>Suddenly freelancing

>The first victims of our sagging economy came even before the Wall Street crashes of ’08. I’m talking newspapers. Over the past few years, thousands, yes thousands, of reporters and editors have been laid off, furloughed, or given early retirement due to lagging ad sales. Have you noticed your local daily getting thinner? Me too. Losing one’s newspaper job is not a new thing. I graduated with my journalism degree during a recession and spent almost a year looking for my first full-time job job. Meanwhile, I stacked boxes at JC Penney and graded high school English papers.

As the years went on, I found myself suddenly unemployed several times. Here’s how it goes: Some manager you barely know calls you into an office or conference room. They tell you what a good little worker you’ve been; then they drop the bomb. Sometimes you get a little money; sometimes you’re just out.

What’s different now is the massive numbers of people being let go from their newspaper jobs. What are they going to do? They’re probably going to freelance. That means we’re competing with them. Unless we too came from the world of newspapers, they have some huge advantages: They have contacts among editors and sources; they have experience and polished skills; they probably have degrees in journalism or related subjects, and they have piles of recent clips. If you’re an editor looking for a writer, who are you going to choose, the newbie with potential or the proven veteran?

So what do we do? We work harder and smarter. We study our markets and polish our queries until editors can’t tell the difference between our work and that of a staff writer. We look for less obvious opportunities in trade and specialty publications. We mine all the possibilities on the Internet. And we don’t give up.

Even Rick from the Doonesbury cartoons lost his reporter job at the Washington Post. He’s blogging now.

Thank you to the correspondents who sent good wishes and prayers about my husband’s illness. To be honest, he has a long-term illness from which he will not recover, but he has weathered the latest crisis and is feeling much better. So am I.