Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 1,095

So where do we go from here?

Simply put, we don't know. (As if you couldn't tell that from our retrospectives.)

We've wrestled with what to do with the blog as we approached our deadline. It's our baby, so we'd love to see it continue, but we're different people now than we were when we first started this journey and we'd have to account for that. For sure, Ten95 as you know it will be taking a hiatus - likely brief, but potentially permanent - while we decide where we want to go with this. And when, or if, we decide to restart Ten95, it will likely be in a very different form than you've come to know it.

Know this: the "Ten95 Experience" has been a great one and that's thanks to you. From day one we got great, insightful and encouraging comments regarding our work and our lives. We had a community to vent our feelings to, and people who looked to our experiences as affirmation that they weren't alone in their struggles. We met young journalists who came to us for advice (which was humbling) and readers - seasoned veterans and rookies - who congratulated us on a project with such a unique perspective.

This experience has been one that we can safely say, made our first three years as journalists good ones and shaped our identities in the industry.

And for that, we thank you.

Sincerely,
The Ten95 Crew

Talia
Aaron
Chris
Veronica
Darren
Marcus

P.S. -- For those of you who may need a Ten95 fix and will be in the Tampa area for the NABJ convention, 1/2 of the crew will be on a panel entitled "Reinvent Yourself, Not the Wheel"on August 4. And the rest of the crew will likely be hanging out in the audience, if you'd like to say hello.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Employed and Miserable to Unemployed and Loving It

Three years ago, I had dreams of working a 9-7 (the new 9-5) job in the online webspace.

Today, I have dreams of waking up after 10am, hitting the beach and enjoying life.

It's been six months since I was laid off, and to be honest, I'm not in a hurry to go back to work full-time.

I busted my ass going to school, working 40+ hours a week, and not having any fun in the process.

I'm extremely grateful for all the things I have accomplished in the last three years.

I was blessed with the opportunity to travel the States, covering everything from the Essence Music Festival to the NBA All-Star game and even the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials.

But with those opportunities come long hours, lots of stress and not much of a social life.

I'm making half of what I made when I was working full-time and I couldn't be happier.

The LA Times had a great article last week that sums up my feelings towards being young and unemployed.

Funemployment.

No, I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth so I have to make my own money freelancing to pay the bills.

But the flexibility of setting my own hours allows me to make up for the last eight years I spent interning in strange cities (no offense, Bristol, CT), dealing with my health issues and working in the competitive Black web space.

How long do I see myself rebelling from "the man" and not working a full-time job?

We shall see.

Till then, surf's up.


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Monday, June 08, 2009

Bottom of the totem: My retrospective

Kanye West had this whole saying -- “stadium status” -- which is believed to be Jay-Z’s way of saying an artist had reached a certain point, a point at which he was only doing shows in stadiums. I adopted it. Only I wanted to be working in stadiums, though as a sports writer, by 28. I’m not sure how far along I am towards reaching that goal. My biggest stories here to date have been for our local features section, which is my side hustle. You should not be shining off of a side hustle. But to know me is to know that my success is never conventional.

By the way – I am writing this from my desk here in the newsroom. The phones aren’t ringing. It’s 6:30 at night. I just read my story in today’s paper, well, there’s two of them. One of them is a story about a girl who won the New York girls’ golf individual championship. The other is about a softball team that won its Regional title yesterday. This stuff isn’t typically the kind that makes my tummy tingle, but it’s what keeps my foot in the door.

I definitely got in trouble for writing a story for them -- local features section -- that I now understand should have been pitched to my editors in Sports. Funny, but I wasn’t even thinking it was something they’d want. I e-mailed the editor about it, but he never got back to me. Not only did he like it, but from what I heard, he really liked it. Which, of course, only made him more upset. A huge, huge, huge misunderstanding.

You know when you have a meeting with your boss, and you’ve done something so wrong but so unintentional that you just hang your head, helpless, apologetic and with that empty-pit feeling in your stomach? Yeah.

I do not relate to my co-workers the way that others do, and that is bothersome. And only because I think I am viewed as intimidating or threatening in some way. But other than that I have no complaints. I am writing everyday. I’m doing what I want to do. You know, except the stadium status part.

One think I have done right is get some fairly good mentoring from some great reporters and writers -- from Sports Illustrated writers, Daily News writers, and others. They seem to believe I have ability.

As for what I lack, which, in retrospect, could be the very thing that does me in, is consistency and eagerness. It’s hard for me to be Steady Eddy when decisions come down that I know are a direct correlation of what editors think of my performance and when I am clearly not on equal footing in comparison to my co-workers. With the competition for stories and attention so intense, it sometimes fosters jealousy, gossip and back-stabbing. It’s a tough environment. But I am learning. Slowly I am learning.

In three years, I’ll be that 28 year-old reporter I’d hoped to be covering the N.B.A. I wonder in which ways I’ll have grown as a person, and also as a writer. I hope that I’ll be able to look back on these experiences as learning experiences, as bumps in the road to my not-so-conventional success. I’m not leaving New York, the greatest city in the world anytime soon. I mean, Atlanta? Come on. Besides, Jay-Z, Bruce Ratner and some other developers are moving the Nets to Brooklyn. And I hear they’re building a pretty nice stadium.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

What's Next?

June 10, 2006, I was a temp.

June 5, 2009, I am still a temp.

It looks bad when I type it that way, but these first few years of my career in journalism have been quite a ride. "Temp work," for me, is a far cry from filing invoices or typing correspondence. I've been a reporter, editor, fashion writer, broadcaster, urban entertainment correspondent, and assistant to the oldest (and coolest) man in the game -- though not necessarily in that order. My contracts have lasted months, sometimes years at a time. And I worked at some of the biggest names in Washington media before I was old enough to rent a car. (Holla, 25!)

I've been a temp for three years. And I've been blessed.

When we first discussed doing our three-year retrospectives, I hesitated. I don't even remember what my goal was three years ago, aside from landing a permanent job. And I don't know what my goal is now -- I'm convinced that being a temp has given me ADD. But I do know one thing for sure -- I've done some really cool shit.

(Wait, can we say that on the blog?)

I got to walk around Southeast with a community leader. I got to show the innate power of gospel. I went behind the scenes of my alma mater's marching band, and I brought two feminist bloggers on the air to intelligently discuss the first lady.

And that's only been within the last six months. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to do it all.

I'm doubly grateful, actually, because for all the things I've been blessed with as a temp, stability has never been one of them. Maybe that's what the current flux of the industry really hasn't shaken me -- I'm always in a state of flux myself. Every three months or so, I find myself asking, "Okay... What's next?"

This time around, it's something that has nothing to do with journalism but everything thing to do with my personal pursuits. I'm making plans to eventually attend design school. Am I changing careers? I don't know. Am I trying to broaden my knowledge as a journalist? Not intentionally. The only motivation here is me and my personal dreams -- going to school for something I've always dreamed of since I was a kid. Now's a good a time as any to explore what else life has to offer.

And after that?

Well... I guess we'll find out in another three years.
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Posted by Miss Marche at 10:45 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Crossroads

T-Dot and Aaron have put me in an unenviable spot with their excellent commentaries, but as the third-place hitter in this Ten95 lineup, I have to find a way to get on base and keep the inning going.

The actual date might be foggy, but I remember almost five years ago at the UNITY journalism convention in a conference room in Washington, D.C., Stephen A. Smith gave me a pretty solid piece of advice that has stuck with me from then to now. When I asked him how to deflect suggestions that I try an area of journalism other than sports reporting (coming from different professors at Delaware State University), he stopped me short and said "Follow your heart, because anything else is just a job."

And as I sit here at home this morning, sighing and not looking forward to another day in my current position, those words came back to me again when we decided to look back on our three-year journey. I thought about how once upon a time, this was all I wanted to do. I thought about how cool it would be to work in an actual newsroom with other journalists and editors. I thought about the absolute privilege of watching sporting events for free and getting paid to write about what I saw. Amazingly, current circumstances have shown me that those things are not enough for me anymore.

I've known it for a while, I've just tried to ignore it, but each day, I find myself saying it to anyone that asks; "I'm on my way to work." Work. An honorable four-letter word in most cases, but in my eyes, it's become pretty dirty. This business has stopped being fun for me, and it has become what Stephen A. told me to avoid: A job. I doubt I'll ever lose my love for the written word because truthfully it saved me from things I'm not even going to touch on in this entry, so that will always be a part of me. However, as far as what the future holds, I'm not sure journalism is a part of it.

Everyday, you hear about journalists, good/great/solid/whatever, losing their jobs because of a seriously staggered economy and a top-heavy management system that was an epic failure from the get-go. They say those at smaller papers (myself, for example) are safe and should be happy to be employed, as one superior has been clear to point out to me and me alone several times.

Everyone dreams of climbing the ladder of success, but for me, I don't even see a footstool. Not from where I am currently. And it hurts. I never thought that at closing in on 28, I'd be looking at a career crossroads, especially since I've only been out of school for two years. However, that is exactly where I am. Grad school is one option, but it would probably be for something totally different. Or I could fight it out and try to find another sports reporting gig...economic woes notwithstanding.

What it really boils down to is happiness. And for me, that's everything, something I've been fighting to obtain personally and professionally for well over a decade now. Truthfully? I'm not happy here. Not in my current position, not where I live, nothing. And that's certainly not the way I want to live my life. I don't want to say my decision's already been made, but a change is coming soon. Whatever way I decide to go, I'll make the best of my decision, live with it and have no regrets. Either way, I've made some great friends and had some great experiences, and I'm certainly grateful for all this business has given me. However, I'm not sure if I have the energy to give back to it.
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Posted by Chris at 9:16 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"I'm keeping my options open..."

If I had a dime every time I heard that line uttered by a career-less recent journalism school graduate, I might have enough money to buy a taco truck, drive up and down the Beltway selling heart-attack inducing bacon-wrapped hotdogs to unsuspecting federal gov't employees.

Okay, so maybe I have thought about another line of work. So what? I know, I know. I said not too long ago that I was tired of listening to my colleagues whine about the journalism industry. And honestly, I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.

After reviewing a good deal of what I've blogged about these last three years, I've realized why the whining makes me cringe. I've long held the belief that journalism as a trade is done well when the journalist is learned and inspired by the craft...motivated by innovation...and persevering in his or her approach to pursuing their passions.

But enough with the esoteric graduate thesis.

As I batten down the hatches, in Baltimore, MD for a summer internship with the Associated Press, I feel I'm as ready as I'll ever be to decide whether keeping my options open is a good idea.

For one, I've prepared a great deal for this moment. Most often, journalism school graduates who have troubles finding work post-graduation experience this because they didn't prepare while they were in school. Honestly, had I been in my senior year and looking for my first internship I would have been at a serious disadvantage. Internships mean a lot, but they alone aren't eveything.

I'll never understand why I ever had to sell being involved with journalism networking organizations to aspiring journalists. The National Association of Black Journalists, along with the Bay Area Black Journalists Association, has been instrumental in developing and expanding my network and industry contacts. And honestly, many of these people have turned out to be great friends to have.

I've always interpreted "keeping my options open" to mean throwing away all of my hard work, just so I can be miserable in someone's public relations firm. Okay, maybe I'm being dramatic. (The paycheck would be nice, for sure. And student loan repayment will kick in faster than I can say "bacon-wrapped-butter-basted hotdog on a bun.")

But fears of a dying industry have not deterred me from pursuing goals I set for myself long before college. Perhaps I'll feel differently as this summer comes to an end. Or maybe not. I'd like to think I won't ever need to implement Plan B: Aaron's Taco Truck.

And while I won't completely reject keeping my eyes open for another line of work...it's unlikely you'll hear that "I'm keeping my options open." Hopefully, I've prepared enough so that I don't have to.

(Besides, if we (journalists) all left...who's going to support to the coffee and booze industries? ... Joking.)

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 9:45 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

No Safety Net

I was never supposed to be here this long.

Three years ago, I had it all set. I had just been hired full-time at my current paper after starting off as a two-year intern. The plan had always been to stay two years and then get up and out. By 2007, I would have some banging clips to help me find a new and better job at a more exciting paper. Rhode Island was supposed to be my stepping stone; a way to get my foot in the door and propel me to a larger market.

October will mark my four year anniversary in Rhode Island and I am more nervous and uncertain about what to do about the future than I have ever been in my life. I was never supposed to be here this long and now, I'm afraid to leave.

I didn't leave before because I didn't need to. And after years of prosperity, it was easy to ignore rumors about how much trouble the industry was in. After all, who could imagine a day without newspapers -- we were vital. Or so I thought.

That was before the Rocky Mountain News closed its doors, before the Times threatened to shut down the Globe, before Detroit stopped home delivery and the P-I went completely online.

It's easy to see all that now, but over the past three years, I’ll admit it, I was caught up in the newness of my budding career. I preferred to focus on the joy of getting a great story or share the frustration in dealing with tough sources and bosses. But all around me, it was happening. It wasn’t until the recession came to my newsroom with the split of our company, buyouts, and then finally two rounds of layoffs that I started to get the picture. This whole thing is bigger than me. And I’m not invincible.

Honestly, that’s why I had a backup plan. The only thing is that now, my backup plan is causing me more angst than ignoring the industry ever did.

Getting my graduate degree was supposed to be my safety net. I started thinking about going to get an advanced degree in law probably about 6 months ago. I'd been covering courts for a while, and then, the paper announced plans for more layoffs. I got excited about the program and my plan was to apply for the Fall 2010 class, which would allow me to save up some money and really prepare for the transition. But with my job only 4th from the bottom on the seniority list when they announced layoff plans in February, I thought it important to have a backup plan.

So I applied to Georgetown. And got in. With a partial scholarship to their Masters of Studies in Law program for journalists. It's a one year program where I would be able to take all the same classes as a first year law student, but come May, I would leave with a Master's Degree.

I'm seriously afraid to leave and I feel like a punk for it. And it's killing me that this economy has me doubting my ability to land on my feet, even with an advanced degree. When I graduated from college, I never thought for a moment that I wouldn't be able to find a job. Ever. But that was back in 2005.

So here I am, with a great opportunity on one hand, a steady paycheck in the other and a gloomy economic outlook overhead. And I have no idea what to do. I've survived two layoffs and a round of buyouts by the skin of my teeth. The idea of hitting this economy in May with stale clips and a degree isn't particularly comforting. But even if I stay, I could be among the first to go if the paper were to decide they need to get rid of more weight.

Three years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do, just that I didn't want to do it in Rhode Island forever. My disdain for municipal reporting emerged over the years, just like my love for cops, courts and legal reporting blossomed. And I worry that I'm romanticizing my time here out of fear for the unknown.

A friend of mine said that one of the bravest things a person can do is imagine a different life for themselves. I wonder if it still counts if you imagine a new life out of fear that your old one will disappear.

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Posted by T Dot at 9:26 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Monday, June 01, 2009

Day 1086

When we started this blog, things were different.

Most of us had just graduated from college, were looking for jobs or either just starting them. We were bright eyed bushy tailed journalists ready to take on the world. We had no idea what adventures our lives would hold as we struggled to gain our footing in the journalism industry.

So we decided to document it as it happened.

We've written as we've been hired, promoted and laid off. As we graduated and figured out where to go and what to do with our lives. We've told you about our horrible beats, great bosses and mean readers and listeners. We've shared our successes, our awards, our failures.

There was no way to know when we started out where the world would be today. That we were dangling on the cliff of a recession that continues today. It was unfathomable to think that a handful of newspapers across the country would actually close their doors. That thousands of qualified journalists -- veterans and rookies -- would be laid off from their jobs.

We documented the shift in the industry as it was happening, as we lived it.

One thousand ninety-five days.

On June 10th, the crew here at Ten95 will reach that milestone. A day that seemed like it was always so far off is now literally just days away.

Over the coming week, each of us will write about what it has been like to start a career at a time when the world, our industry and it's future were so uncertain. This blog has given us a vantage point on the changes the recession have had on the industry that is unique only to us. And we'll do our best to give an honest look at what the view has been from here.

We hope you enjoy it.

Talia
Aaron
Chris
Veronica
Darren
Marcus

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Posted by T Dot at 12:42 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Who are You?

I write stuff about people all day, every day. I can distill legal arguments, even lives into a sentence or two. Why can't I do the same when it comes to writing about myself?

So, I got a fellowship to go to the annual journalism fete in Tampa this year. As a part of the requirements, they want us to write a short biography -- anything from a sentence or two to a short paragraph -- about who we are and what we do.

I was hoping I'd sent them a bio last year that I could update and recycle. No such luck. I went trolling the Internet for old bios that I could recycle. They were all woefully out of date, or inappropriate to the point where it would take a lot of rewriting to make it applicable for the fellowship.

This sucks. And I feel sucky for not being able to just bang this out. Maybe if I imagine I'm not writing about myself:

T-Dot is a justice reporter for a major metropolitan daily in New England, specializing in courts and technology. She covers two suburban courthouses and the Town of Smithfield and has been with the paper for 4 years. She is a 2005 graduate of Hampton University {begin optional trim} where she studied print journalism and served as editor in chief of her school newspaper, The Hampton Script, for two years {end optional trim}.


Eh. Not bad. I'll figure something out I suppose.

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Posted by T Dot at 2:07 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Friday, May 08, 2009

Wiki-user to Journalists: "PWN'D"

From the Agence France Presse:

DUBLIN (AFP) - An Irish student's fake quote on the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia has been used in newspaper obituaries around the world, the Irish Times reported.

The quote was attributed to French composer Maurice Jarre who died in March.

Shane Fitzgerald, 22, a final-year student studying sociology and economics at University College Dublin, told the newspaper he placed the quote on the website as an experiment when doing research on globalisation.
Now.... I don't know about you, but I kinda got the whole "don't-trust-Wikipedia" meme when I was just a lowly student in journalism, oh so many years ago. I always thought everyone knew, "Don't use Wikipedia!"

Guess not.

What's more troubling is how this reflects on our already shaky industry. "Not good" are two words that come to mind. This tech blog summed it up another way:
A key part of the argument for maintaining traditional journalism is that its trained reporters can perform research and investigations that the untrained masses can't, and the content they produce is run by editors and fact-checkers. The revelation that their research is often no more sophisticated than an average Web surfer's, and that the fact checking can be nonexistent, really doesn't help that argument much.
"Doesn't help that argument much"? Heck, it almost shoots it into the ground. Corrections be damned, we're supposed to get it right. And I can't help but wonder how an unchecked wiki quote could make it past the copy desk and into print. Was it a lowly intern obit writer who didn't know better? A seasoned obit writer who, regretfully, isn't as seasoned in technology? Or just another reporter who felt no need to stay at work late to check his facts?

Being that the quote showed up in more than one place, I suppose it's anyone's guess.

But I know one thing for sure -- thank God for Kee Malesky, the veteran NPR librarian who has no qualms about shouting from the top of the building...

"DON'T TRUST WIKIPEDIA!"

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