The Unemployed Life

Florida unemployment office’s 35-year-old computer down

Who knows if the ancient system used to process payments for Florida’s 250,000 unemployed workers has finally kicked the bucket. But over the last two days, while trying to fill my claim, the online system has given me a peculiar error message:

unemployment screen shot copy

I tried calling this morning and the automated phone system tells me the computer is “down.” WTF?! I’m hoping this is somehow related to the positive changes at the Agency for Workforce Innovation. To handle a huge influx of calls over the last 18 months, the state is outsourcing some work to an Orlando call center. Hopefully, I say. Because if the state’s unemployment benefits computer database crashed, we’re going to have some angry, broke people in the streets. Including me.

If anybody has some clues as to what’s going on, please comment below.

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

Advice for fellow unemployed journalists at WFLA and the Tampa Tribune

Another round of layoffs for our friends at Media General. The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports that the company eliminated 17 Tribune positions and six from WFLA. As recently as March, the Tribune let go dozens of employees and those left must take nearly two week vacations this summer.

So welcome to the club, boys and girls. So what the hell are you going to do now?

First, join a community of journalists in a similar situation. Right now, I’m particularly fond of Jilted Journalists. Maybe it’s just because the name sums up my feelings on the whole unemployment thing. (h/t to Virtual Journalist for the link.)

Next, apply for the dole. But figure you’ll only get $300 a week at most.

Then, start looking for jobs. If you’re thinking about government work, I have one piece of advice: Don’t take postal service jobs from private companies promising you sample exams and study guides. With all the layoffs, the feds are seeing more of these scams. Get more info here.

(Oh, and if you’re thinking of moving to some hip town and becoming an alt-weekly writer, I’ve got some bad news.)

Now you need some extra money. Check out the latest list of class-action lawsuits. You, too, could get a few bucks in the mail.

In the meantime, you’re going to need to save some money. So, join one of those food warehouse memberships for a 60-day free trial and spend your severance on snacks for the next year. You’re gonna need it.

Finally, join the blogosphere! Come on, all the other reporters are doing it! Believe me, there’s nothing like embracing the technology that destroyed your life’s career. Good luck!

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

There’s a whole lot more unemployed journalists in Florida

Bob Norman of the Broward County New Times has the latest on the staff cuts at the Sun-Sentinel:

I got Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman on the phone in Chicago, and all he would give me were corporate platitudes. “We are constantly trying to improve the business model,” he told me. “We are doing a number of things to be efficient across the company. Getting into the nitty gritty details is not something I’m going to do.”

He told me to call Jennifer Sacks, the Sentinel spokeswoman. She told me that whatever was happening in classifieds was something she couldn’t “expand on.”

Isn’t it great how the Sun-Sentinel is so accountable to the public about what’s going on? For them, it’s all about sunlight, openness, and the power of the truth — as long as it’s another company.

Check out the list on his blog here. He’s also got an item up about layoffs at the smaller Palm Beach Daily News.

Dispatches from the Sunshine State, The Unemployed Life

Wave of ‘Why lie? Need a beer’ signs hit Florida

2451061714_bcffa8797bOh, those enterprising homeless.

Every day in St. Petersburg, I see at least a dozen panhandlers on area roads with various signs asking for help and money. They may not be creative — “Hungry,” “Jobless,” “Laid Off” — but they know a good sign when they see it.

The latest is the “Why Lie? Need a beer/drink” sign. It’s making rounds of the state this month. I’ll tell you: It was funny the first time I saw it. Now it hardly elicits a chuckle from me. Can our local bums come up with something better?

Anyway, the latest sign maker is a flagrant vagrant from Fort Walton Beach, who was recently arrested with the sign.

(Photo Credit: Steve Isaacs/Flickr)

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

New credit card rules great for the unemployed

2007-593-credit-card-size

There’s been a lot of buzz about the new credit card bill that moved through Congress and is heading to President Obama to sign. Right-wing talk radio has made much hoopla of the changes; their rallying cry is good credit consumers will subsidize the bad. Even some news reports have made the same statement. (Back to that argument later.)

But for the jobless, this bill will give some much needed relief, from banning the practice of raising interest rates on existing balances and double-cycle billing. Here’s a rundown of the proposed changes:

  • Companies can no longer charge consumers for paying their bills by phone;
  • Creditors cannot raise your APR in the first 12 months of a new account;
  • Promotional rates must last at least six months;
  • No longer can your interest rate on existing balances increase unless you fail to pay for 60 days;
  • Payments must be applied to the balance with the highest APR first;
  • Credit card bills must be sent at least 21 days before the due date;
  • Companies must give 45 days notice before changing your rates or fees;
  • Credit card statements must be told how long it will take to pay off their balance if they only pay the minimum amount due;
  • Creditors must remove any info given to a consumer reporting agency (Equifax, Experion, etc.) about new accounts if that card has not been used or activated within 45 days;
  • The legislation bans double-cycling billing.

The new rules will probably help some people who have gotten behind on their credit card and have the means to pay it off. I, for one, don’t agree with the argument that the bill makes good credit holders pay for the bad. It’s entirely the choice of credit card companies to raise rates on the good consumers. They are choosing that option, so they can continue to enjoy enormous profit margins.

Of course, my ultimate advice is for everyone to cut up their credit cards. But, hey, that’s just me.

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

Unemployed journalist rule #1: Get copies of your work immediately!

As any motivated journalist knows, our “clips” — copies of our work for media outlets — are the single most important possession in order to advance our careers. New employers ask for them, current employers review them before giving promotions. Especially in this media downward spiral, our clips are more important than ever.

So what the hell do you do when your employer destroys them?

My friend and former co-worker Anthony Salveggi has a great post up on his site concerning a “reporter’s worst nightmare.” He links to a story about a former International Herald Tribune writer who lost all the online links to his work when the New York Times merged the two paper’s websites:

… my entire journalistic career at the IHT – from war zones to SARS wards – has been erased.

In the past, reporters would photocopy their articles from the newspaper. But in this digital climate, when some stories never make it to print and live only online, more and more editors request digital copies of prospective employee’s work. And the New York Times just royally screwed this guy, well-respected reporter Thomas Crampton.

Turns out, the IHT isn’t the only paper to delete employees’ work. After Crampton detailed the incident on his blog, other reporters wrote to vent their own frustration about losing years of work instantly. From Fortune magazine and Time’s AsiaWeek to all of Knight-Ridder’s local newspaper websites, hundreds of reporters have seen their work disappear.

So, what’s the moral of the story? Get digital copies of your work! Within a week of leaving Creative Loafing, I had both paper and PDF copies of my best stories. (You can find a few examples in my About Me section.) Try to compile your clips as you write them.

Of course, that won’t help all future readers find your content in the future, but it will save you much hand-wringing down the line.

The Unemployed Life

Unemployent: ‘Yup. It sucks.’

A fellow blogger posted a link about me on their website a while back (thanks!) and in the same post, referenced another unemployed journalist: Christine.

I’ve been fairly lucky receiving my unemployment benefits for the first time, so it has been hard for me to offer advice here. But Christine, apparently, has been through the ringer dealing with our antiquated unemployment system:

The majority of you will be forced to navigate your way through this governmental body’s miles of red tape and voice mail. You will spend anywhere from 35 minutes to 15 hours a month on the phone or computer fighting for your unemployment compensation money. And when you do finally get a check, it will hurt your feelings. If this is the only income you are receiving, there’s no possibility of retaining the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed.

Yup. It sucks.

Read the rest here.

I’m really interested in your own stories, too.