Not my night

To quote Brando here.

Checked my email last night to learn that I had been turned down for two job possibilities, either of which I really would have enjoyed.

The first was with MLB.com, working as an editor for their “Cut 4” section, compiling and writing about interesting, humorous, or otherwise compelling video clips and the stories behind them.

The second was for a spot at Trader Joes. I know, what you’re thinking. “Boy, those are some pretty diverse opportunities, buddy.” True, but next to baseball, I’ve always been interested in the food industry and what makes things go or stall.

I don’t know what it says about me when I can’t even get hired at a supermarket. (Does that sound horrible? I don’t mean it to be. Just getting increasingly frustrated.) Heck, I can’t even get an interview. So I guess I could take some solace in that it’s not personal.

Now I’m thinking ABBA…

You can stop listening after 50 seconds or so; that’s the germane part.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

What are YOU worried about, Jonathan Mathis?

Mathis is a Facebook friend, and up until recently, at least, was “Sportswriter/columnist, Youtube personality, on-air personality at I95 Sports & Entertainment Network.”

I’m announcing that I’m choosing a new career path. Journalism obviously isn’t for me. 1. I have too many enemies. 2. I don’t have the time that I once had. 3. I’ve burnt bridges and will never bounce back from a tattered reputation. 4. I’m tired of people’s negativity and very little support. However, I’m still gonna pursue my bachelor’s degree in communication and whatever God wants me to become I will become it. But I’m done with this journalism stuff. I’m thinking about deactivating this account, because I’m tired of people and the attacks, and the negativity, and the fact that people turn conversations into personal attacks and cannot ever keep it civil. I don’t need social media to have friends. I had my true friends long before this. I have my true friends now. People who met me via sports writing once again DO NOT KNOW ME. THEY KNOW OF ME, BUT THEY DO NOT KNOW ME, BECAUSE THEY NEVER MET ME, yet I’m treated like a criminal, crucified for having an opinion, vilified for comments, attacked for my views. I swear, this is high school drama. I know what they mean when they say everybody doesn’t like you and that everybody isn’t your friend. I think I’m loved by enough people, from family to friends to neighbors to high school friends to co-workers. They are the important people to me, not haters or people who are supposed to be fans and supporters. I try to live my life right, treat people with respect and love everyone, but of course, everybody doesn’t feel that way.

No wonder I can’t get a job, Part 37

Image result for frustrationI don’t know how much time I’ve spent signing up for various job sites. Each time you find a position that seems to fit your experience and interest, there is the virtual paperwork to fill out from the outfit that posts the offering. Invariably, one has to provide the usual contact information. Some allow you to simply upload a resume while others require that PLUS the arduous task of keying in the exact same information.

Then there are the keywords. Some sites are good about suggesting enough of them to make your search fairly comprehensive and accurate; others, not so much, especially for my hunt, which includes things like “editorial,” “journalism,” and “writing,” among others.

So I recently signed up with The New York Times‘ job section (remember when they actually used to print want ads?), going through all the data points and this is what they came up with for me: SENIOR INTERPRETER, RUSSIAN, P5 – New York, NY.  I won’t go into the seemingly countless details of the job description; suffice it to say, it’s definitely not something I’m qualified to do, although my French is pretty good.

I appreciate the confidence the Times‘ methodology has in my abilities, but as much as I need the work, I think I’ll take a pass on this one. And if this is how the “employment bots” figure out the kinds of jobs to which I’m suited, it’s gonna be a long haul.

Image result for russian translator

Fine whine

When I created this blog, it was with people like me in mind: middle-aged (and perhaps a bit beyond) people in the media, ideally the print industry that’s been fading away for the past several years. But I guess it could apply to anyone of a certain age whose job has been phased out either because of technological advancements or just a lack of interest in that particular field by consumers.

Image result for older job worriesIt’s like health I guess: for years I was healthy and athletic. Knock wood, I’ve never had to spend a night at the hospital for myself. But then I developed tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, and an arthritic back in a relatively brief span of time that’s greatly reduced my activity level. That, in turn, has led to some weight gain which has lead to a sense of depression — an unfortunate spiral. The point it, you take a lot for granted. You never think “x” will happen to you. Until it does.

So younger readers might think, “Man, that’s just the whining of an old man.” (Remember when you were a kid and thought 30 was old?) Hate to break it to you, lads and lassies, but this will be you someday.

Of course, the whole work paradigm is different from it was when me and my homies were fresh out of school. In those days, you could still expect to get a job and hold onto it for 30 years and then retire. I’ve basically had just two — one 22 years in duration, the other 12. (Holy Sh#t, I’ve been working for over three decades?!?) Nowadays, from what I understand, a person changes every three years or so.

So many of the situations I’ve seen from the numerous job sites seem to have at least one requirement that eliminates me as a candidate, regardless of how many of the others I possess. I guess that makes sense: when you’re employed, you frequently don’t pay attention to the new trends. And so when you do lose a job, you’re lagging in what potential hirers are seeking. How do you catch up, and when you do, how do you get someone to give you a shot?

Demanding job ad of the day: Food editor

Author’s Note: Submitted for your perusal, the first in a new “series.”

Still not gainfully employed, but I keep on looking… and looking… and looking.

I’m on several job sites and each day provides at least one opportunity that strikes me as very specific in its requirements. To be fair, many of them are totally understandable  while others speak to a different language/generation of writers. Here’s the latest, with some of the details removed.  Once again, the writing no longer seems to be for its own sake, but primarily to get eyes on the page and hold them there.

Job title: Senior Editor, Food

Image result for food editor

Job Duties (abbreviated version)

* Conceive and sustain original text & video franchises that can thrive online, across social platforms and on air.

* Translate show segments into digital wins. (emphasis added)

* Act as a digital stakeholder during multi-day show series and events. (emphasis added)

* Must have deep knowledge of the digital food space, its competitors and innovations. (emphasis added)

* An innate ability to tailor content to platforms and audiences, from (employer)  to Pinterest to Facebook to newsletters to social video.

* Strong understanding of how stories are shared and consumed differently across digital, social, mobile and email platforms, and ability to use analytics, to help guide story selection and distribution.

* Must have a rich portfolio of skills that demonstrates strong and fast writing and editing. Portfolio should include examples of clever and SEO-friendly headlining, strong social media skills, and light multimedia skills (resizing images, creating social videos). (emphasis added)

Look, maybe this is just the new normal. I used to be very good at keeping up. I don’t know when all these technology passed me by.

If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry

Not surprisingly, my spidey sense kicks in when I hear something on a TV show about the state of journalism that is meant to be bitingly funny. Sure, if you’re not one of the people affected by the downturn in the industry. Other than that, I can easily imagine a subdued reaction from the audience, if there’s one at all.

John Oliver did a segment on Last Week Tonight a while back…

Yesterday it was Samantha Bee’s turn on Full Frontal.

I was at an event at the Yogi Berra Museum a few years back that featured a roundtable of sportswriters talking about the job. It was ostensibly held for journalism students at Montclair State University, where the museum is located. I was working at NJ Jewish News at the time, but the writing was on the wall (heh) even then and I felt sadness in my heart for these kids. They might have had good intentions in their goals, but they were definitely heading in the wrong direction. I doubt if anyone is going to look at journalism as an artisanal endeavor, like using a loom or making cheese.

Returning to the scene of the crime

As you might have noticed, I haven’t been posting for a while (did you miss me?). Part of it was laziness, part of it was being busy looking for work. I actually thought I had addressed the second issue, but it seems I was wrong.

A brief explanation: I have basically had two jobs in my adult life. The first started as a temp situation that turned into a 22-year stay. The second was just a casual conversation about additional freelance writing assignments that blossomed into 12 years as a writer/editor. Both positions ended through no fault of my own, the first for a re-organizational downsizing, the second when the newspaper was taken over by another publication. point is, I’m not used to looking for work and this process has been an education, to say the least. A lot of friends have offered well-meaning suggestion, but they operating under what has become outdated methods. “Networking” is the key word; unfortunately, most of the people in my network are in the same situation: veteran writers who have few options since traditional newspapers are circling the drain.

Image result for seoI must be on about a half-dozen job sites, looking for various combinations of writing and editing. Problem is, very few companies seem to be interested in a) the type of writing and editing I’ve been doing for the past decade-plus; b) anything but writing specifically in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and numerous analytics; and c) paying a decent wage.

Here’s a representative posting for the second point:

Responsibilities include:

  • Top editing every piece of content that gets published on the site daily, including headlines, making sure each piece is optimized for SEO
  • Leading key editorial initiatives, acting as a project lead
  • Writing newsy content and/or longer features on a weekly basis
  • Working closely with all members of our team including audience dev and SEO, presenting weekly reports to the editorial team on traffic and strategy based on post performance
  • Being the “standards keeper” for our editorial content, ensuring consistency across teams

And here’s an example of the last item:

– Complete a minimum of 2500 words per day (6 days per week).
– Your starting pay will be $0.50 per 100 words.

Just for context, that’s about 10 pages, double-spaced.

So if my math is correct — and that’s never a given — that’s $12.50 A DAY. And how much do you think the rate of payment will increase? Even if it’s doubled, that’s $25.

Look, I get it: there’s a ton of competition out there and companies are fighting to pry eyes away from other sites. Plus they want to save money. But I find it incredibly disheartening and not a little bit insulting that this is what potential employers are offering.

You know what, folks? You get what you pay for. I’m sure there are a lot of students who are looking to pad their resumes with “professional writing” credits. All this comes with a price when it comes to quality, but, sadly, it seems that fewer and fewer people care.

Does anyone know if Trader Joe’s is hiring? I already have a Hawaiian shirt.

If this isn’t worrisome, I don’t know what is

Image result for newsroom meetingIt’s no secret that the current administration sees the media — at least those who don’t lavish praise and recognize how great things are going — as the enemy of the people, as well as the state. And, at least in the back of their collective mind, there are undoubtedly some who are reconsidering what they write or say or air.

Look, I get it. I was never that political before this election. I certainly never posted to social media to the degree I now do. And there are those in my family who think I should just shut up or at least dial it back, especially since I’m looking for a job. They’re afraid my rantings will work against me. They may have a point.

So it was with a great deal of fear and sadness that I read this piece from The New York Times the other day: “In Trump Era, Censorship May Start in the Newsroom.”

This is how the muzzling starts: not with a boot on your neck, but with the fear of one that runs so deep that you muzzle yourself.

Maybe it’s the story you decide against doing because it’s liable to provoke a press-bullying president to put the power of his office behind his attempt to destroy your reputation by falsely calling your journalism “fake.”

Maybe it’s the line you hold back from your script or your article because it could trigger a federal leak investigation into you and your sources (so, yeah, jail).

Or, maybe it’s the commentary you spike because you’re a publicly supported news channel and you worry it will cost your station its federal financing.

Or, maybe it’s the re-posting of sentiments like this.

The article, written by Jim Rutenberg, concludes, “In a week in which Congress is calling for a leak investigation into stories in The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN that led to Michael T. Flynn’s forced resignation as national security adviser, heroism is what’s called for. Hopefully there’s enough of it to go around.”

Amen, brother.

 

Adapt or die

AKA, “More resume blues.”

In my job search travels, I signed up for a few more online boards. One of these offered a free resume review. I figured, what the heck, and sent mine in.

Guess what?!?

Your resume has been flagged as one that will benefit greatly from the skilled attention of a professional resume writer!

Of course it was!

Can you imagine anyone sending one in for review and not getting this message?

Can’t say I was too surprised when the report came back indicating that my cv basically sucked. No sugar-coating. One thing I did appreciate was the “science” behind it. According to this service, employers use some sort of scanning software that picks up key words and phrases and my resume came in very low on that metric.

93% of all Hiring Managers use a resume scanning software to filter candidates from the application pool. To illustrate how you stand up to the automation, I passed your resume through the very same software that Hiring Managers use to filter the real talent from the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of candidates that apply for a single open position.

Even though I have [mumble-mumble] years of experience with what amounts to basically two jobs, my skills are apparently and disappointingly minimal. And even though my last job — editor at a weekly newspaper for more than 10 years — was demanding, creative, responsible, etc., this service deemed those achievements suitable to a position as  “business operations or general business” or administrative or clerical.

The only nice thing they had to say?

“Good news: your resume is saved in a recent version of Microsoft Word. An overwhelming majority of resumes look like yours and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) love it.

Eff you.

The problems with these new methods are they have no soul. They look at a few words on a page and put you into a slot. I guess the fact that I listed awards and citations I have received for my work meant nothing because it didn’t fit into one of the categories.

I could go on, but people of my age will certainly get my point. An old friend of mine recently sent me a job me he found while looking for employment. He had been working for a tech company more about 35 years then suddenly found himself with a job — along with two other colleagues with roughly the same time in and ages. Hmm, can you say ageism lawsuit? I knew you could.

On the other hand, I guess there’s no spitting into the wind or raging against the machine or any other metaphor that might apply in this situation of trying to buck the new system. I don’t want to say that time has passed me by while working at the paper for this period, but things sure have changed.

But I have to wonder if there’s even a real person reviewing these resumes, or if they’re just scanning robots?

Weekend Worriers (journalism)

I didn’t want to bundle this in with the previous worries because I find this more disturbing personally.

In last Sunday’s Times Liz Spayd took “A Hard Look at Times Editing in the Digital Era” by in her “Public Editor” column.

As many of you know, newspapers are bleeding out. Attrition is claiming many victims as print media slowly dwindles.

From the article:

Its editing architecture, originally constructed in the bountiful days of print, allows for multiple layers of editing that help keep copy clean and errors to a minimum. Except for breaking news, most stories are reviewed by three editors, with up to six or more if the article is headed for home page prominence or A1.

Soon this conveyor will be replaced by a bespoke editing system built primarily around digital. The specifics of how it will work are not final, but it is aimed at answering questions like: What is the maximum speed at which a story should travel from a reporter to the website? What is the minimum number of editors who should see it? What role should reporters play in taking ownership of their story and its presentation to readers, including photos, video and embedded tweets? And how can these changes be made to maximize the power and presence of visuals throughout The Times’s report?

Emphasis added.

I left my editorial post in September (somewhat unwillingly, but stuff happens) as did another person who was an excellent “set of eyes” for all aspects: stories, advertisements, etc. The managing editor left a few months later. It’s not sour grapes to point out that there are a lot more mistakes getting through since the new management came on board. In my travels I frequently come across subscribers who ask, “What happened to the paper?” and pointing out how the publication has shrunk and the flubs that get through. Well, what do you expect when you let go the people who are charged with protecting the product?

Just makes me more worried about ever finding a job like I had if this is going to be the new normal.

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