Jon from Alaska comments on one of my recent columns about my troubles with Iowa’s unemployment office:
“You could get a job. Just a thought.”
First, fuck off, Jon. I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Let’s keep it that way.
I can say things like that now. I don’t work for media companies and probably never will. I don’t have to pretend every troll’s eyeballs are sacred to my survival.
So, again, fuck off, Jon from Alaska.
But let’s consider Jon from Alaska’s suggestion that I get a job.
I apply for at least two jobs every week just to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
The problem is that between 1990 and 2020, half of all journalism jobs were eliminated by the greedy corporate hustlers and slimy hedge fund operators who systematically sacrificed news coverage in the name of the United States of America’s favorite deadly sin: Greed.
The skills I spent developing since I was 15 years old are no longer in demand.
There are job postings for writers, of course. But what they really want are webmasters with design skills who can turn every story viral and spell most of the words right. The craft I practiced is practically extinct.
There were pretty good signs this was going to happen when I was in college nearly 30 years ago.
The internet was a new and mesmerizing curiosity in 1995, when I was a junior at Drake University. Now even my 72-year-old parents have Facebook and email.
My dad used a computer for the last few years of his career as a printer. He sends texts with GIFs now.
That’s like being born in a well and later living on a space station.
There were signs journalism was doomed before AOL started giving away 500 free dialup hours on compact discs jammed in the mailbox each week.
The movie “Network” seemed like satire in 1976, with poor Howard Beal shouting, “I’m mad as HELL and I’m not going to take it ANYMORE.”
But Beal died for daring to speak too much truth.
If I showed that movie to my classroom, the kids would probably think it was a documentary.
So, Jon from Alaska, the best place for getting a job would be in journalism. That’s what I know. That’s what I’m good at.
But journalism is hardly practiced anymore by the remaining news outlets.
What you see in markets big and small is a kind of burglary passed off with a good cover story about being overwhelmed by changes in technology and babbling about social media.
I worked in St. Louis for a while. It didn’t go well. I was an asshole in a town where you could only be an asshole if you grew up there.
They had a saying about the old newspaper owner while I worked there.
Joe Pulitzer was a great newsman. Joe Pulitzer II was a great newsman. Joe Pulitzer III was a great art collector.
Pulitzer III’s widow sold off the paper to Lee Enterprises, an Iowa company.
This was a little bit like a guy who owned a few fishing boats buying a battleship. They both go on water and you can fall out and drown, but that’s where the similarities end.
Lots of people fell off the St. Louis paper and drown over the last 15 years. More will before it’s done.
Somewhere, a couple of bag men drop off a few more suitcases of $100s in unmarked, nonsensical bills at Lee executives’ houses.
The cases get lighter every year and so too does the payroll at the paper, which exists mostly to cover the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
Eventually the suitcases will be reduced to some pocket change and whatever is left of the newspapers the corporations have wrecked, mostly used furniture, will be auctioned off.
Jon from Alaska is right. I should get a job. I’ve applied for a job at the local Gannett outlet store several times. They don’t bother to respond. That’s probably for the best.
After two layoffs in a dozen years, I’m beginning to think they’re serious about not wanting me around.
I wonder if they’ll even be around each other anymore. They’ve been out of the office since the pandemic started and they aren’t considering a return until fall.
This could be the moment Gannett says, “Do we really need an office?” They issue laptops and smartphones. They have instant messaging. Why bother paying rent for a combo fax machine and printer?
I hate to disappoint Jon from Alaska. But I am trying to get a job.
I’m retraining in graduate school to become a teacher.
That’s right. I’m going from the beloved highly respected field of journalism to the carefree and lucrative field of public education.
When I write it down like that, I get that feeling the Coyote in Road Runner cartoons must get when he realizes there’s no ground beneath him, only a long fall to the desert bottom with a giant rock landing on his head.
So, sadly, Jon from Alaska, I’m going to need those state benefits for a minute.
Some folks would tell me not to bother with Jon from Alaska. He’s a troll. He’s beneath my contempt.
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that the cruel things people — even strangers — say about us don’t hurt.
They do. They absolutely do.
We do a disservice to our emotional well-being to pretend we’re invulnerable to cruelties cast so casually at us by others.
Jon from Alaska’s snark did hurt my feelings. It made me mad enough to stack all these paragraphs.
But Jon from Alaska doesn’t define me.
I’m gonna fight for my benefits allowed.
I’m gonna fight for my career.
And, one more time, fuck off Jon from Alaska.