Archive for the ‘The biz’ Category

It worked.

Posted: October 9, 2011 in Meta, The biz, The job

One year ago this Saturday, I walked out of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for the last time as an employee. I quit. It had been three and a half years and it was time.

After a week off, which was busy enough it didn’t really count as a week off, I got in my car and drove to Pittsburgh. No job. No place of my own. Not even my wife – she stayed in Little Rock to keep working while I tried to find enough freelance work that we didn’t go immediately broke.

Our friend Brian generously let me use a spare room in his house. All I could tell him was it might be a couple months. But I really didn’t know. I had some freelance work lined up and was confident I could get more, hoping my little food site, Eatsburgh, could help me along doing some different types of work than I had done professionally. But I really didn’t know.

The Democrat-Gazette had laid off my wife, but not me, in May 2009. The next day, I sent an email to a man I didn’t know, the assistant managing editor for local news at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. We were going to be in Pittsburgh in a couple weeks for her cousin’s wedding. So I was going to have a suit with me already. Would he mind taking a look at some of my work and meeting with me?

Before that we toyed with the idea of moving to Pittsburgh. Tossed it around like a lazy game of Frisbee. She grew up not far away and every time we visited, I liked the city a little more. Dense, old, often overlooked but comfortable and fun. When she lost her job, that was the motivation we needed to get serious.

Editor said the P-G wasn’t hiring. I said I knew that but didn’t know anyone in journalism in Pittsburgh and thought it might be nice to get to know each other. If he could make time.

He did. Brought the city editor with him and promised me half an hour. That became two hours. He introduced me to the executive editor. We all sort of hit it off.

And we stayed in touch. By email, mostly, but if I wrote a new story I thought they should see, I sent it along. If I came to town and hadn’t talked to them in a while, I’d drop off a fresh resume and clips, maybe with a handwritten note inside. The executive editor came to Little Rock to give a talk. I made sure I was there. Those kinds of things.

I tried the normal way of moving to a new city: applying for jobs there, hoping I get one and it comes with moving expenses. I’d been a finalist for a reporting job at not the P-G at one point – they even flew me up for interviews – but it didn’t work out.

It would have to happen a different way.

And then I moved. Even as their newsroom went through another round of staff buyouts, they found room in their freelance budget to toss me work. Mixed in with assignments from other publications, it kind of worked. It was enough.

We found an apartment we couldn’t turn down in late December in the Mexican War Streets on the city’s North Side. My wife quit her job in February. Then we were both out of full-time work. I freelanced. She temped. We scraped by.

I got a job writing for Gas Business Briefing, an online business publication covering the natural-gas industry in North America and based on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The P-G had an indirect role in that. The city editor met someone at a party who worked for a sister publication to the Briefing and put us in touch. When this job came open, my new friend was able to put in a word.

Still did some freelancing. Not long afterward, my wife found full-time work, too, as editor of one of AOL’s Patch websites.

Things were OK. Our plan mostly worked. We were here. We were employed in journalism.

And then the company that owned Gas Business Briefing got sold in July, subsumed into a large unit of a massive global company. The four of us at the Briefing – an editor who also reported, two reporters and a sales person – were not the main asset in the deal. The way we covered the gas industry didn’t have an obvious fit with the new company.

Upheaval. Again. I asked around among friends if they knew of jobs that might come open in the near future. Got some truly good leads. I told my boss I’d started looking around and that I’d feel stupid not to. He understood and encouraged me. He couldn’t make any promises about my future in particular, let alone ours as a publication.

I didn’t go out of my way to chat up anyone at the P-G. Didn’t mention the job situation to them. By then we’d known each other more than two years. They knew where to find me. And my style of gentle persistence didn’t much fit with bugging them just because my circumstances had changed. I knew they liked me. They knew I liked them. If we could work something out, the situation wasn’t waiting on me to initiate it.

So there I am sitting at work and my phone buzzes with an email. It’s from that first P-G editor.

“You gotta updated resume, big man?”

That’s it. That’s the whole email. That’s all it said.

That’s the closest they’d ever come to formally talking to me about a full-time job. We traded emails and he asked if I’d considered being an editor. Breaking-news editor in particular.

Kind of perfect timing, actually. I’d been thinking about that a lot. And breaking news, if you’ve poked around this site at all, is a bit of a sweet spot for me professionally.

The job sounded like a good fit. It wasn’t just any job. Good gig, a lot of work on the website, plus a seat at the table for digital initiatives and social media.

I went in for interviews all day on a Tuesday in September. I wore the same suit I’d worn the first time I went in there to meet them for the first time. I’m not quite that superstitious, but that’s how it worked out and I thought it was kind of funny.

They told me I should hear something by the end of the next week. My phone rang at work the next Tuesday – early for their timeline.

It was the executive editor and the managing editor on speakerphone. I’ve been around long enough that that was enough to tell me what this call was going to be. A job offer. I about fell down in the hall outside the Briefing office.

“So, what are you planning to do the rest of your life?”

The executive editor’s ice-breaker. I about fell down again.

It was a good offer for a good job at a good newspaper. But it was so much more than that. It was relief. It was joy. It was hell-yeah-ness.

It meant everything worked. Our plan to move here with no jobs and build something from scratch – it all worked. The uncertainty – worth it. The week we had 39 cents in our bank account – worth it.

I start work tomorrow at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And I can’t wait to see what happens next.


Posted: September 19, 2010 in Meta, The biz

And while I’m thinking of it, what’s a better image for reporting than my silhouette shrouding a No Trespassing sign on some dude’s property?

You’re welcome.

Hire John Krupa.

Posted: May 29, 2010 in Meta, The biz

A good friend of mine just gave up his reporting job to move to his hometown of Chicago, where his wife starts a new job next week.

His name is John Krupa. Hire him if you can.

His LinkedIn profile is here. Here’s the recommendation I wrote for him there:

John has a fantastic eye for detail. Whatever he’s writing about, wherever his writing takes him, I feel a connection with the subject or the place other writers’ work doesn’t often give me. He doesn’t flinch at any sort of assignment — or at any impediment to him getting what he wants. A stand-up guy and the sort of writer every place needs more of.

He didn’t ask me to do this. I wanted to.

The List, Part II.

Posted: January 22, 2010 in The biz

About a year ago I started compiling this list of songs that capture some facet of the state of journalism. I had help from some good friends — and even from a couple random people who left comments on the post.

I figured it’s time for another stab at this. If you have ideas, leave ’em in the comments. If not, c’est la vie. Hope it’s worth a chuckle or a cry. Hell, maybe both. At the least, it was fun to put together on a furlough day. Seemed appropriate.

As with the first go-round, keep in mind that there’s far more dark humor here than outright despair. For now, anyway.

“Suffer,” Smashing Pumpkins

“We’re In This Together,” Nine Inch Nails

“Runaway Train,” Soul Asylum

“Paranoid Android,” Radiohead

“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” U2

“Hey Jealousy,” Gin Blossoms

“Cryin’,” Aerosmith

“Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand,” Primitive Radio Gods

“Reckless Life,” Guns ‘N’ Roses

“Can’t Stop The Music,” The Village People

“Going South,” Dead Moon

“Smokin’ From Shootin’,” My Morning Jacket

“All Blues,” Miles Davis

“I Don’t Know What I Am,” The Wipers

“She’ll Dance To Anything,” John Paul Keith & the 145s

“Stop Stalling,” Jack Oblivion & the Tennessee Tearjerkers

“Never Tear Us Apart,” INXS

“Keep Your Eyes Ahead,” The Helio Sequence

“Made My Bed Gonna Lie In It,” The Easybeats

“How Naked Are We Going To Get,” The Blow

“Sufficiently Breathless,” Captain Beyond

“Useless Information,” The Move

Hard news.

Posted: September 19, 2009 in The biz

That last post got me thinking. A few people have suggested that in addition to many of the stories I tossed up on this site, I make sure to add at least a few articles with straight ledes just to show that I can do those, too.


See what I did there? Story vs. Article. The editor of the long-gone Arkansas Gazette — he was in the job 70 years and died in 1972 at age 100 — used to admonish reporters who wanted to write stories, saying that term left too much room for fiction, while an article provided only fact.

I don’t know about that. That seems an archaic way to describe it.

Some stories want to be told certain ways. Others are flexible. The style of the lede could well determine whether anyone bothers to continue with the paragraphs that follow. A writer should have some sense of which way to go.

The lede to me, however, doesn’t determine whether a story is hard news or not. You can write hard news with a soft touch. There are stories that seem to require it.

Yet a straight lede is a crucial tool for a writer. Not every story must — or even wants to — be a story.

It’s interesting to me because my paper is the most old-school shop I’ve ever worked in. Most of what we write has straight ledes. The ability to write something else has to be earned over time. It took me about a year here to get even a little bit of latitude, if not the benefit of the doubt.

Still. Sometimes journalism is best as a blunt instrument.

The List.

Posted: March 21, 2009 in The biz

Time, I suppose, to take this puppy public.

Some friends and I started a list of songs appropriate to the state of the newspaper business. Some mixed feelings, to be sure, based on the list. I haven’t identified who contributed what — in part because a couple people asked me not to.

Feel free to add to it in the comments, if you like. And keep in mind, this is all in fun, in keeping with the typically dark humor of a newsroom.

Without further ado, and in no particular order:

“Walk the Dinosaur,” Was (Not Was)

“All I Can Do Is Write About It,” Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Waving My Dick In The Wind,” Ween

“Blaze of Glory,” Bon Jovi

“Make It All OK,” R.E.M.

“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” Guns N’ Roses

“Ain’t Gonna Rain Anymore,” Nick Cave

“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” The Temptations

“All Remote and No Control,” Eric Avery

“Another One Bites the Dust,” Queen

“Any Last Werdz,” Eazy E

“Atrocity Exhibition,” Joy Division


Journalism dork.

Posted: March 1, 2009 in The biz

I have this strange fascination with the journalism of the past. Not because I want to duplicate it, but because I want to understand it — its pressures and its rules and its glories and its failures. Like, what was it really like at the Philadelphia Record before a strike shut down what was considered the liveliest, best-written paper in the city? Or dreams of Newsday’s investigations team in the mid-1990s, with time and resources.

I get a kick out of things like this:


And these:



And, of course, this:


Dead newspapers, though, rather fascinate me. Especially large dead newspapers.

This is why I want an Oregon Journal honor box. Surely one exists somewhere. I’d settle for the Pittsburgh Press or the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Baltimore News-American or the Dallas Times-Herald.

I have a Houston Post coffee mug, but that isn’t the same thing.