Monday, October 26, 2009

Cyber connected, but let me keep newsprint-stained fingers

I’m Linked In. My face is on Facebook. I can Tweet anytime I want to. And, last week, folks other than my best friends read my blog posting and commented on it.

I’m feelin’ the love of cyber connecting.

I can Google myself (try it sometime), and I find what I wanted to find: web listings for Jackie Walburn, writer, editor, communicator and JOB SEEKER. Google no longer just finds quotes and media mentions from my most recent job as a spokesperson/public affairs/region corporate communications manager for a big company.

I’m there in Google-land representing myself, and that was the goal when I set out recently to create a cyber presence to assist in the continuing adventure of life after downsizing. I listened when experts in my field -- communications, public relations, writing, editing – said, you’ve got to be out there, or rather in there, in the interconnected social media world. I got the message. I posted the profiles, asked for friends and connections, and continue to learn ways to maximize these connections.

However, even as I celebrate with a virtual happy dance, must make one non-hip disclaimer.

First and foremost: I will not start “getting all my news on-line.” Sure I can go to for Alabama news or any number of sites for national and international news and comment.

Just give me a newspaper, please. I still want to read the newspaper; I want to turn the pages. I don’t even care if I can newsprint on my fingers. I love newsprint on my fingers.

The economy and this cyber world have combined to make this a tough time for newspapers everywhere. But hey, for what it’s worth, newspapers everywhere still have a loyal reader in me. Although I have not worked regularly for a newspaper in about more than a decade, I grew up in newspapers. I majored in journalism (and meant it) and worked exclusively as a newspaper reporter, editor and photographer for many years, until economic realities and opportunities combined to launch me on a career change as a communications consultant, then into public relations, then corporate communications.

But bless the reporters and editors working away at today’s newspapers. Fewer pages, fewer advertisers (those are directly linked) and an increasing emphasis on the on-line versions of newspapers make it challenging for newspapers and newspaper reporters these days. I understand that, and know that “breaking news” is indeed that when it can be posted on-line instead of waiting for the next edition of the newspaper. Writing for print and then writing and updating it for on-line is the new norm.

However, newspaper reporters and editors are nothing if not resourceful, and evidence shows they are embracing the new media, even while some of them, surely, still like the idea of newsprint on their fingers.

A recently-published study, "Life beyond Print: Newspaper journalists' digital appetite,” written in-part by a fellow Auburn University journalism grad Vickey Williams, shows that almost half of today's newspaper journalists think their newsroom's move from print to digital is happening too slowly, and they see their future selves engaged in news reporting even as the print-to-digital-and-mobile-devices changes continue and speed up.

The study, published by the Media Management Center at Northwestern University, identifies six types of journalists inhabiting the typical newspaper newsroom in 2009. These range from the "Digitals" (12% of the workforce) who spend a majority of their efforts online today, to the "Turn Back the Clock" contingent (6%), who long for the day when print was king. I’d probably find myself in the middle.

One of the reasons this blog appeals to me is how similar it is to writing a newspaper column, which I did for years in college for The Plainsman, then as a part of a small staff at a small weekly and then a small daily. Now this blog gives me a chance again to write about whatever I want to (within reason), even if it’s not printed on newsprint and my readership is limited but growing, a few friends at a time.

All that’s missing is newsprint-stained fingers, and, somewhere in cyberspace, there’s probably an app for that.

Picture of the day:

Fishing off the pier: Here's what I did Saturday afternoon and Sunday, fished for crappie off our pier. Few bites, one catfish for me and a bream for Mary Claire, but great view from pier.  This photo is actually from last Spring, but you get the picture.
Song of the day:
Summer Days, Bob Dylan
"Standing by God's river, my soul is beginnin' to shake

Standing by God's river, my soul is beginnin' to shake

I'm countin' on you love, to give me a break"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fine to be finally on Facebook, finding friends

I fought Facebook and Facebook won.

See, I saw the social networking site as a place for college kids, as it started out, and frowned on it, too, because of an unfortunate, trouble-causing, illicit substitute profile a crazed acquaintance put on my daughter’s Facebook profile once upon a time.

So, I had not put up a Facebook profile. I had no Facebook friends; I couldn’t Facebook anyone or write on anyone’s wall. I was one of only two people who didn’t raise hands as Facebookers when social media was the topic at a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) meeting earlier this year. The other person was a young lady; I wondered then what her excuse was.

But, in my continuing effort to learn social media and have a cyber communications presence (and have a place to promote this website/blog) and tired of being seen as a digital dinosaur when I can Google, e-mail, and otherwise digitally communicate as well as anyone, I took the Facebook plunge last week.

Today, I have 57 friends and counting. I found so many friends and acquaintances from my former lives – as a Fairfield High School and Auburn University student, from days as a reporter and even from my most recent career in corporate communications. The long-lost include my ex sister-in-law and my junior high school best friend. I've not seen either in 30-plus years. I’m having lunch today with another long-lost Fairfield person. And, you never know when one of these long-lost friends might know about a potential job for me, as I have learned that networking is as important as a resume, maybe moreso. Plus, my Facebook friends include my children, my nieces, my nephews and my non-ex sister-in-law.

It took maybe an hour or two to put together my profile, and that included creating photo albums (one for my immediate family, one for friends and family, and one for music and recreation, mainly so I could post my prized picture of me and Billy Joe Shaver). I loved that part, having been a newspaper photographer in one of those former lives.

I’ve learned, however, that the time consumption comes later, after the profile, when friend requests come in, along with the need/compulsion to comment, write on walls or Facebook mail them. Time spent in a mostly social-only pursuit would be the downside, if I can find one. Time spent checking Facebook is added to time spent checking e-mail and job searching and away from my writer self’s current goal of writing at least 1,000 words a day on my almost-through-with-the-first-draft novel.

The book with its working title of Mojo Jones and the Black Cat Bone is waiting on me, even as I spend time today posting a blog on my website and flipping back to e-mail and my Facebook page to see if I’ve been friended, or have messages or hearts or comments. Plus, there must be time for the on-going job search and daily job board checks and follow ups. Thank goodness I don’t actively Twitter. I might never get Mojo back where he belongs.

Still, after less than a week as a Facebook participant, I can see the advantages and wonder now why I fought Facebook so long. It was about perceptions, I suspect. Now it needs to be about time management and priority setting, tasks I have much experience in as a career-long multi-tasker.

But, isn’t most of our life’s work and play about that, finding time for what we need to do and what we want to do?

See you on Facebook.

Picture of the week: Rising moon at sunset over the Alabama River, Dallas County, Alabama.

Song of the week: Blind Willie McTell, Bob Dylan.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Under Vulcan watch, Todd Snider rhymes of optimistic chances

Under the watch of Birmingham’s giant iron statue Vulcan, I spent a partly-clear Sunday afternoon on Red Mountain listening to singer-songwriter Todd Snider spin his rhythmic, rhyming, sometimes-optimistic realism at a Vulcan Aftertune’s music event, and I felt much better for it.

Snider, who plays blues guitar and harmonica and sings his clever word-play songs while barefoot and smiling, has been called “one of roots music’s slyest and smartest songwriters.” (SPIN magazine).

On this Sunday afternoon in Birmingham at an outdoor concert held at my hometown’s mountaintop statue of the Roman god of fire and metalworking, Snider retained his place on my list of favorite singer-songwriters.

Plus, with songs like Slim Chance, he soothed my unemployed, sometimes poor-me soul with an optimistic look at hard times and extenuating circumstances.

I knew of Snider for his many songs, among the most well known being Alright Guy and the clever, college-age mantra Beer Run, and for Waco Moon, a brutal, sad and honest tribute to Eddy Shaver, the late son of another of my songwriting heroes, Billy Joe Shaver. In Waco Moon, Snider laments that if you “Quit too late you're gonna die too soon,” about the talented, guitar-playing Eddy, who died of a drug overdose on New Year’s Eve 2000.

Like Billy Joe Shaver -- the original Honky Tonk Hero who wrote that hit for Waylon Jennings and suitcases full of other classics with lines like “the devil made me do it the first time/the second time I did it on my own (Black Rose) -- Snider writes songs that make you listen, think, reflect, laugh, cry and hope.

But it was Snider’s upbeat take on dealing with what life brings you which helped me on this day. His latest release, The Excitement Plan, includes a great, rocking duet Don’t Tempt Me, which he co-wrote and sang with Loretta Lynn, and the song Slim Chance, which spoke most plainly to me, as I approach the one-year anniversary of my downsizing and surpass the 15-month mark in my employment search.

There’s always hope; it just depends on how you look at it.
I think that’s what Snider was saying to me, the usual optimist, in Slim Chance.

“I found a four leaf clover/In my yard today
It had one leaf missing off it/But that was okay
Looking it over I could easily see/Four is only just one more than three
That's close enough for me/Must be my lucky day

A slim chance/Is still a chance.
A slim chance/Is still a chance
Hey hey/You don't necessarily have to pay the fiddler to dance”

Thanks Todd Snider, I needed that.

Picture of the day:
Todd Snider plays at Birmingham's Vulcan Aftertunes, October 11, 2009
Songs of the day:
Slim Chance, Todd Snider
Old Chunk of Coal, Billy Joe Shaver

Monday, October 5, 2009

If the resume fits, send it

On my to-do list this morning is to help my daughter update her resume, as she graduates from Auburn University in December in Supply Chain Management, and needs to attend a career fair this week, and to help update son’s resume, to include the industrial technology courses he is completing at Jefferson State with a soon-to-be complete goal of getting certifications in several areas including automated manufacturing (the computers that control processes in manufacturing and energy production). They will add their new information (daughter’s internship and son’s current technical courses) and I will proofread and edit.

Being the family writer and editor and resident wordsmith, I am often the final stop for my family’s written submissions. Plus, I have new, first-hand experience in resume writing and editing and modifying. I currently have four versions of my resume and there may be room for more.

Targeting your resume to the job(s) you are applying for is just one of the strategies I’ve learned during the more than one year of job searching after being downsized. Having worked as a “generalist” public relations and corporate communications manager, doing everything in multiple states, then adding lobbyist and governmental relations to those responsibilities the last two years, my accomplishments and skill sets are wide-ranging and applicable to various job types.

So, I have a general public affairs and communications professional resume, plus a writer-editor resume (which highlights my experience and skills in writing, editing and publications), a corporate communications resume (which lists details of my qualifications and experiences in issue management, internal and external communications and media relations) and an event planning and marketing version, which, you guessed it, lists accomplishments in event planning and marketing.

I was a newspaper reporter and editor for years, too, but haven’t bothered to create a reporter resume, since newspapers are trimming staff, not adding to them.

Targeting resumes to specific jobs is just one of tactics I’ve learned during fifteen months of job searching in an historically-tough market. Another critical tactic is the ever-important and intangible tool of networking or KNOWING SOMEONE. More about that later.

Picture post for today:

An Auburn sunset on the Alabama River, summer 2009

Song of the day: Things Have Changed, by Bob Dylan. Check it out. Things HAVE Changed.