About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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March 09, 2009



Great list, but I'd add one side note about Tip #4: Birds of a feather flock together, and many journalists will find that big chunks of their network are occupied by other journalists... who are themselves un(der)employed and/or seeking new jobs. It can quickly become an echo chamber of "everyone's looking / nobody's hiring."

So allow me to suggest Tip #4A: Get some new friends. As in, go out of your way to meet new people who have nothing to do with The Business. One good place to start is your college alumni group.

You already have some interests in common, but your fellow alums are probably diversified among local businesses. And who knows, some of those outfits might need people with journo job skills.

Mark Potts

Thanks, Tex. Very good point, especially in smaller markets. That's also why I recommended looking at other fields, outside journalism, where journalism skills might have value. There's a link to that post, Life After Journalism, in Point #8 and in the "Laid Off?" sidebar in the upper right column of the page.


Great post -- a few thoughts of my own:

1) About staying in touch — online sites like LinkedIn are great, but I’ve also found that unemployment social networks (Free Agents - http://www.freeagentnet.com is one) are a great way to keep your pulse on what other people are doing in the job search world. Its nice to know where people are finding success, and also good to network with people that don’t have jobs. At the very least, its a good place to go with any general questions you have about the process or when you need encouragement.

2) Regarding your severance and termination agreements - they will want you to sign an agreement that states what you can and can’t do with regards to competitors, old customers, etc before you can begin getting your severance. READ THIS CLOSELY, especially if you are planning on finding a new job in the same field. Might even be worthwhile to have a lawyer check it out, especially if you have a decent amount of severance riding on it.

Recession Proof with Homemaker Barbi

Great tips. We have a recession proofing series in progress at my site and our last article was about recession proofing your job. These are great specifics for writers, and I'll be linking to your article in our series. Thank you!

Danelle Ice / Homemaker Barbi

Ann Brenoff

I wrote the Los Angeles' Times Hot Property column (nationally syndicated) and worked there for the past 18 years. I joined the ranks of the unemployed in the latest round of 70 newsroom cuts.

My husband and I started up our own company, running after-school and summer enrichment programs -- and we are HIRING laid off journalists to run newspaper clubs in schools and other classes.

I'd be happy to talk to any unemployed print journalist anywhere. Currently we are only registered in California, but are adding New York, Conn., New Jersey and Texas to our business shortly.

You can reach me at afterschooldays@gmail.com.

Stay strong.

Ann Brenoff

editorial wife

I just wanted to thank you for posting this. After reading tons of web pages from people actually happy about journalism layoffs (reveling in it), it was nice to find something helpful. My husband is going through a rough time at the Times Union in Albany, NY. They are expected to send layoff notices next week. He's been in the business over 25 years and knows nothing else...and has never gone through anything like this. He is our family's only source of income...but, even more then the money, I am afraid of how depressed he will be if he's laid off. I will email your tips to him at work - maybe he and the other 240+ employees waiting for "the call" will find it helpful, too.

Tanya English

I just wanted to suggest that an AWESOME career choice for journalists who may want to retrain is realtime court reporting and realtime captioning. It's been a great career for me, and we are looking for qualified people with great vocabularies, grammar skills, and the discipline to work at home. Here's a link to a video that shows a very good program that's online and has reasonable tuition. Check it out. http://www.realtimetranscription.com/showcase/btc/index.php#

David Nickell

Unfortunately, I caught this article rather late. Like almost two and a half years late. But, hey, it's not like layoffs have subsided.

I was laid off from the Miami Herald in the spring of 2009. I know the tips you suggested first-hand.

Sadly, several will just not work. Telling someone to buck up or not get depressed is an exercise in futility. The key is to have your cry and get over it, to replace inaction and self-pity with action and pride. Give yourself a week to wallow in depression. Hell, two weeks. But put a deadline on it.

What worked for me can't work for the majority. I was lucky enough to be near retirement age when the ax fell. So when unemployment compensation ran out, I applied for my newspaper pension and took an early retirement from Social Security.

The severance and unemployment comp kept me going for about two years.

During that time I tried most of the suggested tips, from networking to attempting to transfer my skills to a different field, including porno (as an editor, not as a performer). Nothing worked.

Fortunately, I only needed enough income to supplement my pension and my Social Security. So I forgot about journalism and after learning that even retail clerk jobs were at a premium, I started investigating what jobs might be recession-proof.

I took the training and became a security guard. I went from $27 an hour to $9 an hour. But so what? That $27-an-hour job would never come back around. I didn't need an illusionary job. I needed a real one.

I stuck out the security guard job for eight months. As bad as it was -- every bit as dreadful as you might imagine -- it got me out of the house. It got me to prepare healthy lunches for myself. It brought me into contact with people. It brought some sunshine into my life -- literally, not figuratively.

It enabled me to pay bills and to keep a roof over my head. Most important of all, it was so damn boring that it woke me up to what I ought to be doing.

I'm now starting a blog and finishing two books. If I can't make money with any of that, then I've got the uniform to fall back on.

And I think that's the key to survival. Try your best, by all means, to put your skills to good use, but if you don't find any takers, take a dose of reality. Devise a worst-case scenario -- or several of them -- that is your fall-back plan.

If you have to take a menial job, try to keep your energy level high enough to write in your spare time, if a writer is what you are. Blog, write books, anything that restores your sense of self-worth.

And get over the idea, the one I clung to during my whole career in journalism, that you are what you do. No, you're not. That's an identity defined by the people who just slit your throat. Be who you are on your own terms, not theirs.

And give yourself a treat every time you reach a milestone or achieve a major accomplishment. You will have earned it and you deserve it.

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