are also taking advantage of the swollen ranks of unemployed writers, many of these writers are working for wages in some cases are 25 cents on the dollar of what they used to make. So in a way the industry is taking advantage of the slowdown of so many unemployed x-writers.
    I wish I had more encouraging thoughts but I also am caught in the same turmoil that you are in, with the exception I presently have a job lbut I don't know yet if my contract is going to get renewed for 2016. If it doesn't, I will have just like the rest zero chance of getting another job in publication.
    Unfortunately your story is the same for about 50 people that I know. You and those that I know are forced to scramble week to week to make ends meat. I can only hope that you find the right person that we'll be able to point you into a different direction which all writers need to seriously think about. I know for most of us over 50, it's a daunting task to think about forgetting about the publishing industry which most of us have been in for many decades. We now have to deviate from our life journey and go down to different path. I know you have suffered for years now and I can only hope that lady luck will prevail and point you down a different path so that you can carry on with your life again.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Thoughtful, sensitive and brave -- thanks for sharing Jeff. Have you considered grant writing? It calls upon skills you honed as a journalist, and doesn't require a certificate or degree. "Grant Writing for Dummies" is a basic road map. The money can be decent because good grant writers more than pull their weight. Just a suggestion. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Jeff,

    Terrific piece though I'm really sorry it was necessary. I wish I had something profound to offer as to how to counter the very disturbing time we find ourselves in. Wishing you the best of luck in the days ahead and that the talent you displayed here - and throughout your career - is given its due.

    Geoff

    ReplyDelete
  85. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  86. Hi Jeff,

    I hope you don't mind a small piece of advice: perhaps you could find some way on your web page to give prospective employers a way to contact you directly. I understand that this idea can be somewhat problematic, as you mention in your piece that you have gotten "ridiculous amounts of viral spam in my mailbox" since you started applying for jobs online. But nevertheless, it is important to be readily available when you are job hunting. Speaking from experience, it can be a real turn-off to a potential employer when he or she doesn't have a way to contact a candidate directly.

    Also, I see you have a LinkedIn professional page that does not look like it has been updated in a while. If you are not updating and checking LinkedIn on a daily basis, then perhaps you should get in the habit of doing so. You never know when a professional connection who may help you is knocking at your door, and you will miss out if you are not checking it regularly. Very often, LinkedIn is viewed by employers as a good way to reach out to start some dialogue with job candidates.

    Perception is everything when you are looking for a job, and if an employer thinks that you are difficult to reach, they may misinterpret that as meaning you are not aggressively looking for opportunities.

    Just my two cents. Good luck in your job search, and I am sorry for your troubles.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Thanks for posting this, Jeff. A powerful look at the new reality. I'm a working journalist, and I already realized how lucky I am to still have a job. Many of my (more) talented former colleagues have not been as fortunate.

    ReplyDelete
  88. A few people have mentioned teaching ... I may have missed your response to that, but I would encourage you to think about it. People often make mid- or late career jumps to teaching. I actually lost my job in journalism early in my career, and I was already pretty burned out. I headed back to school and finished a teaching certificate in English and journalism, and I ended up writing a journalism curriculum for my school and moving them from a copier version of typed articles as their newspaper to a real tabloid. I loved the kids, I loved the work. For me, it also led to other things (teaching skills, as it turns out, are entirely translatable to many other areas), but I would have been happy to stay with "my kids," too.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Thank you, Jeff, for writing this. You speak for me as well.

    I was laid off in November 2014 after a 30-year career, 8 awards and 2 books. I knew it was going to happen a few days after the 2008 crash, when our owners started talking bankruptcy and the first round of layoffs began.

    I had decided to become a journalist in second grade, so I spent a few years frozen, like a deer in headlights. I finally went back to school to study Social Media Marketing and was earning straight A's until I had to drop out when I finally did get laid off.

    The peculiar thing during those years was how many well-meaning friends and family members inadvertantly invalidated my experience when they were trying to make me feel better. This put me in the awkward position of constantly trying to convince people that a negative thing was true.

    "Why don't you do a blog?" ( I could monetize one of the 5 I have, and that would pay for a cup of coffee each month. Still trying to figure out what go do about, you know, all the other stuff.)

    "Why don't you write a book?" (My first two netted $0 after expenses and took two years each. I kind of need rent next Saturday.)

    "Writing is writing. Your words will go online instead of on paper. What's the big deal?" (You don't understand the business model.)

    "You have nothing to worry about. Good writers are always in demand." (You don't understand the business model.)

    "They still need content to fill space." (You don't understand the business model. Or the Internet.)

    "Technical writers are in demand!" (That's fantastic news! For technical writers.)

    "You're leaping to conclusions." "Stop looking at the negative side." "It's just an opportunity to grow in your career!" "You just have low self-esteem." "Try Positive Affirmations! They worked for my cousin." "Stop worrying. The print edition will never go away here." (Guys, really. I'm not wishing this into existence. It just IS.)

    My job search was as fruitful as yours, even though my LinkedIn profile was in the top 4-6% of my 300+ connections during the entire process. None of the jobs would have paid close to my moderate salary.

    In the end, I became ill and wound up on Disability. Folks still send me "help wanted" ads for minimum wage part-time writing jobs at community papers -- the type of writing I was doing in high school. I have to explain to them that I am not working because of a Disability -- I didn't go on Disability because I couldn't find a job.

    It sucks, Jeff, it really does. A lot of us lost more than our paycheck -- we lost our identity.

    But don't worry. You're a really good writer.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Hello,

    I know I am going to come across as insensitive but all this blog told me is that you have to let the dream go, and move on. I know you said that you essentially have, but have you really? My humble advice is have you considered going back to school and learning something new? There are wonderful jobs in healthcare that only take a few years to learn and the wages are excellent. The hours can be bad, as well as the work, (depending on what you decide to do) but the rewards can be amazing. I was in similar situation as you, when I left University, and someone once told me its easy to play the victim.



    Good luck to you Jeff,

    ReplyDelete
  91. First, a sincere apology to Jeff. I'm not trying to take over hour eloquent blog (and am in the process of creating my own). It is just that this is the FIRST time in my almost decade-long nightmare that someone has validated my experience. And so beautifully, besides.

    Speaking, obviously, only for me -- I was raised during the days of "All the President's Men," "Lou Grant," "Night Stalker," even Mary Tyler Moore. For those of us in our 50s, Watergate defined our early childhood. I chose journalism in grade school for ideological reasons. During college, and when I entered the field, I was willing to give up on the idea of being wealthy so that I could use my words to save the world -- or at least, my little corner of it. I was incredibility proud of being part of "The Fourth Estate" -- enough so that I was okay with earning only a bit more than minimum wage my first 8 years in the newsroom. Like my peers, I suppose, I had no way to know the economy was already in free-fall, and always assumed my salary would grow more than it did, and that I would retire at a newspaper.

    So for us, more than for many others, our occupation was our identity. It wasn't what we did, it was who we were.

    I am certain that all of us are quite aware of the need to move on. Nothing says "giddyup' to the buggy whip maker than the sound of the Model T rolling off the assembly line.

    But I don't believe we are painting ourselves as victims. What you are seeing is more akin to bereavement. We have suffered not only financial loss, but loss of our identities as well. That may be one reason you don't see us excited to leap to the next awesome opportunity.

    Again, just for me -- I actually wanted to go into health care. Specifically, I wanted to go into psychology, or at least some type of counseling.

    But the idea of returning to school is more realistic for those who are in a more secure financial situation, and except for journalists who work for massive news outlets or who are married to the breadwinner, journalists just aren't there. In my case, my layoff came at the same time as a divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and a court order to split my income with my ex -- alimony. Doing that resulted in my bringing home lesz than I had in the mid-1980s. When I finally lost my job, my savings were depleted quickly and my stats only allows 6 months if Unemployment, at which time I faced eviction from my apartment.

    Had I been able to save 2 years' worth of income, or had my husband worked, I may have gone for that master's or doctorate. But I had immediate needs for a roof over my head; taking out loans for school, and expecting to pay them back, and entering a new field at, say, 56 ... it was just not doable.

    I also thought of being an RN, but like a lot of journalists, I am math- and science-impaired. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  92. First, a sincere apology to Jeff. I'm not trying to take over hour eloquent blog (and am in the process of creating my own). It is just that this is the FIRST time in my almost decade-long nightmare that someone has validated my experience. And so beautifully, besides.

    Speaking, obviously, only for me -- I was raised during the days of "All the President's Men," "Lou Grant," "Night Stalker," even Mary Tyler Moore. For those of us in our 50s, Watergate defined our early childhood. I chose journalism in grade school for ideological reasons. During college, and when I entered the field, I was willing to give up on the idea of being wealthy so that I could use my words to save the world -- or at least, my little corner of it. I was incredibility proud of being part of "The Fourth Estate" -- enough so that I was okay with earning only a bit more than minimum wage my first 8 years in the newsroom. Like my peers, I suppose, I had no way to know the economy was already in free-fall, and always assumed my salary would grow more than it did, and that I would retire at a newspaper.

    So for us, more than for many others, our occupation was our identity. It wasn't what we did, it was who we were.

    I am certain that all of us are quite aware of the need to move on. Nothing says "giddyup' to the buggy whip maker than the sound of the Model T rolling off the assembly line.

    But I don't believe we are painting ourselves as victims. What you are seeing is more akin to bereavement. We have suffered not only financial loss, but loss of our identities as well. That may be one reason you don't see us excited to leap to the next awesome opportunity.

    Again, just for me -- I actually wanted to go into health care. Specifically, I wanted to go into psychology, or at least some type of counseling.

    But the idea of returning to school is more realistic for those who are in a more secure financial situation, and except for journalists who work for massive news outlets or who are married to the breadwinner, journalists just aren't there. In my case, my layoff came at the same time as a divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and a court order to split my income with my ex -- alimony. Doing that resulted in my bringing home lesz than I had in the mid-1980s. When I finally lost my job, my savings were depleted quickly and my stats only allows 6 months if Unemployment, at which time I faced eviction from my apartment.

    Had I been able to save 2 years' worth of income, or had my husband worked, I may have gone for that master's or doctorate. But I had immediate needs for a roof over my head; taking out loans for school, and expecting to pay them back, and entering a new field at, say, 56 ... it was just not doable.

    I also thought of being an RN, but like a lot of journalists, I am math- and science-impaired. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  93. As a veteran journalist who entered the field in the late 1980s, I have personally experienced the early joys and the later sadness of this career as the print industry crumbles around us. The newsroom has been shrinking at an alarming rate as more layoffs and countless buyout offers are demanded by management. As the staffing level grew smaller, the duties of those who survived the cuts kept growing and growing. And now, journalists in their mid- to late 50s who tried their best to keep up with the changes are being let go.

    A sense of impending doom is hanging over the newsroom. I am trying to be proactive by seeking out affordable vocational training because taking out student loans at age 56 is just not feasible for me. My plan is to find a low-stress office-type position and stay there for six years until I can quietly retire.

    ReplyDelete
  94. Just catching up on all your comments Teresa...

    I appreciate that you understand my plight. I've dusted myself off thousands of times, only to gather more dust. It's frustrating as hell.

    Thankfully, I've got an awesome wife with a teaching job and health benefits.

    JB

    ReplyDelete
  95. Excellent article. I also read through some of the comments and eesh...so much advice, huh? Cool thing about reporters and writers is that they are very observant. I wish you the best in your journey #thestruggleisreal

    ReplyDelete
  96. So...or the key to the now is innovation. You guys have a wealth of knowledge...Jeff, u have a great face and sounds like you found some buds in the same predicament as you. Could you not start your own show to the tune of the the Colbert report from a sports angle? Not for money but for fun...i think that the magic of living the American dream lies therein. You tried what feels rational and responsible...now go have fun and i believe that you may find your pot of gold there.

    ReplyDelete
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