Category Archives: New York City

Twins: double the J job market woes

I can barely even read through stories like this any more. But this story is a fairly dead-on portrayal of the Sisyphean task of hunting for journalism jobs today. Especially with lines such as:

Apparently, even a canned response was impossible in New York.

I usually describe the process as a perpetual cycle of screaming into the void, especially back in yonder ancient days when you could spend hours a day assembling packets of clips (and resumes, and cover letters, and clip descriptions, and printed-out versions of online content) and dropping them into a mailbox, releasing the package to some terrible in-pile purgatory or waste bin damnation, maybe never even given the humble nobility of having a pen knife slid across the glue seal to release some of the pressurized optimism stuffed inside. Maybe it wasn’t all that bad, but I would have no way of knowing otherwise.

If science (once it’s done fighting the moon over there so we don’t have to fight it here) ever explores the outer reaches of the galaxy, I would not be surprised to hear a report one day of the mysterious texture of some extra-solar planet, with jagged rock formations and sloping dusty mountainsides, barren save for a small, slowly growing pile of 11×17 manilla envelopes seemingly expelled from the sky above and left there unmolested, their glue seals and optimism still firmly in place.

And this is one of the better ideas I’ve heard in a while:

Katie launched into “Nowhere Man,” then “In My Life,” the sax’s mournful wail ringing through the tunnels in the Times Square subway station on a Friday afternoon. Her sign read: “Don’t Give Money, Give Business Cards.”

Jobs Wanted, Any Jobs at All


(NYT) SEVENTEEN months out of Rutgers University, they live in an unwelcome continuum of mass rejection. Between them, Kristy and Katie Barry, identical twins who grew up in Ohio, have applied for some 150 jobs: a magazine for diabetics, a Web site about board games and a commercial for green tea-flavored gum; fact-checking at Scholastic Books, copy editing for the celebrity baby section, road-tripping for College Sports Television.

They did not get any of these. More than a year has lapsed without so much as an interview. Apparently, even a canned response was impossible in New York.

“I wake up hopeful and check my e-mail and then all there is is the Merriam-Webster word of the day,” Katie lamented. “Or a stupid Facebook thing. So-and-so sent you a puppy. Or a drink. Great!”

Keep reading….

Is a profile in the Times a fast-track to getting employment? Daily Intel is following.

Will an anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes cost him the election?

I have a chair on the board of elections.

I have a chair on the board of elections.

Spotted in Union Square, 10/8

Platforms include:

Anti-Hipster Interseption Program (Anti-HIP)

The Burns Administration will put a zero-tolerance anti-hipster policy at the center of its agenda.
Charles Montgomery Burns understands that New Yorkers live under constant intimidation from this public nuisance. Hipsters threaten the cultural fabric of our great city with indiscriminate cynicism and irony. They are apathetic and use their bottomless trust funds to drive up rent for real New Yorkers.

Monty Burns says No More! With a multi-pronged approach his administration will put an end to this public menace.

Identifying hipsterism as a quality of life crime, the New York Police Department will finally have the means to protect ordinary New Yorkers from these undesirables. Only through a surge of force can we eradicate the poison of our society.

The proposed state-of-the-art Williamsburg Nuclear Power Plant is strategically planned for the epicenter of the hipster infestation and promises to eject them from this neighborhood once thought abandoned forever.

Monty Burns will change the sullied image of New York from a hipster haven to a place of law and order in order to invite outside investment, keep rents affordable for real New Yorkers and usher in a new era of stylistic accountability.

A vote for Burns will bring an end to the reign of hipsters.


Campaign ad compares CT congressman’s relationship with Pelosi to Mr. Smithers’ relationship with Burns (as in, he’s possibly gay for her?) [via Politico]

Outgunned challenger fights on in mayor’s race [via WSJ]

L Magazine endorses Rev. Billy for mayor [via L]

You said it, sister

From Gawker, The Plight of Print’s Lucky Ones:

Admittedly, complaining about your well-paying job at a time when a lot of very capable people are out of work altogether won’t engender any sympathy. But Q’s little booze-soaked soliloquy does raise a question that seems to weigh heavily on the minds of media folk of a certain demographic these days (those over the age of, say, 27, who have already spent 5-plus years toiling in the trenches at publications that are vastly different in scope and size than when they started). Namely: Where do we go from here?

Because right now, as the Summer of 2009 gives way to fall, the answer is pretty damn unclear.

The whole post is well worth a read, as it captures the broad industry wide malaise that’s got a strangle hold on this certain generation of journalists, those too young to call it quits on a career but not young enough to avoid wading into this swirling pool in the first place. I am, by the way, exactly 27.

I differ from the author of this post and from other woe-begotten journos in an important way: Even if I knew what was going to happen to the industry, I still don’t think that would have caused me to change majors in college or pursue another career path after graduation. But I would have probably went about it another way (and would have hoped my j school was on board). I also probably would have taken that interview I had for an internship at a little bit more seriously.

I mean, they had a room full of free sodas in the office. That was a big selling point for them at the time. Who would’ve known that’s where the serious shit was happening?*

*we all should have known

Web clip: No insurance? No problem

well, probably still a problem actually. But here’s something for the mean time:

No-insurance guide to Brooklyn healthcare

needles2(Brokelyn, 7/22) Getting good health care can be tough for the uninsured. That, we don’t need to tell you. There are no statistics for Brooklyn alone (that we know of), but with all its artists, writers, freelancers and other like-minded non-9-to-5ers, we’re pretty sure the borough has more than its share of New York State’s roughly 2.5 million… medically-alone, let’s call them. You know—the ones limping around, trolling for black-market insulin or playing Craigslist Russian Roulette for spare amoxicillin. But what choices do we have for cheap medical care, short of taking a handsaw to every hang-nail? Luckily, quite a few, and they’re (mostly) right here in Kings County.

Read the rest here. (You know you want to)

Tips on Cheap NYC dates from David Byrne fans

So Brokelyn couldn’t run this piece since some of the recommended dates were in Manhattan and note the Broke-pun-inducing borough. This is something that for whatever reason didn’t cross my mind at the time, maybe because my focus was increasingly being diverted by thoughts of the several bottles of rum and one pouch of wine warming in the early summer sun back at the blanket where we were camped out before the free David Byrne show.

Here it is, so as the effort wasn’t all for naught, even if it still is naught for all. Oh blog, how you serve as such a neat basin for the swirling outflush of failures:


As far as cheap Brooklyn dates go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one than the scene in Prospect Park on Monday: a sunny summer day, picnicking under the trees and law enforcement who seemed to look the other way every time a new bottle of wine popped open. Oh, and there was that guy from the neighborhood, David Byrne, who put on a free concert with dancers, lights, three encores, and even some tutus.

So, that’s a pretty high bar to set for low-cost dating experiences. But when there’s not a Talking Head hanging out in the park with 27,000 of your neighbors, where else can you take a date without burning down the wallet? We asked people at the show for some recession-conscious suggestions:

Jane PincusJane Pincus

25, Long Island City, co-owner of Yestadt Millinery (hat company)

Recommendation: Alibi Bar in Fort Greene, 242 DeKalb Ave.

Best for: Getting to know someone without being drowned out by bar noise.

It’s a cheap neighborhood bar with $1 mugs of beer, if your date doesn’t mind a little blue-collar character.

“It’s a nice bar, they have a pool table and a back porch, so it’s cool in the summer. It’s good for a date. You can talk outside and it’s quiet.”

Continue reading

Grifster reporter suffers ultimate grift

In case you’re wondering whether there’s  a stable future in breaking news about young Brooklynites who steal money from other young Brooklynites for a story that rampantly spreads as a cultural meme, don’t wory. There isn’t.

Doree Shafir, who broke the infamous Hipster Grifter story for the New York Observer, was laid off last week, along with several other of the paper’s top writers.

From Gawker:

Here are the names we’ve heard from a good source, although they haven’t been officially confirmed by the paper yet:

Matt Haber
Spencer Morgan
Doree Shafrir
Chris Shott
Peter Stevenson
John Vorwald
George Gurley

Haber and Doree are both Gawker veterans, and both are extremely good bloggers and writers of real journalism, too. Doree just broke the freaking Hipster Grifter story, for god’s sake. Spencer Morgan is Manhattan’s finest chronicler of annoying men. The paper is clearly in very, very tough financial shape.

Everybody’s sick of hearing about the grifster story by now, but there’s no doubt that Shafir did a detailed and professional reporting job with it. The story on its own was solid and well-done.

The story probably brought more hits to the NY Observer than anything else recently. but it wasn’t enough.

Statement from Christopher Barnes, President, Observer Media Group –

Reducing the size of our reporting staff was not an easy decision to make. Unfortunately, the New York Observer is not immune to the economic pressures being felt industry-wide. The reality is: we have to cutback in order to move forward. This is an incredibly challenging time for newspapers, with newsrooms across the country trying to find ways to do more with less. But, I’m optimistic that the Observer will weather this storm and emerge stronger.

Bag it, Tag it: A post-mortem for the New York Sun

You learn lots of interesting things about people when you have a grocery eye view of their world. In the space of two tightly packed paper bags, you can tell who’s vegan, who’s only able to buy groceries with government assistance, who’s getting government assistance for groceries but can still afford an iPhone and Chanel bag, whose kids need an extra boost of protein, the number and appetite of people’s cats, etc.

Today I learned that one of the last things the New York Sun did was to give very nice, sturdy and easy to carry tote bags to its employees. Then it ceased publication and laid nearly everybody off.

This I found out from the woman at my register today who brought the bag to fill with her groceries. She used to cover music for the Sun until it shuttered in September of last year.

Do you still write at all? I asked

“Yes, if I can find anyone who will actually pay me to do it.”

The Sun was an interesting and worthwhile (despite reportedly hemorraghing $1 million a month) experiment in big-city journalism that launched in 2002. Interesting because it attempted to land a massive, fully armed battle helicopter right on the crumbling ledge of the cliff the rest of the print world was digging into with cracking fingernails. Worthwhile because it highlighted smart writing, intelligent coverage and tried to inject the kind of sensible, academic conservative dialogue that William F. Buckley advocated into the New York City liberal gestalt. Worthwhile also because the introduction of a new newspaper in New York City in 2002 was a big, steaming middle finger to the prevailing trends at the time that even that frozen bag of edamame I put in the woman’s bag could have seen was a ridiculous time to invest money in a new print publication with a staff of 110 full-timers.

The Sun’s closure last fall was immenent and anticlimactic, because it didn’t have the cultural tenure of The New York Times or the Daily News, or the intensely important niche coverage of the Wall Street Journal and because it was appreciated more in concept than in practice.

I told the woman that I am also a former newspaper reporter, that I still cover music for the paper down South (though that is gradually and predictably fading away) and had some stuff run on Billboard at my peak (though I haven’t heard a word from them since my one connection left to be the music director for Jimmy Fallon’s show).

“Have you tried blogs?” the lady asked, a question which I couldn’t immediately determine whether it was borne out of hopeful sincerity or sarcastically sadism.

Yes, I said. And the truth is, I said, I’m more interested in just being involved in important writing than I am in getting paid for it, but it would be nice to make a living off it again some day.

Her advice: A friend of hers, Michael Azerrad, wanted to be a music writer. He started writing dozens and dozens of back-of-the-book reviews for Rolling Stone for barely any pay. Then, finally, he became a top writer for the magazine before writing Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, probably the definitive biography of the band published just a few months before Kurt (or Courtney … OH NO HE DIDN’T) shot himself.

“Sometimes you just have to write for low pay or free or whatever until you get to that level of name recognition before you can move on to something better,” she said. “Of course, that was in the 80s.”

She talked about how she writes for some blogs herself for not much pay nowadays. “Everyone’s having trouble,” she said, which made me feel slightly better about my situation, just like when I read the tweet (still don’t care for that word) from Susan Orlean the other day about her fellow Nieman fellows being out of work.

No, I didn’t get her name. I was about to ask but then she ran off, not even opting to fill out the raffle ticket you get when you bring your own bag, even if it is for a defunct media enterprise.

The history of journalism is littered with the empty shells of worthy competitors who held their own against the big city titans but were ultimately plowed under by financial problems or natural selection. The Raleigh Times lost out to the N&O eventually. The Washington Star is the prime example — a paper that probably at times hit harder and faster than The Washington Post, with a scrappier attitude that certainly kept the editors and reporters at the bigger Post on their toes, always wary of what the competition was up to. The Star was lousy with talented journalists who went on to do great things: Howie Kurtz, MoDo, Fred Barnes, Jack Germond, Mary McGrory and many others (including like 10 of my J school profs at Maryland) worked there before it shut down in 1981, a month before I was born [shotgun on the book idea about the Washington Star, fyi, you idea-grubbing hounds]. The Sun stood toe-to-toe with the Times on some of its cultural reporting, but just couldn’t make ends meet in this print-purging environment.

It reminded me of another transaction at the register about two weeks ago. The woman fumbled with her purse and pulled aside a few loose bills and change.

“Oops, that’s my newspaper money,” she said.

You seem a bit old for a paper route, I said.

“No, I use it to buy papers with,” she said. “Three papers a day, ever since I was a kid. The Times, the Post and the Daily News.”

Wow, good for you, I said, not revealing my ink-stained background.

She went on an unprovoked rant about how important newspapers were as grease in the wheels of democracy, how blogs will never replace the in-depth reporting of newspapers, how she doesn’t even look at ads online but will sometimes actually seek them out in the print paper (you’re looking at them online, even if you don’t realize it, I thought, and it’s a marketer’s dream that lives in your subconscious).

Good for you, I said with sincerity. I told her I worked for newspapers for a few years before being effectively chased out.

“You should get back into it,”  she said. “Don’t give up on it!”

Uh, yeah. If only it were that simple.

Then today I came across this bit of info from the Nieman J Lab web site (see how deliciously circular these posts are?) a few weeks ago talking about how the New York Sun web site is threatening resurgence. The site still grabs about 100,000 hits per month even in its defunct state (by comparison, this site has reached about 3,500/month at its peak), and is showing signs of life with new blog posts and a resumption of the Out and About column online.

As I was writing this, my roommate and I had a brief conversation about how solid the writing in The Sun was particularly in its arts-and-culture side, and how interesting it was for the right-of-center publication to try to stake out a place in New York City.

Maybe The ethos of the Sun still has a place in New York City. Maybe the enthusiasm of the customer who sets aside her money for three papers every day will spread wide and far.

But before she left, the lady with the New York Sun bag said this:

“Well, maybe I’ll end up working at Trader Joe’s some day.”

Hell, I said, that’s how I ended up here. Another employee, James, used to work at the now-shuttered Ann Arbor News and the Detroit Free Press before landing in TJ’s BK.

But we’re not hiring right now, lady, so just get in line, OK?