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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

In the last year, I sat at a United Way meeting where the speaker said many people are living a paycheck away from being homeless. "You don't know the half of it, sister" I said to myself. Despite having the fancy title of Senior Executive Editor, I now find myself homeless. Now most people who think about the homeless consider those in Seminary Park here in Burlington. Or people who sit on the streets of all are major cities. But the homeless crowd are much more like me -- a person who doesn't have a single address to call home. I've struggled with finances because of divorce and bankruptcy, termination and a previous layoff. Of my three job losses, two were because my investigative journalism made publishers feel uncomfortable. This third was because I had a luxury title without luxury pay. In order to save some money, my bosses at the Herald-Times in Bloomington set me up in at apartment at the newspaper, once meant for the company owner. I could save up some money and look for a place. Except -- there's always an "except." I worked nearly every waking hour for most of my 10 months here. I don't begrudge that. I love what I do and I'm good at it. Hell, someone pays me to read and write. That's what I wanted to do when I was in fourth grade. I had little time to look for a job and I was able to save up several thousand dollars I've never had in my life. Then I received a call from a long-time friend and colleague. He needed to meet with me last Friday. I knew what was going to happen. We met in the parking lot of the Herald-Times and he laid it out for me. My job was being eliminated and I had to be out of the apartment by noon, May 1. I still consider his willingness to make the personal appearance -- rather than a corporate call -- a signal of great respect. So, I have saved a little money after many struggles decades in the making. But I need to make those saving last as long as possible as a 54-year-old man seeks a new job in what the Federal Reserve calls the worst economy in American history. That's when I decided to blog this story. For years, I have written or edited hundreds of stories about homelessness. And here I am. The subject of a story rather than the empathetic journalist. I hope to tell you what happens from a first-hand perspective rather than the objective third person. Please don't feel sorry for me -- because I don't feel sorry for me. Just read and think.

25 comments:

  1. We will stay in touch....I had a decade after a similar experience, and I too can vouch that editors at smaller papers are most vulnerable when they do their very best work...Yes, writing will be good, and necessary.....keep my number 847-445-7684....,,,dlr

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  2. I am heartsick. In a time when good journalism is essential for this country to survive, the outlook gets worse and worse.

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  3. Very sorry for our loss. My wife and I though not big sports fans, wondered how all the sports writers would survive, not really thinking of reporters and editors in general. Now we are concerned for all involved in the news business as advertising, like businesses must be drying up during this pandemic. I'm afraid most of us took our nice lives for granted not realizing the fragile threads like good local journalism that maintained our comfort.

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  4. My heart hurts for the state of journalism...

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  5. "Or people who sit on the streets of all are major cities". Maybe this is why you lost your job.

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    Replies
    1. What a disgusting, inhumane thing to say. Who raised you? Didn’t anyone ever tell you “if you don’t have anything nice to say

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    2. ...don’t say anything that all.” That’s the key point for you, Unknown.

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    3. This just shows that when someone is down there will always be at least one person who will kick. Luckily there are more that will stretch out a hand.

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    4. This just shows that when someone is down there will always be at least one person who will kick. Luckily there are more that will stretch out a hand.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. This may help you. See link: http://economichardship.org/submissions

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  8. I hope you weren't forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Yours is a story that's happening everywhere in America throughout the journalistic profession as mega-corporations buy up every news outlet in sight at firesale prices . It's a crucial story that needs telling if democracy is to survive.

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  9. Gatehouse told Gannett there had to be $300 million in cuts to make the merger worth their hwhile. This has almost nothing to do with internet competition and everything to do with maximizing profit, not be making a better product but be selling off bits and pieces that may be marginal.

    I’m not trivializing this at all but over the years there were huge arguments and debates over what comic strips to run. Previous editors anguished over what strips satisfied the most people. The re were County Fair polls and online competitions and either lots of drama or lots of concern. Then Schurz sold in and in an instant Dilbert, Snoooy and Doonesbury were gone and some mindless filler was substituted. That was the writing on the wall. Product has little to do with potential profit.

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  10. Hi Rich, so sorry to hear this. I'd like to write a short item for The New York Times on your situation and the state of local journalism. Are you available for an interview today? If so please contact me ASAP at rebecca.halleck@nytimes.com.

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  11. Evictions are unlawful during the COVID-19 public health emergency under Executive Order 20-06. Please report to the Attorney General and keep us informed of the results. https://calendar.in.gov/site/oag/event/ag-hill-report-unlawful-eviction-foreclosure-proceedings-amid-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic/

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  12. Sending you love. You will rise. Journalism will thrive again. We will get through this . . . But just in case I am wrong, is there a box next to you I can move into? :-)
    Wendy Rhodes (Palm Beach Post)

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  13. Read and think. That's the daily assignment I give myself. a minnow in the blogosphere for almost 13 years, my day job is running my own independent bookstore. In a summer tourist town. With no staff other than a one-day-a-week volunteer. My artist husband and I came out to Arizona on what I call my "seasonal retirement," and now we are in a quandary about going home again. Sorry this is all about me, but you like stories, right? And I've never had an editor! See https://booksinnorthport.blogspot.com/p/i-dont-have-editor.html
    Wishing you much future success -- I see it happening, really I do.

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  14. Rich. Sorry to hear you were laid off. I hope you can find something soon. Woody

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  15. Hey brother. Longtime former journalist here who segued into communications a couple of years ago. Hang in there. Have you looked into a gofundme account or patreon account? I know many of us would love to lend you a bit of support. If you aren't down for that, how about selling some ad space on here? I'll buy one. Be strong.

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  16. A bit ironic that I had to find out about your ouster in the NYT, not the HT. Very sorry about what has happened to you, yet another casualty of the decline of print and the corportate consolidation of, well, everything. I thought you did a fine job in your short time at the HT, navigating the treacherous shoals of our often over-zealous partisans. May today's coverage in the Times lead to a breakthrough worthy of your talents.

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  17. My son in law is a member of a group called " Couch Surfers". I don't believe that it costs any money. Once you join...you can travel to other couch surfers homes and stay. You might want to check it out.

    You never know...this is a nice area, there are many writers in the are: places to visit and free things to do. If you want to find out more, just email my stepson for more information. Scott_partenheimer@Hotmail.com

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  18. Here via the Times as well. Keep on doing. It's all that can be done.

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  19. This is your reward for so long being a propagandist and apologist for the US Tyranny. Free of your lucre and perk filled postion as propagandist, you may find your way to reporting what is really going on in and to America?!

    You have no one to blame but yourself. Good luck.

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  20. :( I hope things will turnaround. Nytimes covered your story. I don't think it will last long... Next time onwards whatever you earn save certain percentage of money for such situations.

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