Light at the end of the tunnel?

…Or just TV lights from another swine flu news conference…

I saw a small item in the business section of the Commercial Appeal the other day. It says that “a new survey of small- business owners has found economic confidence at its highest level in 14 months.” Of course, there’s the news today that Chrysler is going ahead with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

When you’re looking for work, you prefer the former story. It gives you a reason to get your hopes up, because you can work on the assumption that things actually are getting better, and that will bode well for you and other job seekers. On the other hand, if a major company goes through even a “surgical” bankruptcy as the Obama Administration calls it, you know somebody else is getting in line at the unemployment office.

News & Notes:

No More AOL?

Speaking of economically-related news, there’s this item on the possible fate of America Online from the New York Times: “in a regulatory filing Wednesday, Time Warner said it was nearing a decision to spin off America Online, and put an end to the travails that began with the merger in 2000 of the two companies, a deal that has resulted in the evaporation of more than $100 billion of shareholder value.” I was working for a Time Warner-owned company at the time of that merger. Honestly, the only benefit that seemed obvious at the time was that all the employees got free AOL. But, that was right about the time everyone was switching to high-speed providers, so there wasn’t much point to have a dial-up service, free or not. And by the time I left CNN, AOL was basically a free service anyway, not even providing dial-up any more.

The Pride of Trumann, Arkansas

I was chatting with a former co-worker from WREG yesterday. She had gotten a note from an acquaintance who mentioned meeting a TV news director in Los Angeles named Jason Ball. What a coincidence, we both thought. We worked with a young man at Channel 3 named Jason Ball… Waitaminute – we thought what if they’re the same guy!?

I can’t remember whether Jason was an intern when he first got to 3 or whether he was on the payroll. Either way, the young man from Arkansas quickly ended up one of our better producers and was a hoot at parties. I was traveling to Jonesboro a lot at the time, and I’d talk to Jason about the various landmarks (human and otherwise) that I’d see on the trip.

Well, he left Trumann for the bright lights of Memphis, and left Memphis for the brighter lights of Miami… and ended up under the even brighter lights of Hollywood, where he is now the news director at KTLA, the market’s CW affiliate.

He’s asked me to tell all the Memphis folks hello, and that he remembers the good old days at channel 3. Congratulations Jason.


I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today

After all, Wimpy had an honest face, didn’t he?

Our glutenous friend’s observation to Popeye comes to mind after stopping by a few job websites that offer not only the moon and the sun, but the stars as well. They promise access to hidden jobs, well-paying jobs, the kind of jobs the rich & famous would have if they had to have jobs. It only costs job seekers a “small” fee to get details on those jobs and how to apply for them.

I have paid for access to job sites before. I’m just a little leery now because I don’t have much disposable income. It’s always easier to look for a job when you have a job. Those pesky employers though, they don’t really like you using their time to find your next gig.

It’s always something for… something. Even the career center (not “outplacement” center) that I’m going to claims to have access to jobs that “aren’t listed on most sites.” Good thing someone else is paying for my access there, otherwise, I wouldn’t know anything about them. And if I were in IT, they might actually help me. Curse that desire of mine to go into communications. Did you know when I was in high school, the engineering department at the Ohio State University tried recruiting me? They had seen my PSAT results and practically wet their collective pants. No, I thought. All the really hot women were at the Journalism school. Stupid me, most of them were in the public relations section, not broadcast.

Anyway, back to my point. While I have paid for access to job sites, I haven’t had any more luck with them than free sites. So why pay when there’s no guarantee of success? Hmmm, I wonder if I’ve found the chink in that particular armor?

Here’s my offer all you pay job sites, I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday (or some undefined time in the future) for a look at your job listings today.  Any takers?

News & notes:

Hey! Is that your hat in the ring?

I’ve followed the “will the mayor run for Congress” story with interest. I think that Mayor Herenton has had a singularly fascinating career in public service. I spent much of the summer of ’91 covering the “Peoples’ Convention” that selected Herenton as the consensus black candidate to run against Dick Hackett. I wasn’t surprised when Herenton won; after all, the changing demographics should have supported any strong black candidate.

I wasn’t surprised he kept winning during the nearly 10 years I spent away from Memphis. It’s difficult to lose an office around here – unless you do something blatantly criminal – as the number of former (and incarcerated) office holders prove. I have seen arrogance come back on politicians. Bill Campbell was the celebrated mayor when I moved to Atlanta. He was the dishonored, convicted and jailed ex-mayor by the time I left.

Still, I’ve told several people that I’m willing to put money on the fact that the mayor will not run for Congress. I’m not knocking his drive, ambition or political savvy. I’ve had at least one of his former confidants stop talking to me when it seems like I’m bad mouthing the mayor.

No, I think this is on a par with his flirtation with the school superintendency a few months back. When he floated the trial balloon of resigning if he got the school job, I think he expected a better reception from the school board than actually occurred. Once it looked like he’d have to go through the application process like anyone else, he decided to keep the job he had.

Rep. Cohen has been as devoted to public service nearly as long as the mayor has. Cohen was a good state senator and is a good congressman. It was absolutely no surprise that the congressman said he had no plans to walk away from his job.

Just as it’s no surprise that Action News 5’s poll shows Cohen with a sizable margin over Herenton among black and white voters. Sure, that’s if the election were held today, but unless Cohen falls into some incredible scandal (doubtful) and Herenton discovers a vaccine for swine flu (also doubtful, even though he is a doctor, just not the right kind), things won’t change.

And since there won’t be a noticeable swell of public support for the mayor changing jobs, I think we’ll see in a few weeks or months that his attention will have moved on to something else, and he’ll be brushing off any talk of a congressional run as the crazed ramblings of the reporters who follow him around City Hall. Mark my words.

Pressure? No Pressure! Well…

“Stay loose and relaxed inside, though — you need to be flexible enough to recognize a gigantic opportunity when it appears.”

That’s a line from my horoscope today. I’ve had incredible opportunities literally sitting in my lap and not taken advantage. I don’t know whether that’s fear of the unknown, lack of confidence or plain old stupidity (can’t fix that, you know).

My bills are covered for the next couple of months… but I’m hoping it doesn’t get too hot too quickly, because I’m scared to turn on the air conditioning because it’ll run up my Light, Gas & Water bill. Everything in the house is fine, but my home warranty expires at the end of May, so I’m sure the roof will collapse on June 1st. The car’s been paid off for years, so you know it’s just waiting for the right time to fall apart…

Someone told me that they couldn’t believe how well I’m taking the whole jobless thing. Lemme tell you – inside, I’m one big white knuckle. The job training and placement people tell you to be confident and assured when talking to potential employers – they don’t like desperation… Have they been watching the news for the last two years!!!?? Seriously, even when I was employed, I could completely understand how people without jobs could feel as if the world were coming apart.

That’s the thing about opportunity. There’s no telling when, where or how it will present itself. And sometimes, it can be difficult to recognize without a big ol’ label marked “opportunity” slapped across the front.


Flu-ish? Some of my best friends are flu-ish…
It’s not a good time to be loose pork.

From my friends at CNN to local news, I’ve noticed the breathless coverage of the swine flu outbreak. While I can understand the reportage in states bordering Mexico and in NY, where cases have appeared, the rush to cover the outbreak here in the Mid-South seems a little clown car-ish.

I know from my days on the health beat that my producers would have been screaming (more of a raspy bark from one of them) for local experts from the health department or the University of Tennessee medical school on the risk, symptoms and treatment of the porcine-related influenza.

A bit of advice (which I know will be ignored) – relax. If it ain’t here, no one here is sick. Too much local coverage will have people more afraid of those of Mexican descent among us than they already area.

And it’s just like with most other transmittable illnesses. Wash your hands – a lot. Make sure surfaces are clean. Don’t eat food that other people have had their hands all over (restaurants are required to post health department inspection scores as close to their front doors as possible – it the score is below 90, maybe eat some where else).

Should I stay or should I go?

Beset by numerous random thoughts Sunday evening. One recurs every Sunday as I head upstairs at the end of the evening – I’ve got nowhere to go Monday morning. No matter what irons are on the fire or new job avenues there are to explore, they lack the reassurance of knowing a paycheck will come before the mortgage is due.

For someone who does what I do, the Memphis job market is doing its best impression of the Sahara Desert. Dry, empty, nothing to be seen on the horizon. If there are jobs in communications or media out there, they are in scant supply.

A friend who works for the Feds sent me a link to the other day, pre-searched for “public affairs.” There are 40 pages of results with more than 6400 openings.  Know how many are around here?  Ten, and none of them are true media jobs.

That being the case, do I expand my search beyond the Bluff City? I came back to Memphis because I like it here, regardless of our crime ranking and often cartoonish political scene. I’m also worried about putting a house on the market right now. Still, if I want to do what I do, and the only place I can do it is someplace else, should I hit the road, or try to hold on here?

When my final check comes in, I’ll have some breathing room before having to make that decision. Although I wonder whether I should say “if;” not because I doubt the company will pay, just because I’m going to be nervous about it until it’s in my hand. Same thing with Unemployment. No check = Worry. Check = Temporary reassurance.

I did get out Saturday night. Invited by a friend of a friend. Most of the people were from the Legal Department of my former employer. Yikes! No one asked, so I didn’t mention we were former colleagues. Surreal? You betcha!

I’m going to have to do some cold calling Monday. I hate the feeling that I’m imposing, even though I’m not.

Let’s try to end on an up note. Several of my friends and relatives have birthdays this month, including one yesterday. Money’s a little tight or I would have sent cards… Still, happy birthday everyone!

Strange days indeed!

I wasn’t planning to blog today. Even the jobless need a day off. However, a couple of things caught my attention Friday and I wanted to mention them before I forgot.

Had my final class at the career center today. Interviewing and negotiation. Having a background in a field where you ask questions as part of your job helps handle the first part of that. If you know how to ask, you usually know how to answer. However, I’ve never been one to even think that I could negotiate terms of employment, so the second part of the class could be valuable.

I’ve often been so grateful for an offer, I’ve been willing to take whatever is put on the table. I have a much better understanding of why that’s a bad way to accept a job now. If an employer really wants you, they will be willing to give up something…

A lot of businesses are reporting their quarterly results… and things don’t look so good for the economy turning around anytime soon.  That’s disturbing, but not as disturbing as a couple of things I saw Friday.

I was heading into Midtown, getting off 240 at Union, when I saw a guy panhandling at the interstate exit. My first thought was, ‘man, if things don’t turn around for me soon, I could be standing right next to him in a few months.’ Sobering thought. Then I saw he was holding a large sign in front of him. I assumed the usual, ‘need help,’ ‘will work for food,’ or some such. No, this gentleman was honest. His sign read ‘I want a beer.’ In better times, I would have given him a buck or two for creativity alone. But since I don’t have anything coming in at the moment, I didn’t.

If that weren’t enough, I saw a tweet from the fine folks at Action News 5, promoting a Janice Broach story. In 10 years in Memphis, 8 of them in the news business, I’ve never had the good fortune to cross paths with Ms. Broach. Fine reporter though. Anyway, the story, “Jobless to Topless,” deals with the increasing number of women, including many professional women, turning to work in adult entertainment. According to the report, for women to find success in this field, “all you have to do is take off your clothes.”

Of course, it’s not a complete “happy ending” (sorry). Like a lot of businesses dependent on discretionary spending, business is down in the adult entertainment field right now, with at least one place mentioned in the story seeing more job applicants than customers. It’d be a shame if a lot of out of work women end up stripping for each other.

All I need to do is find a club interested in balding, slightly overweight older men on stage, instead of in the audience…