Tag Archives: jobs

When your son wants to open a Scotch and Cigar bar in Brooklyn

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.15.14 PMDinner is a rush of passed dishes, clanking silverware and clinking glasses filled to the top with skim milk, or, perhaps wine.

Once we settle into our food and conversation, we usually meander casually around everyone’s daily experiences or football, to which my wife and daughter roll their eyes and try desperately to change the subject.

Last night Carson opened the evening with this one –

“I want to open a Scotch and cigar bar in Brooklyn.”

It’s not the most surprising thing he’s ever said.

But it made me smile, because he had no fear of putting himself out there on the line for judgement and ridicule, which families are exceedingly good at doling out.

Continue reading When your son wants to open a Scotch and Cigar bar in Brooklyn

Chicago: The Backstory

It all started last summer. I walked off a plane at O’Hare and into a sultry, hazy Chicago afternoon. 

I made my way to the “L,” and passed through the suburbs and into the heart of the big city teeming with life.

It was such a contrast from Alaska. The clothes people wore flowed and billowed in the heated breeze. Glasses clinked and sweated on the outdoor tables. 

The smells of food wafting through the air, the tall buildings soaring up into the deep blue, the life going on in small spaces. I had forgotten how much I love big cities.

When I moved my family to Alaska in 2010, I promised them that if they could do one year in Alaska, and if after that they were not happy, I would do my best to move them along to something more their speed. 

They far exceeded my expectations. Two winters later, and I could tell that the glue that bonds you to a place was not setting up for us. 

It’s not that you get tired of waking up to the sun rising over the Chugach Mountains or the ebb and flow of the tides on Cook Inlet. Alaska offers so much to the lifelong dreamer, the isolationist, the rugged individualist, the hunter, the fisherman and the adventurer.

There has always been a price to pay for coming to Alaska. The cold, the loneliness, the cost of living, each taxes you individually. If Alaska is your dream, your end of the road, you pay those taxes willingly, knowing exactly what they extract and making up for it in whatever way you are gifted. 

After surviving a winter that saw record-breaking snowfall in Anchorage, I could see the signs of weariness on their faces on the weekends during breakup when we couldn’t do anything until the ice melted and the mud dissolved back into dust. 

The view from Alaska is amazing. While you have to go to Wales to see Russia, you can get a pretty amazing view of the Lower 48. So it wasn’t difficult to look around the country at the opportunities starting to open up.

Home to Oregon, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles. We’ve been there, done that. 

The mountain west. Boise, Salt Lake, Colorado Springs. 

The Midwest? 

I have a list of favorite cities. Kyiv, San Francisco, Portland, Budapest, Vienna, Copenhagen. These places are magical for various reasons. But something about Chicago intrigued me. The food, the culture, the mess of life, the architecture, the wealth of stories inherent in a city of that size. 

Trying to mix your passions with the needs of your family is not easy. Nothing blends particularly well. 

I have worked at newspapers, but I know very well how tough the world is for the newsman these days. 

Television news is thriving and struggling with tides of behavioral and technology change. 

Aside from writing stories about people, my love for journalism resides in the place where it fits into our modern lives. The chance to explore the different platforms and financial systems that support great journalism has been a side bar and now a focus in my career. 

The confluence of Chicago, WBEZ and great journalism is still a little hard to believe.

You start with an application. You proceed to a phone call. Many phone calls. Visits, Skype, emails. And then you commit to going. To driving 3,000 miles in a U-Haul to set up all over again. 

It’s simultaneously slow and blazingly fast. 

This is just the beginning of it. All that goes into the beginning of a story is too much for a prologue. 

It’s time to turn the page and see what the rest of this story holds. 


Here’s Why Journalism really is the Best Job Ever

No disrespect to Jeff Bercovici, but his article, “Forget That Survey. Here’s Why Journalism Is the Best Job Ever” made me throw up a little in my mouth.

Being a newspaper, magazine or television reporter IS worse than being a waiter or waitress and just a wee bit better than being an oil rig worker.

And don’t you forget it.

The last thing we want is journalism being so cool only the elite can get in or so ironic that only hipsters want in.

Journalism is hard, low-paying work made for those of us with just enough personality disorder to ask questions no one else would dare. With little to no personal life to take us away from it and without regard to the proverbial ladder climbing of traditional workforce.

Bercovici’s list starts with:

You’re always learning

I learned everything I would learn about journalism in the first 10 days as a cub reporter. That’s about all the time they’ll let you make the mistakes you cannot afford to make as a journalist.

It’s truly a sink or swim career, and if you swim, it’s 90 percent instinct, 5 percent skepticism and 5 percent alcohol by volume that keeps you afloat.

Continuing education? Yes. But the best journalists I’ve worked with know it, and they’re just looking for a few more inches or 30 seconds more to prove it.

You get paid to read a lot

I worked with a reporter who used to come in and pour himself a big cup of coffee and read through our newspaper. The rest of us were combing through blogs, Twitter and Facebook for leads, sources and to make sure there were no tagged pictures of us from the night before. Of course you get paid to read a lot. You read 10 times more than you write. You read so much your eyes bleed.

You get paid to meet interesting people

Perhaps the understatement of the article. If you consider city managers who embezzle money and sexually harass staffers interesting, well then daily journalism is just chock full of interesting characters. Yes, there are the occasional celebrities playing the county fair circuit, but a county commissioner with an ax to grind is far more interesting than a washed up country star who is about to squeeze out an extra 15 minutes on a reality show. 

You get to meet celebrities

See above.

Maybe you get to enjoy a little celebrity

It takes a hell of an ego to do the stuff that journalists do every day. My favorites keep their awards (like toy soldiers) on their desk. Like notches on the bed post, 97, 98, 99, 02, 04, 05, best writing, best feature, best story, best photo, Pulitzer, Murrow. Lets just say journalists are not likely to inherit the earth.

All that “stress?” It’s called excitement

Actually, it’s stress. Pure, unadulterated, sweat-stained stress. It’s trying to maintain a semblance of the coverage before layoffs decimated newsrooms over the last 5 years. It’s stress from trying to keep up with every vertical invented to create the illusion of new revenue. It’s stress from two cultures sharing the same space, virtually at odds and ultimately trying to achieve the same purpose while working to destroy one another. What’s the definition of insanity again?

Journalists Get Around

Conferences in Puerto Rico and Austin? It beats conferences in Portland and Seattle or pretty much anywhere in the Midwest, but seriously, who among us didn’t get into journalism for that international assignment, the war reporting, the travel writing? The reality is quite the opposite, but the opportunities are not all gone the way of the buffalo. I once spent a week in Yellowstone National Park in winter to write about the impact of snow machines on the park. I paid my own way, shot all my own photos and wrote three stories for the paper I worked for. It was totally worth it. A young reporter I currently work with just went to Afghanistan for a week to cover Alaskan troops stationed there. The days of blank-check travel are over. But a reporter who refuses to accept the limitations will find much shoe leather and plenty of road miles if not air mileage.

And then there’s the matter of self expression

If the appeal of journalism is getting to use the word “I” today, then we’re in some real trouble. Bercovici says, “Have I convinced you that journalism is the only real career choice for curious, restless semi-narcissists like me?” That’s pretty much anyone on Facebook these days. In this UGC world of iReports, journalism is an open door for the innovators, the thinkers, the relentlessly curious, the willingly overworked, the consciously objective, the ego-worthy writers and broadcasters willing to face the eggs and tomatoes of an altogether uncaring audience, who, like a child, does not know what’s good for it were it not for us.