Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

Fear and loathing in the newsroom: How one editor copes

Great column from Tom Huang over at Poynter Online. Huang is an editor for the Dallas Morning News, and recently had to deal with layoffs at his newspaper.

A snippet:

A few days after the layoffs in Dallas, I talked with Jill Geisler, who runs Poynter’s leadership program.
We agreed that it’s hard to be a newsroom leader in these times. Not that we deserve much sympathy, or expect to get it. Reserve that sympathy for those who are forced out of jobs they love, as well as for those who remain and feel trapped.

What I told Jill is this: Every time I mask my anger and sadness with feigned calm and confidence, I lose a bit of my integrity. Every time I feel numb, I lose a bit of what makes me human. Every time I say goodbye to a friend, I lose a piece of my heart.

It’s our human side that makes us good journalists, isn’t it?

And so, it seems to me, our greatest challenge is that we stay human, as flawed as we may be, even as we walk toward our uncertain future.

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

Layoffs, Furloughs impact Gannett and Sun-Sentinel

The ranks of unemployed journalists swell again this week as The Ann Arbor News announced plans to close shop and South Florida’s Sun Sentinel gives pink slips to two well-respected columnists. Get those cardboard signs ready, folks.

In addition, the huge Gannett newspaper chain told employees they will be forced to take another week-long furlough. Better than losing your job, right?

As far as furloughs go, reporters should look into his or her state’s unemployment laws. In Florida, you can claim those weeks of forced vacation. You don’t get anything for the first week, but — if you meet certain conditions — any subsequent weeks can be claimed. Unfortunately, it looks like Gannett is spreading out those weeks, which could impact your eligibility.

More on that subject here.

The Unemployed Life

South Florida journalists band together to help fellow laid-off reporters

Reporters don’t curry much favor with the public. So it’s no surprise that, during this economic downturn, laid-off journalists don’t get the same sympathy as, say, unemployed police officers or veterans. As newspapers across the country downsize, or outright cease to exist, who will help the unemployed journalists? Other journalists, of course!

Enter Stacy Singer. After watching friend after friend get the ax, the Palm Beach Post reporter decided to create a nonprofit that would provide short-term aid to laid-off reporters. She’s calling it “After the Jump.” Singer has already put the word out to several news organizations and has the support of the South Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Broward New Times reporter Bob Norman has the full text of Singer’s call to action on his blog, The Daily Pulp.

A worthy effort. If only we had a Stacy Singer here in Tampa Bay . . .

Behind the News, The Unemployed Life

Proposed Florida law seeks drug testing for the unemployed …

statesenatorbennett. . . Because, obviously, everyone on unemployment in this bountiful economy are unmotivated, crack-smoking losers.

SB 2062 would require Floridians collecting unemployment benefits to undergo random drug testing. To top it off, they would have to pay for their own test.

This slap in the face comes courtesy of Florida State Senator Michael S. Bennett, a Republican from Bradenton. He’s 64, Baptist and hails from the Midwest. Besides finding ways to demean laid-off workers, Bennett enjoys long walks on Siesta Key, gutting smart growth initiatives, running retirees out of trailer parks for fun and profit, and — well, looky here — taking campaign donations from a company that sells drug testing kits (h/t to the Raw Story for pointing that out).

In addition to the obvious constitutional issues, Bennett’s law faces some problems of practicality. Even though workers would pay for their own drug tests, our cash-strapped state would need to invest in clinicians and a whole new bureaucracy inside the Agency for Workforce Innovation. But most of all, SB 2062 (HB 969 in the Florida House) furthers the humiliation many workers feel after losing their jobs.

In the words of Bill Piper, a director for the Drug Policy Alliance: “. . . to require someone to pass a drug test to get their unemployment insurance after they’ve been laid off is pretty cruel — and to require them to pay for the test themselves is even more cruel.”

The complete outrageousness of this bill leads me to wonder what Bennett and Co. are smoking up there in Tallahassee. In the interest of finding out what that substance may be, I propose a compromise:

Under only one circumstance should SB 2062 become law — if an amendment is added that requires the random drug testing of state lawmakers.

I nominate Bennett to take the first one.

The Unemployed Life

Florida, St. Petersburg unveil stimulus websites

criststimulusBarack Obama’s most ardent Republican supporter, Florida’s Charlie Crist, finally released a website detailing where federal stimulus funds will go. Florida is not the first state,  nor the last. There’s isn’t much on the site now except for some photos, FAQ and various letters from the Guv. But once the federal funds pour in, this site could get real interesting. Check it out here.

Following his hometown governing friend, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker announced a similar website for the city. Though there isn’t much information on there now about how much St. Pete will get, it does detail the grants available. Check it out here.

So how does this help you? Once you see where the funds are going, you can track where the jobs will be created.

The Unemployed Life

This is the best time to be unemployed

2241985233_e0d9ebca5fUnemployed brothers and sisters,

I know times are tough. Joblessness is a real heart-wrencher. But something occurred to me the other day, while sitting on my porch, drinking coffee, enjoying a perfect 70-degree day of unemployment in Florida:

Really, this is the best time to be unemployed. My evidence: The stimulus package passed last month.

In case you haven’t heard, President Barack Obama’s first success (depending on how you define it) has gobs and gobs of greenbacks for a slew of industries, homeowners and, us, the non-working people.

Of course, our bailout isn’t of banking industry quality, or even GM, but we do get a piece of the action. Specifically, about $25 a week.

Woot!

That’s an extra $100 a month, baby. In addition, many people won’t be taxed for the first $2,400 in benefits they claim. That’s good news for those of us who didn’t have taxes taken out of their unemployment checks. (By the way, this is only for unemployment since the stimulus passed, not the money you’ve received before this.)

But the most beneficial aspect of the plan, especially in this economy, is an extension of benefits. Last year, Congress already approved up to 33 weeks of extended benefits for those workers who exhaust the regular 26 weeks of benefits. That deal was set to expire, but under the stimulus package, laid-off workers can still claim those extra weeks in 2009.

But it gets better: Under the stimulus package, workers in some high unemployment states can claim an extra 13-20 weeks of benefits. Are you keeping track? That’s an estimated 18 months — a year and six months! — of benefits. And, under some economists projections, we should be out of the recession by then.

So, honestly, my fellow men and women on the dole: It could be worse. You could only have 26 weeks to find another shitty job.

UPDATE: Even those of you workers that are forced to take an unpaid “vacation” can also get benefits. That includes all you 5,600 Media General employees.

The Unemployed Life

I’m baaaaaaaack!

It’s been nearly two months since my last column ran in Creative Loafing and nothing makes me realize this fact more than missing an amazing cycle of news over the last two months.

A crime wave in St. Petersburg. Early political jockeying in the city’s mayoral race. More criminalizing of the homeless even as more mainstream Americans are closer to poverty than anytime in the last 20 years. Buddy Johnson’s election foibles and a land deal that might have federal implications. Oh, and nobody will forget McNutball for months to come.

On a more personal note, I missed the chance to publicly eulogize Richard Shireman, one-half of St. Petersburg’s Homeless Outreach Team, who died in a car accident on Jan. 9. Whenever anything regarding the homeless went down in Pinellas County, I called Shireman. He was a tireless advocate for a compassionate and common-sense approach to Pinellas County’s homeless problem.

But, as the About Me section of this blog will tell you, I can’t sit back and watch the world pass me by for long. So, I’m doing what millions of other 21st century humans do when they want to their small voice to be heard throughout the world: Start a blog.

“Will Report for Food: Tales of an unemployed journalist” is my newest writing venture, meant to bring some of the same news and commentary that I offered in the pages of Creative Loafing. But unlike the vast sea of navel-gazing blogs out there, I hope to offer readers original news reporting and compelling narratives about notable people, places and events in Tampa Bay. Well, maybe a little navel-gazing, too.

Feel free to comment on the blogs, e-mail me privately or pass along some juicy news tidbits. Mmmmm… juicy news tidbits. And visit here often. In return, I promise to never add those annoying drop-down banner ads the St. Petersburg Times‘ website uses. I fucking hate those.