Broken Careers: Some in journalism weathered crisis and ultimately survived, part 2 of 5-part series

Posted By Spring Eselgroth

By Warren Watson

(Second of five parts)

Tom Brew and John McIntyre lost jobs for up to a year in 2011 as newspaper journalism squeezed out hundreds of jobs in a belt-tightening after the recession.

Both led newspaper copy desks. Both decided to stay in journalism. Both  eventually found full-time jobs again.

Ironically, both took advantage of non-paying work to transition – and keep their journalism fires alive.

Here are their stories:

John McIntyre: The Road Led Back to Baltimore

John McIntyre, a modern-day editor at the Baltimore Sun, always cut a dashing figure complete with a top hat, when he made frequent appearances 10 years ago as a lecturer at the American Press Institute.

He was comfortable with the adult learners there in editing sessions and often framed jokes that were dry, witty and self deprecating.

An assistant managing editor at one of America’s most celebrated newsrooms, he was a damned lot of fun, confident, smiling.  He became one the founding members of the American Copy Editors Society, known as ACES.  He was in demand everywhere for his expertise in language and editing.

Ten years later, in 2009, McIntyre was out of work, laid off with 60 others.  “I was a 59-year-old white guy who made too much money,” he said.

McIntyre was yet another journalist whose career had been broken.

But he said he got lucky.  ‘The Sun hired me back full time (in March 2010) as night content production manager.  I thought I would never get another full-time job,” he confessed.  “This was a newspaper that had lost 40 percent of its revenue.”

He spent 12 months out of work, exhausting his savings while continuing to teach copy editing as an adjunct professor at Loyola University and refining  a blog about editing that he had started at the Sun.  He also took career survival classes with the State of Maryland designed for people thrown out of work.

“I spent days cataloging all the people out of work.  I tried not to drink too much, to read too many murder mysteries, to watch too much television.”

He added, “I kept going because of my family.  I tried to keep up the morale.”

Bernie Kohn, a former colleague and business editor who was also laid off at the Sun, calls the McIntyre story “truly odd.”

Added Kohn, “He was at his wit’s end after being out of work so long. But there was no one at the Sun who could do what John does.  They fired everyone.  We all had the titles and made too much money.  He was so needed.  No one knew how a printed paper was produced.

He added, “It was a all a bunch of 26-year-olds who just knew about social media.”

Today, McIntyre makes two-thirds the salary he once made with much more work. The copy desk went from 54 people to four, he said.

McIntyre said that his Sun career Part 2 is “wearing.

He added, “We can’t edit at the depth we once did.  I am the primary editor much of the time.  I do the slotting.  I do the proofing,” he said.

McIntyre said that is unpaid blogging kept him going to times when he was jobless.  “I found ways.  I found that people liked what I had to say.  I average 14,000 page views a month.  I have a national following.  No, make that an international following.”

What’s ahead?

“I tell my students to get a job that pays and hold onto it, and hope for something better.  I have to really worry about four more years. They have to worry about 30 or 40.”

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Tom Brew: From Florida to Indiana and Back

For years Tom Brew moved comfortably back and forth between two career fields that were doing well – journalism and real estate.

In the years following the recession, he found both career possibilities broken.

In June 2011, he was part of the Gannett Company’s national layoff of 786 people.  He had been the night sports editor/ copy desk chief of The Indianapolis Star.   He was out of work for 13 months, and like McIntyre, found himself depleting his savings as well as his Star 401K.

“I stayed in my mother’s place in Indiana and got by on 25 bucks a week in groceries,” said Brew, 54.

But, he too became lucky and is now full time assistant business editor at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. A 1980 graduate of Indiana University, Tom was a sportswriter for the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) and then spent five years as night sports editor for the Tampa Tribune. He moved to the Indianapolis Star in 2004.

For years, Brew worked back and forth in both real estate in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market and for both major dailies.  At times, he found too much work to do, he said.  One year, he made $175,000 in a bustling real estate market.

But he found that journalism was his love – and where he wanted to be in the last phase of his career.

“This is what I like to do best,” he said of his move to Indianapolis. “The newspaper is fresh and different every day.  It always appealed to me.”

When he lost his job at the Star, he pulled on his experience and skills to get through job loss.

With no career in sight and at the deepest depth of the recession, he decided to follow his old high school’s basketball team at Lake Central in Indiana in what was hoped to be a banner season.  “I wrote stories, columns, features.  I wasn’t working for anybody but me,” he said of his 5-month personal assignment.

Fans noticed.  Many suggested he collect the material into a scrapbook.

He went one better, turning the project into a 132-page book, “A Season Inside: Lake Central Basketball. “I sold about 1,100 copies.  I even made a few bucks,” he said.

Brew added, “I wasn’t always positive.  But I stayed busy and that got me through this.  It kept me sane.”

(Warren is SABEW executive director and a 40-year journalist.)

 

Next: They moved on from journalism to survive

The series:

Part 1 –Broken Careers: Surviving in journalism in the Internet age

Part 3 – Broken Careers: They moved on from journalism to survive

Part 4 – Broken Careers: How to avoid the frustration factory

Part 5 — Broken Careers: Journalists will move forward – in their own little worlds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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