Thirty seven days in the unemployment line

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It looks as though I’m going to have to change the name of this blog. I was originally inspired by the government extension of unemployment aid allowing laid off Americans to collect for up to 99 weeks.

My position at the Missoulian newspaper was cut on Monday, September 30. I applied for unemployment immediately, and to date I’ve received nothing but slips of paper saying my unemployment aid status is pending.

Last night I accepted a job at the new director of digital content at KTUU, the NBC affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska. Somehow Ninetynineweeks just doesn’t seem that appropriate any more. However, I don’t want to leave any interested readers hanging, so I’ll continue to chronicle the adventure as it progresses.

My wife and I spent a lot of time in Hawaii in the early part of our marriage. Having to move away after we had our first child, we vowed to find a way back some day. Since then, we returned to Oregon, spent time traveling and working in Eastern Europe and ended up in Missoula, Montana, which is not exactly a population center. And now Alaska, with an even lower population than Montana, is our our next destination. Things don’t always make sense, but I find that big picture stuff is often a little fuzzy and distal. Probably for a good reason.

I have always loved the ocean, but I have come to love the mountains. Anchorage seems to have both in abundance, which is something very satisfying to me.

Several months ago I was chatting with a friend in Alaska about our various moves since we met several years ago when I was researching a story for a University of Oregon publication. We would eventually end up working together at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon, and we founded the craft beer blog – “Will blog for beer.”

On this evening, I was asking about life in Alaska, a place she moved after her husband graduated from law school in Oregon. To my surprise, one of the best print writers I’d ever worked with was now working at a broadcast station.

She took a few minutes to explain that the company was expanding beyond the traditional 5 and 6 p.m. broadcast news to a more web-centric model to provide news digitally in the way Alaskans are increasingly digesting their news.

She told me they were going to begin a search for a digital content director and asked if I was interested in having her forward my resume on to the station president.

I floated the idea past my wife the next day, and I got the reaction I thought I would get. She sort of frowned and cocked her head sideways with that look that says, “You’re crazy, and I hope I didn’t hear you right.”

I let it go and didn’t think much more about it until that fateful Monday.

After sort of processing the idea of being laid off and immediately formatting several plans, including grad school, self employment, international job possibilities and cobbling a bunch of local job offers together, I came back to the Alaska job and decided to E-mail my friend to find out if that search was on.

It was, and while figuring out how to navigate the unemployment aid system, I was corresponding with my future boss in Anchorage.

Finally we were invited to travel to Anchorage to meet with the team there and to check things out around town. I’ve usually done this part of the job interview process myself, but this time Cheryl came with me, as I knew she’d be the hardest sell.

Sunset from downtown Anchorage

Turns out we both loved Anchorage. The sun was just setting as we flew into the city over the tortured ice-bound world of southwest Alaska. I could see a monolithic shadow to the north, something so immense I had to scrunch down in my seat to see the entire mass. This was Denali. The snowless Chugach range framed in the twinkling lights of Anchorage as we landed.

Ocean and mountains. It’s like a complete world for me, though neither of us have any illusions about how difficult winters can be up there. We’re pretty big fans of the light.

A move to Anchorage is not taken lightly. Not by the prospective employer and not by those seeking a job in that state. So the drawn-out process has been a bit torturous as our funds have shrunk to uncomfortable levels.

To accept the offer last night was rewarding for many reasons, not just the physical need to know that our future is set. It’s rewarding to know I’ll be able to continue in the job that my journalism career has morphed into. Going from a traditional print reporter to mobile journalist and videographer to online reporter and finally a digital manager is something I didn’t expect when I walked across the graduation platform at the University of Oregon, but it’s twice the career I planned for and therefore twice as rewarding.

It’s nice to know I won’t have to wait around for unemployment checks that never come. And searching for jobs is a torturous activity in this day in age. I will not miss it.

Now begins the daunting task of getting ourselves to Alaska. You can drive, but it takes up to five or six days. Shipping items is expensive, as is flying. This blog will likely continue to explore the whimsical nature of family antics, the challenges of moving to America’s last frontier and the interesting details of settling in a place that might as well be a million miles away from family for the ease of getting their and back.


One thought on “Thirty seven days in the unemployment line”

  1. You never cease to amaze me with the adventures you have. God has smiled on you and your family. I’ll miss not being able to come up to Montana for a RARE visit, but I wish you, Cheryl and the kids the very best.
    God bless you me amigo!

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