A NEW CHALLENGE
It’s a good thing I’m adaptable. At least, when it comes to work and career.
I’m starting a new job today as the “Work Life” beat reporter for The Oregonian. I’m looking forward to the opportunities that come along with a fresh start and a fascinating topic.
But before I look forward, I want to look backward, too, just to remind myself of the astounding breadth of change that my co-workers and I have been through in just the last two years.
To be sure, I’ve seen plenty of change during a career that in 2015 will mark 40 years in journalism. But what industry doesn’t adapt to changes in consumer tastes, economic conditions and production processes?
At the risk of sounding like a museum piece, I’ve gone from the days of manual typewriters, scissors and glue pots to the first primitive desktop word-processors and clip-on pagers to today’s smartphones, apps and blog tools that enable instant communication – and digital publication – anywhere within range of a WiFi connection.
And, no, I’m not going to belabor the seismic shifts in technology, reader preferences and revenue challenges that have turned the proverbial ship away from our glorious newsprint past and toward the present-and-future realities of online journalism.
Rather, this post serves as something of a milestone in recapping changes and transitions I’ve endured or embraced since 2012 began.
January 2012: Working as a community engagement specialist, I help to launch and nurture the Oregonian News Network, a collection of nearly 60 independent blog partners we featured on OregonLive.com to provide news, sports and feature content as a complement to articles and photos produced by our own staff.
February 2012: I start work as a reverse commuter, traveling from Portland to Washington County to become the Hillsboro Argus opinion editor – a one-man department, writing editorials and columns, soliciting guest commentaries, planning content of the weekly editorial page, managing our Twitter and Facebook accounts. I routinely take the light-rail train to and from work.
October 2012: I become the Forest Grove Leader opinion editor as well – taking on identical duties as in Hillsboro in a community at the westernmost edge of the metro area’s urban growth boundary, about 33 miles from Portland. Because the light rail ends in Hillsboro, getting to Forest Grove means driving my ’67 Bug back and forth.
June 2013: The Oregonian announces it will go to four-day home delivery.
October 2013: This is when things get interesting – or crazy.
A new company, Oregonian Media Group, begins operation, succeeding the Oregonian Publishing Co., which had published The Oregonian since 1850, a year before Portland incorporated and before Oregon became a state in 1859.
A second company, Advance Central Services Oregon, is established to provide production, packaging, and distribution support for OMG.
OMG continues to publish The Oregonian and three community newspapers in Washington County, including Hillsboro and Forest Grove, but commits to a digitally focused future built around the online news site, OregonLive.com.
April 2014: The Oregonian switches from the traditional broadsheet format to a more compact tabloid size. Of course, so do the Argus and the Leader.
May 2014: Editor Peter Bhatia, whom I worked with closely during my 11 years as newsroom recruitment and training director, leaves the paper to teach at Arizona State University.
July 2014: Mark Katches, a national leader in investigative journalism, is hired as the new editor and vice president of content for OMG.
Also in July, The Oregonian staff moves to smaller, sleeker leased space in a modern office building near the waterfront, leaving behind fond memories of an ink-stained past – and six Pulitzer Prizes won since 1993 — at 1320 S.W. Broadway, The Oregonian’s home since 1948.
August 2014: OMG sells the Hillsboro Argus building, prompting us to quickly pack up and move. Features staff are assigned to work out of Forest Grove. News staff, including me, double up with our colleagues at another community newspaper in Beaverton. The light rail line is located just far enough away from the Beaverton office that I become a regular commuter by car.
October 2014: The new editor, Katches, announces a comprehensive reorganization of the newsroom that devotes more resources to covering broad subject areas of wide interest and places less emphasis on traditional news appealing to specific communities.
The new beats include: Family & Parenting; Faith & Values; Health & Wellness; Environment & Nature; Shopping; Growth & Development, Diversity & Change,.
To accomplish this, several editors and reporters, including myself, are reassigned from suburban offices to work out of the main newsroom in Portland.
I learn my job is being eliminated, but I land on my feet with a successful pitch to cover the newly created Work Life beat. I’ll do stories that focus on workplace issues across the metro area, centered on where and how we work today, and what tomorrow will look like.
November 2014: I work through Election Day and beyond to wrap up the final print editions of the Argus and the Leader and write farewell columns for both publications.
Today I start as the Work Life reporter, joining four other reporters on a team with an editor I greatly respect as a talented journalist and peer.
HALF-EMPTY OR HALF-FULL?
That’s a ton of change, right? So, how do I feel about all this?
At breakfast recently, a long-time friend of mine listened patiently as I described many of these changes, then told me: “You sound amazingly positive about all this.”
Well, yes. Though I would have been happy to continue as opinion editor, I see a lot of positives in this newest transition.
I’m returning to the main newsroom to work in a modern office environment with a goal of helping to build a stronger future for our company.
I’m going to work with an editor I trust.
I’m going to cover a beat I’m genuinely interested in.
I’m going to work alongside other reporters in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s who all have – or soon will gain – expertise in their subject areas. Just being around them will be good for the creative process.
I’m going to have a lot of latitude in the stories I go after.
I see the workplace as a lot like schools. Virtually everyone has had direct experience in a classroom. And virtually everyone has worked, will work or is working.
I figure there ought to be a lot of reader interest around workplace culture, employment trends, work/life balance and generational shifts in the workplace.
Ultimately, this situation is one where I can view the glass as half-empty or half-full. I choose to see it as brimming with possibilities.
Wish me luck.