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Monday, May 4, 2020

No journalist wants to be part of the story. We're trained to be objective, truthful and as accurate as possible, something that's hard to do if one injects oneself into the story. At times, a first-person piece is the best way to tell the story but it's a relative rarity. I once made the mistake of telling my class at Miami University "I don't give a shit about you or what you think. What I care about is the subject." With 15 years of hindsight, that was unduly harsh. Then last week I ceased to be a working journalist. And The New York Times came a-callin. The result was this: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/business/newspaper-editor-gannett-homeless-blogger.html Let's discuss. I started this blog last week as a means to tell a story that's quite common in our economy. I also thought my writing chops needed constant practice and a blog could do that. Finally, I needed something to fill my time. Something to look forward to at the beginning of the day. When I was on furlough from the Gary Post-Tribune during the 2009 economic crisis, I kept a furlough blog, which I called The Furlog. Cute, huh? Except it was my first dramatic lesson in Search Engine Optimization. Ain't no knows what a furlog is and ain't no one searching for it, I realized in my Northern Wisconsin nomenclature. I looked it up recently and saw that I had exactly seven hits a day -- six of which were probably mine. So within minutes of being notified of my final day, I thought "Homeless Editor" would be good and I could combine narrative story telling along with information about homelessness, resources. Then people paid attention and sent it out via Twitter, one of which made it to Marc Tracy, a reporter for the Times. When he called my immediate reaction was tentative. Would it hinder me finding a job? Did I want to share something so goddamn embarrassing? Would it breach the disparagement clause in my separation papers, where I agreed not to trash the company and it agreed the same? In the same nanoseconds as I asked myself those questions I reminded myself I've always disliked how newspaper editors and reporters refused comment. That's happened to everyone of us so why do it to a colleague? I also talked to Marc about the disparagement clause. I said that's not my style even though I signed an agreement. Negative words about others say much more about the speaker. What if the article could do some good in this economy -- even when it's booming for the markets it's pretty fragile for individuals. Finally, my last thought was, What the hell? Not a deep thinker here, folks. Having conducted and heard thousands upon thousands of newspaper interviews, Marc was great. Easygoing. Good at pulling out information. He even laughed at one of my kid's jokes. None of mine -- but one of my kid's lines. ("It kind of pisses me off that you went viral before I did, dad.") The Times sent a photographer, and as an Unpleasant-Looking American, that always makes me writhe in discomfort but again, I've watched countless photo shoots. I did what he asked me to. Now usually, photoshoots in hotel room usually end with someone being asked to take their top off. Thankfully, that didn't happen. I'm sure the shooter, a nice young guy from Louisville, would have preferred I cover myself better. I once pined to work at The New York Times and have sent them dozens of letters and columns, only to be rebuffed. Actually, not so much rebuffed but ignored. I've come to terms with that (no I haven't). So the only way I get into what I think is the greatest newspaper published in America and perhaps the world, is to lose my job and move into a hotel. I'm not sure it was worth it. We shall see what happens but as a longtime, small-town newspaper, I move inexorably forward. When subscribers see a paper full of news on their porch each day, I envision the next day's newspaper -- completely empty -- and the panic begins. Hopefully, I get to do it again some day. Even if I don't, I have been blessed -- and throw your favorite cuss word in front of "blessed" because I do in person. Earlier tonight, I texted Marc who not only wrote this story but also wrote the story about the winners of the Pulitzer this year. The text: "Dude, I'm laid off, homeless AND skunked in the Pulitzers?" "Brutal" he responded. Indeed.

45 comments:

  1. keep writing, get a donations link in your blog; & stay God focused too

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    1. I agree. Get a donation link. We will be more than happy to give you a hand. I am a Journalism major and your story inspires me. My resolve to follow my dream is stronger than ever. Thank you.

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    2. Now back to the idea of a donation link (paypal works for me). I'll contribute!

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    3. Yep...hello from Chippewa Falls. Newspapers here in CF and EC have gone the way of corporate control and are for the most part not worth reading/behind a paywall/maybe both, but https://upnorthnewswi.com/ is doing a great job of covering Sconnie stuff in a thoughtful and thorough way. I had a spell of wanting to be a journalist after reading a biography of Nellie Bly in elementary school, but instead I became a librarian. Information dispersal in a different format. Do add a donation link - information professionals need to stick together.

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  2. I have been in your position before. For me it usually got worse quicker than it got better.
    I just retired and all that is behind me now. Twice I got better jobs hours after I left a position. Answered prayers help when you have 3 children.

    These are the days when we really need good journalism.


    Many times I wished that I had been a journalist. Now we have such a need for journalist.

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  4. You shined a light on the disturbing storm coming to newspapers, as the Pandemic exposes these media mergers for the money grab that they really are. Gannett/Gatehouse, McClatchy, MediaNews Group, Tribune, Berkshire Hathaway/Lee, CNHI, and all the other blood suckers will collapse into a heap, as what was left of the advertising revenue makes its final exodus from print media. Sadly, you've been one of the first high profile victims in the sinking of a once proud industry. Crisis is the Mother of Re-Invention. May she shine a beacon of light on your path to your next chapter. God speed & good luck.

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  5. You might be trained to be truthful, etc., but are you also trained to split that blob of type into paragraphs, or would that be above you?

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  6. If you need work feel free to reach out @ 800-300-0001

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  7. I'm enjoying your blog from here in New Zealand (zero covid19 cases today and fingers crossed). We have the same problems with our media here. Many good journalists out of work so I've set up a monthly payment to a new independent online news site https://www.newsroom.co.nz/ where some of those out-of-work journalists are found. Wishing you luck and kindness from a kiwi atheist (no god wishes from me as I'm too much of a realist)

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  8. Ten years ago I lacked an address and I spent over a month in a motel room with my elderly mother & my tween. It was awful, but it did end. I learned so much about myself & you will too, I'm sure of that.
    It sounds like you have caring people around, so use any help they can offer. Also, search for help from places like the United Way. Call 211. They can point you in the right direction. Every little bit helps towards your goals.
    I am blown away that you were asked to vacate without proper notice. I question the legality, but not the morality of the action. I know it was stone-cold wrong to even ask you to leave immediately.
    I wish you lots of good days.

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  9. I WAS LIVING ON THE STREETs when I was 12 years old. I’d swipe readymade sandwiches out of big grocery stores and sleep in Goodwill Boxes out in the parking Lots of shopping malls, etc. After sleeping like a baby at night I’d crawl out bright and early with all new clothes on. It was a Brand New Me every day of the week….I thought I was a modern day Huckleberry Finn....... I had to discontinue them accommodations after getting waked up and knocked at the same time by a small kitchen appliance....
    GOD’S LOVE HOMELESS SHELTER in Helena, Montana was my last stop after many years on the road, a place I finally got my life together. I had wanderlust all my life and Helena, Montana was the first place I ever been I didn’t want to be somewhere else. I started hitchhiking when I was fifteen and it was to see my girlfriend Julie Lockwood and her family who had moved from Rochester, New York, to a small town thirty miles and a lifetime away. I had spent a few days with her and was on my way back to the city about eight o’clock at night, pouring rain and at a turn in the road out in the middle of nowhere, a little Ford Pinto with the stereo blasting Charlie Pride blew right by me and slammed on the brakes and skidded for thirty or forty feet and fishtailing all over the road. He finally comes to a stop about fifty yards away from me where I stood in shock wondering why someone would risk their life to stop for me…..
    AS SOON AS I GOT IN THE CAR the guy took off like a Bat out of Hell again like it wasn’t even raining sheets and Gail force winds. First thing he says to me, “You got a gun?”
    HE WAS IN HIS THIRTIES, dark hair and scruffy facial hair, kind of skinny in black jeans and black leather jacket. One beer left in a six pack of Rochester’s own Genesse Beer. My first impression was he was half drunk, half pissed off and looking for a party.
    “I heard all you hitchhikers had guns...?”
    Right before I had got in that car and a million like it, as I approached the car time slows down, a light out, the license plate, the color of the car even a scratch in the door or writing on the tires suddenly become obvious. And then a feeling I get that starts way down at the tip of my toes and by the time it gets to my head I have formed some true impression about the outcome of this adventure, before it even begins. I always called it intuition. Like Women are thought to have great intuition. I think everyone has it and the trick is to heed it without fail. Never doubt it and if you ever find yourself in the middle of somewhere by yourself, surrounded by people and forces beyond your control and all your bells and whistles are screaming RUN!!! You damn well better take off running to you drop. https://thekindnessofstranger.blogspot.com/2014/10/brand-new-me-every-day-of-week.html?fbclid=IwAR080iEFI15QS9a4fsKljfapYlKBfdP2A-8H42AlacGzvjhad0ko50OGfi4

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  10. Your kid has a great future as a pundit. Or a comedian. Or an out-of-work journalist. Seriously, best of luck in landing another job. What's happening to the industry sucks.

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  11. Enjoying your writing- from New Zealand. All the best.

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  12. I'm a newspaper humor columnist in Santa Monica. (With Covid my job has gotten much more difficult.) Intrigued with your blog. Wishing you the best and hope it leads to something for you. Very interesting and very well written an excellent combination.

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  13. NYT brought me here.
    Like journalism itself, you're in a tough place. Living the decline and fall, so to speak.

    Divorce, bankruptcy, the frequent lot of American males.

    There's only one thing to do: move to, say, Thailand, and become an English teacher and YouTuber. Escape. Your dating prospects will be better than the harridans of the USA.

    Break out and live the dream!

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  14. Like you, I am a professional and good man. Done the bankruptcy thing. Done the divorce thing. My ex-wife turned my daughter against me. I have a house to live in. You have a daughter to talk to. You are a lucky man.

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  15. I am glad you talked with Marc Tracy and Luke Sharrett, and I'm glad you are getting help from friends. How can I help? I have only your newspaper contact info. Email me at IU.

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  16. I'm deeply saddened this happened to you. I hope you are able to find more permanent housing. There are several ways to put your journalistic talents to work. Become a podcaster, Youtuber, use your blog to raise money, write a book, teach journalism, start your own newspaper. Best of luck to you.

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  17. Add a Venmo or PayPal link. I would like to send you $20 for some cups of coffee.

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  18. good luck mate. this will pan out. keep going. keep writing.

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  19. Hi Rich, I'm so sorry to hear how things have gone for you. Your writing and storytelling are great (of course), and so if you're interested in discussing the possibility of a book, please be in touch with me at rachel@dclagency.com.

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  20. Rich,
    Time for bigger things! First let's get you some first rate housing. Call me if you still have my cell# or email me Henke@renaissancerentals.com.
    Stay Well!-Tim

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  21. keep writing, we'll keep reading. thank you

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  22. When newspapers are run by jerks/they do not give employees perks/In fact they take their jobs away/cuz who needs real news anyway?/Now horoscopes are trending big/and propaganda readers dig/So writers, guarantee your job/by feeding pap unto the mob. Tim Torkildson.

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  23. Gannett, huh? Keep your head up.

    https://www.amazon.com/kNewspapers-Novel-About-Citizen-Journalism/dp/1481260618

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  24. Saw the story in the NY Times. I grew up in Bloomington. Dropped out of high school and became homeless til I joined the military. Now I'm a writer. WTF. I am active in an organization called Artists United to End Homelessness. If you'd like to know more, send me your email address. I'm at rockrap@aol.com. Good luck out there.

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  25. Maybe I should post 1,000 words with "NO" Paragraphs? Seriously?

    Why no savings? Lots of people lose jobs and are divorced. No 401(k), IRA, Life Insurance Cash value, Savings, etc...?

    Are you not eligible for $600 week from the Feds and State unemployment. $1,000+ per week should get you started on your journey.

    Did you, like most Americans spend every dollar you made?

    Why are you censoring post? Practicing fake journalism like the NY Times and CNN?

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    1. My husband lost his job in pharmaceutical sales and we have been loving off of our retirement...taking a hit on it being taxes too. I can't understand how this can doesn't have any friends or relatives who will give him a free placenta stay.

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    3. That Trumper jerk "Big Bro" has nothing on his page or a page linked to from there other than a pic of Tom Cruise. I'm thinking Russian troll farm. Don't let it bother you ... you're being valiant and proactive in the face of highly challenging obstacles. (This is a repost after copy editing)

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    4. Big bro, I suggest you seek out mental health counseling as your post is nuts. Also, check with your parents about how they could have raised someone like you. I'm sorry about your condition.

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  26. how's that neoliberalism working out for ya chum?

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  27. Okay, I'm thinking by now you have received more than your share of "Negative Nick and Nellie" comments because everyone in America seems to believe that expressing what the "fffeeeelll" about a subject is a "God-given right." Pooh on them I say. You are a fantastic writer. You can do this, and you can make it profitable. I know you can. To that end, I suggest you get this book, Don't Make Me Think, Revisited - by Steve Krug to improve the readability on the web (not readableness - you've got that in spades!) We just have lazy readers these days and sometimes you have to make it easier for them. I know, you should not have to cater to lazy minds, but doing so increases the number of readers who find you.

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  28. Hi Mr. Jackson, I read the NYT article and am sorry about your job loss. Does this site have a feature so you can run a few ads? Since you are getting good traffic, you might want to check out Ezoic. I have a small website and although the earnings are way down because of COVID-19, the revenue pays for most of my groceries. Please tell them Heidi Alexander of 52K Media sent you. My contact there is Sequoia. Best wishes to you Mr. Jackson.
    https://www.ezoic.com/blog-monetization-ads-earnings/

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  29. Have you considered setting up a Patreon? I'd pay to read your stuff! Best of luck to you.

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  30. I hate what is happening to our local newspaper, but I’m not mad you’re gone. You are a terrible writer, a terrible editor, and you are very self important. It was always apparent in your editorials. And don’t get me started on your allowing Laura Lane to defend the white supremacists at the farmers’ market. Good riddance.

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    1. I'm sad your parents raised such an ignorant, rude person. I wish they had been better people and raised a decent human being.

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    2. Are you Rich Jackson or someone who wants to defend his terrible decisions?

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  31. Good news! My brother led me to your blog and I'm pleased to be part of the 36k hits to your site.
    Perhaps I need to give my Hilton's Honors (Home2Suites https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/bmgnwht-home2-suites-bloomington/) a rest when next in Bloomington. Staying@ Motel 6 on North College Ave. will convey my appreciation to local management and do my part to celebrate the positive development that came your way.

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