Life after news: Part One of 53

David Milstead

Getting laid off from any job sucks. Getting laid off at a newspaper is doubly terrifying, because it’s not like the one up the street is hiring.

And David didn’t only lose his job – he lost his whole newspaper. Gone. The Rocky Mountain News, one of the best in the country, just stopped printing. Just like that.

So we talked about life after newspapers (which I suspect we’ll do a lot of on this blog), since he’s still freelancing until he figures out his next move.

You worked at the Rocky Mountain News, a great newspaper that was folded during the recession. What happened, and how did it affect you personally?
I didn’t realize at the time how much it would affect me. I thought it would be a clean break from journalism and an opportunity to do something new, but I kept dabbling in journalism afterwards and am still writing today. I joke that people have left the mafia more easily than I’ve left journalism.
Part of the problem with the psychological damage was that I was the reporter covering the potential sale and/or closing of the paper, so my last two months, most of my professional time was spent reporting and writing on the situation.
Other reporters may have been able to turn away from the uncertainty and focus on doing good work about schools, or courts, etc.
But my work was the uncertainty. And I couldn’t tune out all the people rooting for us, and the whole newspaper industry, to fail. It’s no fun being in a dying business, in a dying industry. You stop feeling like a winner, no matter how good your work.

You moved to Toronto to take a job, but it wasn’t for you. What was the main issue?
Well, that job was at the Globe and Mail, and no matter how good it is, and how nice the people are, I realized I could never feel the same about newspapering as I did before. I had a deep-rooted sense of fear from betting my family’s life on newspapers once again. And Toronto is a bigger city than I ever cared to live in, frankly, and it was more expensive than I realized. Part of that was a failure of due diligence on my part.
Some of it was truly unexpected, like an auto insurance estimate in the thousands of dollars. So I said to myself: We’re not going to be better off financially; we could easily not enjoy life here more; we know no one here; and it’s not that important to me to keep climbing the ladder of journalism. So I headed back to Denver.

Jason and the Scorchers

You know business. So what are we failing to learn from the financial crisis?
I continue to be amazed at the American reluctance to regulate in the wake of these market disasters. Remember just eight years ago with Enron and WorldCom, and America had to struggle just to produce Sarbanes-Oxley in the face of significant business opposition?
But despite all the whining from the corporate community, it didn’t reverse the long-term trend of deregulation and nearly uncritical faith in markets.
And now, we’re still fighting about health care “socialism” and burdensome regulations even though it has become patently clear that the market is not self-regulating and even the most august institutions cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

You’re American, and you like baseball. I like it too, but a lot of us in Canada find it boring. What’s the allure?
I do like the pace of the game, that you have a choice as a viewer of baseball to make it a social event, and chat between batters and between pitches, or to study the game, to note the way each fielder moves a step or two in a different direction, placing his own little bet on where the hitter is most likely to hit the ball. In America, the debate is usually pitted as baseball versus football, and I don’t get why football is perceived as having so much more action.
It seems they huddle, play for 30 seconds, and another break in the action occurs. It is, as George Will says, “violence punctuated by committee meetings.”
I also love baseball statistics, always have; baseball stats made me the business journalist I am today.

What’s the best American band we’re not listening to yet in Canada?
Oh, I’m not enough of a trend guy to answer that. I’m not known for embracing the newest and latest. I will recommend something new, though: Jason and the Scorchers, the pioneering country-punk band of the 1980s, have released their first new album in about 14 years, and it’s my favorite disc so far this year (I have a link in the player below).
I bet it’s not in stores in Canada; I had to order it directly from the band a couple months ago. It’s not for everyone; it’ll be too country for the punks and too fast and punky for even a lot of alt-country fans. But I like both genres, and this is the perfect blend.

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One response to “Life after news: Part One of 53

  1. Steve and David – thank you so much for this interview. Getting laid off totally sucks – I’ve been there. But what I found interesting about the process is that I was preparing to leave the job as the layoff happened; it was like the universe was telling me to get on with my own business. Also, while of course my ego took a hit, my self-worth was completely intact – because I never identified with that horrible workplace to begin with. I learned a lot about how I define myself – and my job is not one of them.

    Thanks again. Steve, your blog is wonderful. And David, best of luck to you. Now, if only your country would learn to embrace soccer….

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