Preparing For Life After Newspapers

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I’m one of the lucky ones because I still have a job. So many journalists right now have been laid off, furloughed, bought out or are sitting on the cusp that it’s hard to keep up with the magnitude of it all. When this is your chosen profession, for some of us, it’s like waiting on the other shoe to drop.

And, unfortunately, it can take an emotional toll.

For people in management, especially those like myself who wavers in the middle area where you have people below you and then owners/publishers above you, the best thing I can tell you is that when that wave hits of “Oh no, more layoffs” and wondering if you are on the list, it’s honestly hard to keep focused.

I’ve been thinking about the best way for those of us who keep waiting, where there will be no buyouts (with just a trip to the unemployment line) and I’ve attempted to compile a list of common sense ideas to maintain our sanity. Believe me, so much of what we are doing is hit or miss and I’m the first to admit I’ve made some mighty mistakes along the way but I’ve had a few good ideas. If you work in news anyway, that may be a questionable statement, but here are a few ideas:

  1. FOCUS ON WRITING THE NEWS: If you are reporter, challenge yourself to just keep your head in writing news. It’s overwhelming to think about all that’s going on in the big offices that are making decisions about your future, but keep going after the next big story.
  2. START LEARNING NEW TECHNOLOGY: I’m constantly trying to learn new technology and sometimes it is daunting. Find what you are good with and consistently work toward building your brand, which is you, online. Also start networking with other people you find to be interesting and that you might want to talk to in the future. Remember, no one is going to do this for you. I have learned to that there are times I’m going to have to ask for help as I’m not 100 percent what I’m doing.
  3. YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS MAY ALSO BE  YOU GREATEST WEAKNESSES: This is a tough one, I know. What are you good at? At the smaller paper I work at, we layout, we write stories, we handle customers, we don’t have a beat. If you don’t have the luxury of being just one kind of writer/reporter, find out what you do the best. My best assets are crime news, features, networking with community leaders and editorials. I’m not as good at copy editing. The same goes with what you may be looking at online. What is your strengths as you delve into the online world. Do you blog well? Are you more of an analyst than a story teller. Are you more comfortable on a social network?
  4. IF YOU GET FIRED, WHAT’S YOUR NEXT MOVE?: Are you ready for that shoe to drop. Many of us will not get a buyout so what will you do next? Have you put any thought into it?
  5. DON’T DWELL ON WHAT YOU CAN’T FIX:  The bottom line is that it’s the economy for most of us. Don’t lose yourself in a wave of emotional turmoil, although that’s easier to say than it is to actually put into practice. It’s is extremely difficult to think that you might be losing your job, and most people I know have a passion for what there chosen career and could be making money doing something else, quite frankly. Don’t let your passion for your craft dissipate because of the situation at hand. The best thing may to focus on is how you are moving to the next level. Determine what that next level is.

These are just a few things. Mark Potts at the Recovering Journalist has one of the best lists I’ve even read about Life After Journalism and is a must read.

The bottom line is that those of us who are left are fortunate to have a job, but there is also the reality that we haven’t seen what’s next. To say there isn’t a level of fear of the unknown would be disingenuous. These are turbulent  times for those of us who have had to take on more responsibilities with the addition of knowing that more layoffs are coming.

Are you ready?

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