Posted on | August 4, 2007 | 4 Comments
After a month’s hiatus, I’m back in the sturdy saddle of employment, working as senior vice president for Blanc and Otus in San Francisco, with a focus on building out the agency’s new media practice. So far (I started just this past week), it’s a great gig working with great people and trying to figure out a completely new business after 24 years as a hard core journalist. I celebrated that nearly quarter-century of ink-stained wretchedness last night by watching the Billy Wilder version of “The Front Page.” (I really did work with guys like that in the Statehouse press room of the Indiana Capitol Building in my formative years).
So what gives with this move? Recall that CMP in June offered me a new job building and running a research business. Given that it was it was a focus on an industry that’s maturing and, frankly, not supporting the type of journalism and research that EE Times had bestowed on it for decades, I took it as a sign to move on. So I passed on the job and was one of hundreds laid off. At this stage of life, if you’re not looking for new challenges and hunting for new industries to learn about, then the 50s and 60s are going to be challenging work decades. That’s my feeling anyhow.
So how do you market those journalism skills? Well, with media in disarray and with media-relations agencies trying to answer their clients’ increasingly pointed question â€œwhat are you going to do for me online?â€ there are plenty of opportunities. But the bottom line is that with the media intermediary shunted to the side of the discussion, companies increasingly must become their own media channels. This is technically easy to do; culturally challenging. But then again, media relations wasn’t a job description 90 years ago and it’s now it’s a given.
My last day at EE Times after 15 years, was June 29. My longtime colleague, Anna Leonard, the GM at B&O’s San Francisco office wanted me to walk across the street. She’s a hard woman to say no to. I wangled a month off, however, and so July became one of the best breaks of my life. It reiterated to me that there’s one major thing missing in the intense, hard-driving Valley culture: sabbaticals. Some companies have them, but fewer these days. CMP offers them every seven years but it’s only two weeks. That’s not a sabbatical.
There are thousands of smart, hard-driving people making innovation happen around here, from South of Market to South San Jose and maybe, just maybe, turnover would be less and innovation even more creative if corporate managers broke people out for a month every few years. Or had a European-style summer break policy.
So what’d I do? Chilled for the most part. Drove my wife nuts after a few weeks by puttering around the house, puttering around my garden, puttering around my beer kettle. So Malcolm and I flew out to Cape Cod to visit Maggie, who’s waitressing ($2.65 an hour) and bartending ($8 an hour) at a fish shack near Grandma’s house.
Then we did the traditional week or so up at our old place in Lake County, which has turned into a family reunion of sorts. Kirk and I, inspired by Eileen (who conveniently left after the suggestion) decided to get a one-ton jack and repair our 80-year-old garage. We succeeded for the most part with the time we had, but I’ll tell you there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having the jack slip and watching an entire garage shudder back to earth.
With no electricity, no cell reception and the echoes of the screech owls in the forest surrounding me, it was a perfect interlude between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.