Grim future for Journo with 25 years in the newspaper business

By Mick Gregory

The Dead End Career Realization.

A long-in-the-tooth journalist just wrote a newspaper recruiter with an unfortunate moniker — Joe Grimm — who writes a column at the Poynter Institute. Don’t believe me? Google Joe Grimm.

Is Age Hurting My Job Search?
You think? More than that, it’s the salary you think you deserve. You should know newspapers still have a stream of ambitious, gullible, journalism (J-school) graduates who just spent their parents’ nest egg on a very worthless degree, and are willing to work for $10 an hour. In fact, interns are willing to work for free.

I’m looking at a great 25-year career with honors and a dead end as far as job prospects. In a narrowly focused newsroom field, I’ve got more experience than most candidates, and I’ve got a resume to match, yet for the past two years (I’m temporarily out of the newsroom), I’ve been unable to land a top-level management job. Holding out for management?

Most recently, I was assured that I’d “be back” soon following a great interview process, only to be called weeks later — by the recruiter, not the editor — to say they had chosen someone with more experience … a stretch, since I was aware of the other candidates.

So tell me. Is it age? Or being out of the newsroom? In searching for answers, I’ve asked for feedback from editors, one of whom replied that it’s all about fit. Others didn’t respond. Take a look in the mirror; is that a comb-over? How much exercise have you been getting, chunky?

Is it me? I’m thinking that professional etiquette would at least be paid from one manager to another, even if one is a candidate. And certainly the decency of a telephone call or a response.

In our profession (he thinks journalism is a profession!) as communicators, it seems we are the great mis-communicators. Or perhaps, as has happened to many strong newsroom voices, I’ve become one of those led out to pasture.

So, Mr. Grimm… what’s your recommendation? Do I simply resign myself to having reaped the best years and sit quietly in the meadow? Or do I continue to apply for everything that comes up and risk the chance of being “one of those …”?

Need your advice.

Thanks,

Stuck…

Grimm’s answer: Of course, I can’t tell you what the problem is on the basis of your well-written note, but I can give you some things to think about.

First of all, if age is the issue, no one who wants to stay out of court will tell you that. It likely is a lot more complicated than a straight age issue, though, as it sounds like you have a lot of working years in front of you.

Employers will seldom get real honest with unsuccessful job candidates unless they see them as well-suited for another job down the road. Explanations can be awkward and time-consuming, and they often lead to defensive arguments from candidates who feel they are being attacked at a time when they are vulnerable.

The person who gave you the vague answer about “fit” may be the closest you have come to the truth. “Fit” usually refers to a personality mismatch and may refer to qualities such as outgoingness, aggressiveness, entrepreneurial skills and a host of other characteristics.

Talk to former employers and other colleagues — people who know you well and who will be honest with you. It is too soon for you to give up.

Fellow bloggers, what kind of advice would you give “Stuck”?

My advice is, “start practicing this line in a mirror, ‘you would look great behind the wheel of this cream puff Honda Civic!'”

Stuck, I have a question for you. With 25 years in the biz, you may well have a child about to enter college. Would you encourage your son or daughter to pursue a degree in print or any other mainstream media?

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4 thoughts on “Grim future for Journo with 25 years in the newspaper business

  1. The next question for Mr. Grimm the newspaper recruiter, is from a younger journalist.

    Tip to students–unless you are trust fund recipient, get into another field.

    I am a young print journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. I don’t want to leave the region. I have friends here, a community and a lifestyle I really enjoy. I also don’t want to leave the field. But, watching what’s been going on here lately, I don’t understand how I — or anyone smart but not backed by a trust fund — can stay in print reporting. Since I care about the business, I have become very frustrated.

    One company now owns nearly every daily in the region, and that company just busted the union. Granted, the union only managed to guarantee a $35,000-plus annual pay for its employees, but it is still troubling. That pay, incidentally, seems to be becoming the industry norm around here, between the consolidation at MediaNews’ new papers and the layoffs at the San Francisco Chronicle, which pays more but keeps losing staggering amounts of money — hardly a sustainable model.

    ASK JOE A QUESTION
    To get your question answered on this page, send it to Joe. Please include your full name in your message. If you prefer that your surname not be published, please indicate that.

    Sign up to receive Ask The Recruiter by e-mail:
    * Click here (sent Monday-Friday at 8 a.m.)

    You cannot live independently on this type of wage here. Forget buying a condo or house: If you have student loans, you cannot even rent your own apartment on this pay. I understand that I did not enter this industry to be rich, but I’d at least like to be stable. I’m strongly considering other work at this point.

    Further, as I’ve gotten older I’ve become increasingly concerned that this wage is hurting our local papers because few people older than 35 can seriously consider staying on the job. I have watched over the years many of the best young journalists get snapped up by niche publications in business or law, or change careers (law, again) or leave the area.

    The owners of the local papers are doing quite well, but the wealth does not trickle down to the reporting staff, and I’m angry. We’re supposed to be a serious metro area, but how can we ever shed this reputation as a sub-par newspaper region if we are consistently staffed by 20-somethings who leave just when they get good? It’s like we’re in a much more rural area than we are — although, to be frank, I think those areas should pay better too.

    Whenever I go to journalism seminars, young people raise this issue, and it is pooh-poohed by elders in the field with the “you don’t go into journalism to be rich” comment. But I really believe that people aren’t considering that journalism quality suffers when you can only keep people with no other options or a benefactor. Public schoolteachers strike over pay and benefits that are far better than ours, and they get two months off in the summer. We keep reporting on the growing gulf between the rich and poor and the shrinking of the middle class, but we never mention that we are falling squarely on the poor side of the fence, which I think will continue to stymie minority recruitment. Why is there this consistent belief that you have to be some sort of monk to be a reporter (at least in Northern California), and is there any way to improve things?

    Nothing’s burning holes in our pockets

    You speak passionately for many — including reporters, editors and readers. You have nailed many consequences of perpetually low wages and high turnover.

    Widespread relief — across-the-board raises — is pie-in-the-sky. Your particular interest is in print journalism, where fundamental digital and demographic changes seem impervious to a higher wage structure.

    Joe Grimm
    While we are both concerned for the industry, our futures are most realistically approached individually.

  2. These “Grimm” Q&As are very entertaining reading. No wonder the mainstream media has a liberal bias. Journalists are low on the IQ food chain.

    Very funny stuff!

  3. Pingback: kevin

  4. Grimm’s response is his usual meaningless blathering.

    The section about “fit” is the most telling. For years, rather than hiring good workers, good writers and good editors, newspapers have hired “good fits.” Now they’re stuck with people who can’t do the job and can’t adapt to the changing media environment.

    And Jack hits the nail on the head. I often wonder where Grimm would register on an IQ scale. He seems to be full of hot air and bad advice.

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