Saturday, April 25, 2015

On being out of journalism for one year

April 24 marked the one-year anniversary of Kevin Dale calling me into his office and notifying me that my job at The Denver Post was being eliminated in a reduction of workforce. I won't write about that decision today. That is so last year. But I learned a lot in those intervening months, so it's time for an update.

It is a situation in which there is good news and there's bad news. People given the option of what to hear always take the good news first. I will reverse that order. Those bad things sit deeper in my soul, as they should for anyone who put decades of effort into his or her craft or profession. So here are the three worst parts of leaving journalism.

1. I have so much to offer and no opportunity. I am a skilled journalist. I have numerous writing awards. I was a good copy editor who worked on some of the best newspapers not only in the West but in the world. What was that worth in the job market? Not a darned thing. I applied for any job that had the word "communications" in it. I applied with good businesses, various governmental entities, and with educational institutions. The result? One job interview and two great letters or phone calls from organizations that praised me for the strength of my resume but said I didn't make the cut for the finalists. Why? Read Point No. 2.

2. Age discrimination is alive and well. Every human resources department includes a section on a job posting that says that it doesn't discriminate in several areas, including gender, sexual orientation, religion and age. Do they live up to that? No. Any hiring source will say that discrimination is a key factor in making hiring decisions, if they are being honest. I sat in on a job search session in which the facilitator told us that her husband, who worked in a human resources department, takes the applications of anyone older than 50 and sets them aside. I have talked to enough people to know that the emphasis in hiring is to accent younger workers. I talked to two men recently who are on the older end of the job spectrum. One expected to lose his job because he just turned 64. The other, also 64, sent in nearly 100 applications and received zero responses. Both had a wealth of skill and experience that would fit with any good organization. That skill and experience is worth nothing to those who hire. I saw a T-shirt recently that says it concisely: Old Is The New Black.

3. I miss the daily interaction with fellow workers. It wasn't just talking to co-workers in the sports or YourHub sections of The Denver Post, although there were several people there that I still share ideas with regularly. It was the quick conversation with someone who works in the business department. It's the few minutes in the break room talking to the head of the features department about good restaurants in town. It's also the friendly talk exchanged with the head of Viva Colorado, the Spanish language department under The Post's guidance. Working at home leaves me with chances to talk to Jack, my dog, until my wife comes home from work. Those little workplace interchanges are lost.

But I can't say everything is negative. Here are the three best things about my year away from journalism.

1. Every day works under the schedule I establish. Workers would love to have a situation in which they determine what they do and when they do it.  Not having a job gives me that freedom. Do I have to jump into the shower and get ready to drive to work? No. Do I have to eat a quick breakfast and hit the road? No. My schedule starts with a couple of cups of coffee, a chance to watch a good morning show (CBS This Morning is my entertainment of choice), and then a writing session on my novel. That takes up my mornings and part of my afternoons, and I get to call the shots throughout the day.

2. No commute. My days in the sports department meant I rarely had to face a tough commute. Traffic in the middle of the afternoon when I went to work was tame, and my late-night drive home was shared only with other swing-shift workers and drunks. But my commute got tougher when I got into the YourHub job. I was in that early-morning and late-afternoon crush every damn day. I learned that certain lanes of traffic moved faster than others. Today I don't have to worry about any drive. I have been in downtown Denver three times since I was dismissed at The Post, and two of those times were to attend Rockies games.

3. No supervisors I don't respect. The number of supervisors I didn't trust at The Post were few and far between. Kevin Dale was the best thing in my experience there. Yes, he had to notify me that I lost my job once. He also hired me twice. But not every supervisor at The Post has Kevin's qualities. Nothing bothered me more than one supervisor. I told that supervisor that I was 100 percent behind their efforts to lead me and the department in which I was placed. I followed up on that 100 percent commitment. The problem was that the supervisor didn't. That was highlighted on one particular day. That supervisor talked to me early in the morning about an issue, and we left that session by trading smiles and handshakes. A few hours later, that supervisor turned 180 degrees in demeanor and had me in for a small "come to Jesus" meeting. How can one person be a smiling "friend" one moment and an accuser a short time later? This supervisor was able to do that. I was told by someone else who had worked for this supervisor that "(Name) will scare the hell out of you." Well, that supervisor didn't scare me, but disappointed me. I worked like a professional for that person, and I got no reciprocal treatment. I am very happy to see that person in my rear-view mirror. That person has no business leading others, in my humble opinion.

That's it. Thanks for letting me sift through good memories and vent about irritating problems. I feel better now.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Daniel Pace makes own success and fears

You have to tip your cap to Daniel Pace. He was like so many veterans who came home from Iraq with nothing but hope and a stash of combat pay. He started a small company in the Seattle area, and success built on success. Now he lives in a million-dollar home with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. He looks like a winner on every count.

But there are signs that not everything is as it seems. He lives alone, and his social contact is limited once he lives his office. That beautiful home is surrounded by a high wrought iron fence, and no one gets in without knowing the proper access code. Is the fence there to keep threats out or secrets in?

I have one Pace first draft done, but I need to revise that considerably. I am about a third of the way through a second Pace novel, but I won't forge ahead without getting the first novel completed to my satisfaction. There is a lot of good stuff in that first novel, in my humble opinion, but it's just not there yet as a bright and tight finished product.

Here's my current author's scoreboard: One R.W. Clay novel finished and out to selected agents (although I ran into an unexpected roadblock that I will write about soon); a Sean McNabb novel that is out for reviews by my readers; a second McNabb novel in process; the two Daniel Pace projects; and some preliminary research starting soon for a second R.W. Clay novel. And I have preliminary plans for a single novel that will spin off a McNabb story, but that character hasn't even been written yet (although I know most of the details about his life).

So, I'm not exactly sitting here idle. I'm loving every minute of it.