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Ripped from the Reader | Quick Links for Tuesday Evening

July 22, 2008

+ Transitioning back from a week out of town on vacation (a curious undertaking on several levels for someone who is for the first time ever officially unemployed).

+ Google News going to get Dugg? TechCrunch says Google and Digg close to finalizing an acquistion. Here.

+ Star Tribune launches Data Center. NYT says it’ll blog about “hard-to-get, but telling, documents.”  (Via Romenesko)

+ Squared is co-hosting a small Online News Association networking reception for Unity attendees in Chicago. From 5-7 on Friday at the Billy Goat. Come visit.

+ A refreshingly upbeat effort by colleague Chrys Wu: What comes after a newspaper career. Here.

+ Belated (vacation-caused)  link love for Kurt Greenbaum for a project he’s doing for ASNE on the future of editors in the news business. Ici.

+ Mindy McAdams on video lessons from two icons — Walt Mossberg and David Pogue.

+ Project for Excellence in Journalism report: ” Fully 56% [of editors] think their news product is better than it was three years earlier.” Tell that to the readers — and advertisers — if you can catch them fleeing furiously into the darkness like vampires being chased by Johnny Garlicseed.

+ Blogger comp based on page views leads to 40% increase in PVs at Gawker, according to Bloggasm. Here.

+ LinkedIn gets targeted  NYT heds. Here.

+ Some sensible stuff on the ad side from Ken Doctor: “AdMan’s Nine Imperatives For New Growth.”

+ Excellent rants about “totally bogus trend stories” by Jack Shafer soar 100%. Here.

Get Out Of Digital Printing, Too?

July 10, 2008

Provocative post from Jeff Jarvis on BuzzMachine today, suggesting that newspapers get the heck out of the digital publishing business. (Jeff has long advocated outsourcing print production, too). Edward Roussel of the Telegraph put the bug in his ear, including a suggestion for likely technology host for a common industry platform: Google.

“Edward reasoned that Google already is the key distributor online. He said that Google is great at technology and newspapers aren’t and for the future, where are the best technologists going to go? Google. Google is also brilliant at selling ads and Edward even wondered where the best sales talent would go in the future: there or a paper? So why not hand over those segments of the business to Google and concentrate on what a newspaper should do: journalism?”

Bob Wyman of Google tells Jarvis “Your IT infrastructure is a COST of doing business. It is not a thing of value” and posits:

“Today’s newspapers invest in their web sites out of vanity and from an inability to get their heads out of the geographically defined markets of the past. They have a “local paper” so they assume they need a “local site.” Bull. Developing and maintaining a web site is expensive and reduces the funds available to support the journalism and community building. All but the largest papers should be sharing their websites, computer technology, etc. If you think you need SQL and HTML people on full-time staff, then you’re probably not understanding what it will take it succeed in the future.”

Jarvis recounts a newsroom CMS “disaster” at the Chicago Tribune as he was leaving years ago (“the company dispatched its own vaunted Task Force investigative journalists to probe the failure”) as an example of why it’s time to focus just on content, not manufacturing and distribution and platforms and hardware.

“So take the advice, papers: Get out of the manufacturing and distribution and technology businesses as soon as possible. Turn off the press. Outsource the computers. Outsource the copyediting to India or to the readers. Collaborate with the reporting public. And then ask what you really are. The answer matters dearly.”

Some Wisdom From Being On The Dole

July 8, 2008

Have taken stock the past few days about what I’ve learned in the 2-1/2 months since my job with Mama Tribune was eliminated and the Package Fairy dragged me to the curb. Maybe some of the blather below will help those of you in, or soon to be in, the same situation. Some items are focused on my Tribune colleagues; I’ve marked those as such. It’s a long post, but there’s a lot to say. Hope it helps.

The Money (TRB specific). Your separation funds right now are usually delivered into your Tribune Cash Balance account, which is legally a retirement fund. That means you have to follow special rules and likely will face a 10% penalty and other tax issues if you are under 55 59-1/2. (Read this. Thanks Jack Brennan for pointing this age change out).  Obviously, you should work with a financial adviser, but to me, the best option was this: set up a new traditional IRA and have the company roll your full lump sum into that. That way, you can pace your distributions — and the income tax/penalty hits — instead of paying both all at once upfront, which is what happens if Hewitt cuts you a lump sum check directly. Best of all, if you get a job before the money runs out, you’ve got the leftovers shielded from the 10% early withdrawal penalty and, temporarily, taxes, for when you retire. Again, it is imperative that you consult with a financial adviser before you decide or sign anything.

Benefits (TRB). If you have benefits continuation, send your monthly check early and follow up with HR to be sure it got there. You don’t want to risk having your benefits cancelled for non-payment. My hunch is that with so many Mama T siblings now in the continuation pipeline, it’s become something of a bear for the HR folks to administer, so be patient and courteous and don’t press the deadline.

(TRB). Join the Tribune Alumni Network on LinkedIn. We’re at 399 members and as co-admin, I usually add as many as 6-10 a day. (Sorry, but current, active employees aren’t eligible).

For those with commuter benefits, you might have to do some digging and enlist your HR folks to help cancel your account and get any refunds you might be due for unused tickets or passes. Refunds are thorny because tickets/passes are bought pre-tax and you might get much less than you think. You may be better off selling an unused ticket or pass to a neighbor or friend.

If outplacement was part of your package, take it and make the best of it because even if you think you know how to look for a job, you probably don’t if it’s only been a few years. (Trib sibs: I’d highly recommend Lee Hecht Harrison if that is one of your options). More below on outplacement and job hunting.

Apply for unemployment compensation immediately. Premiums have been paid for all those years you worked. It’s not welfare; it’s insurance. In Illinois, you can apply online and then check in every two weeks by phone to continue your claim and biweekly checks. It’ll help you not have to dip so deeply into that IRA mentioned above.

Still keep a schedule/routine and take the time you used to spend commuting and use it to get in better shape or do something else productive. I still get up around 5 every morning and run, walk or bike for at least an hour.

Set up a home office (even if it’s just a card table in a corner) and report to “work” at a regular time every day. Lee Hecht Harrison recommends you spend 30 hours a week job-hunting. That’s almost a full time job. For people looking to stay in online news, which is a pretty narrow niche, 30 hours a week each and every week is a stretch. How many times can you nag the same folks in your limited network or target company pool? But the point is still the same: Treat it like a job, not a hobby.

This time of year, set up a second, auxliliary home office. On the back deck.

Beagles make lousy executive assistants, particularly in the second home office (too many bunny scents waiting to be followed). But they are usually very good company in the executive dining room at lunchtime.

Invest in a “work” phone line. Mine was only a few bucks as a second number from Vonage. You can also get a cheap — or free — voice mail number from companies such as evoice.com. Having a “work” number is good psychologically and lets you answer the phone differently, or have a different voice mail greeting, for work and job hunting than for personal calls.

Know that over time, you’ll start getting frustrated by the number of people who tell you how “lucky” you are and how “jealous” they are because you get the chance to start new and reinvent yourself and blah blah blah. It’s all sincere and very well-meaning, and ultimately, this is INDEED a great opportunity for many of us. But deep down, you’ll feel a whole lot “luckier” once you have a new job and can re-establish your financial and career security.

Don’t forget that for many workers, a pink slip means at best a couple weeks pay and no benefits. If you got a package, you should truly feel fortunate. Appreciate that . . .every day.

And various other random things I’ve learned recently particularly via the outplacement company:

  • 70% of jobs come from networking, not ads. So spend the vast majority of you time on networking, not on CareerBuilder.
  • Build your resume around accomplishments and clear, measurable results, not job title chronology.
  • Keep a daily log: who you’ve contacted; who replied; ads you looked at and answered; how much time you spent on various things related to your search; new companies you’ve decided to target and why, etc. And make to-do lists for the next day and/or week. Organization=focus.
  • If your outplacement company includes something like a “Job Search Work Team,” go for it. Lee Hecht Harrision offers the team in some programs. It’s a standing weekly, two-hour small group meeting of clients actively looking for jobs.  It’s pretty darned close to group therapy and it’s quite helpful. An LHH consultant keeps the meeting on track. Each team member starts by reporting metrics from the previous week (hours spent, number of networking contacts made, letters sent, ads answered, interviews, etc.); offers a discussion agenda topic; and mentions personal priorities for the week. You get (and give) great advice and support during agenda topic discussion. And the peer pressure of having to report your metrics is a good motivator. It’s also a chance to a) dress like an adult at least once a week and b) get out of the house and meet with other professionals.
  • It’s striking how many very long-term one-company employees are being laid off (20, 25, 30, 35 years of service).  And in a generation or two, given that the average job tenure now is something like 4 years, there might be very few people who’ve ever stayed with a company that long again.
  • Don’t expect many callbacks on Monday or Tuesday. Those are typically busy days at work and it’s hard to get attention. Use those days to set up calls and appointments for later in the week and for other job-hunt activities, such as answering ads.
  • Don’t apply for a fresh job posting in the first few days; that’s when an avalanche of resumes comes in. Apply a little later; you may increase you chances of being noticed.
  • Snail mail is good. How many hiring managers get barraged with e-mail? How many get anything but junk mail in their old-fashioned mailbox? Exactly. . . You can get noticed by using the retro communcation method.
  • Don’t be surprised if HR sometimes is an impediment, not a help, in the hiring process.
  • Prepare an “exit statement” which very dispassionately and neutrally discusses how you came to be unemployed. (“As you know, the media industry is undergoing dramatic change. At my company, XX jobs were eliminated in April and May; mine was among them).”  Writing it is cathartic to help get all those negative things you wanted to say out of your system and the memorized statement will come in handy as you repeat it to anyone who asks — from your Aunt Min to those in your network and those interviewing you.
  • Prepare a “positioning statement” that succinctly summarizes and sells you, your accomplishments, your strengths and your goals. You should be able to crisply recite it in under a minute. Use a version on your resume and whenever you’re introducing yourself.
  • Look for local/regional professional networking clubs and groups. These are often held at or organized by churches. You’ll likely find few journalists there, but a lot of people know journalists and editors — and you will find those people there.
  • Even Professor Obvious won’t mention how important LinkedIn and Facebook are. As are your colleagues in ONA, ASNE, APME, APSE, NABJ, NAHJ, etc., etc.
  • Think about volunteering. It’s not only just a good thing to do, but may have job-hunting benefits. 1) It sounds good when your prospective employer asks “so, what have you been doing with your time since you left your job?” 2) And you may make some good networking connections. Yesterday, I heard a story about an IT professional who was volunteering at a food kitchen. Working along side him? A very senior executive for a very large technology company. Ka-ching.
  • Regularly take a full day off from job-hunting.
  • Get a hammock. Use it.

News In A Wordle

July 7, 2008

Inspired by a TellZell.com reference to a nifty word cloud application called Wordle, Squared tinkered a bit and punched up a comparison of what was hot at the moment on Yahoo News and Google News.  On behalf of those of you who have actual jobs and don’t have time to screw around with such trivia, here you go. (Google first, Yahoo second). Click for bigger ones.

Quote This

July 3, 2008

“People need to stop looking at TBO.com as an add on to The Tampa Tribune. The truth is that The Tampa Tribune is an add on to TBO.”

— Tampa Tribune Editor Janet Weaver in a staff meeting to discuss layoffs and a new newsroom structure.