Props to radio journalists, and a little introspection

    I learned something humbling about myself after working on my first radio piece-in-progress. I’m no natural.

    I talk fast, except when I’m trying not to and then I sound constipated. Or English.

    As I was finishing up my umpteenth draft of the radio script for a piece about an ex-con I’ve been following since March, I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself.

    I’ve watched other print journalists make the jump to radio — and it seemed effortless. Yes, WNPR’s Jeff Cohen, I’m talking about you. (In case you haven’t heard of him you will. He and his girls made a huge splash with a piece he recorded about his oldest giving his youngest her first haircut.)

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    But back to woe-is-me. It’s been a mostly great move to Philadelphia, even if I’m still on what I’ve dubbed the Recreating Helen Tour 2012. (Get your T-shirts now.)

    I’ve met some great people. I really, truly like Philly — so much that I get more than a little bent when I hear people put it down. So what if I haven’t even been here a year yet — it’s my city now. So shut it!

    And then you have a day like today, or yesterday by the looks of the time, and you start to feel all…blah.

    That’s when if you’re lucky, or maybe just overtired, the computer gods conspire and suddenly you come across a proposal you wrote when you first moved here for some other blog. And just like that you’re reminded of how far you’ve come, even if it doesn’t always feel — or sound — that way.

    This was a proposal for a 20-something magazine for people starting off or starting over. They actually accepted it. But then they told me how much they paid, or didn’t, which is a chapter of Recreating Helen 2012 for another day. 


    I know. I know, this mag is for 20-something’s just getting started.

    But what of us old(er) folks, the ones who have been out in the working world, creating lives and careers only to get kicked to the curb or displaced. Or maybe we were just dumb enough to choose now, when the economy is tanking, to leave honest, stable work.


    After an almost 20-year-career as an award winning reporter and columnist, I left my job, my column, and my life in Connecticut and moved to Philly for my husband’s job.

    Yep, I voluntarily left a job in journalism when the economy and newspapers are tanking. When people leave jobs in journalism only after they’ve been ripped from their cold, dead hands.

    Timing is everything, right?

    So, what does a newspaper journalist do when they leave their paper, their home and their brand behind?

    First they indulge that dream all working stiffs have: enjoying free time. At least until they realize that too much free time is overrated and for me anyway, was mostly filled with lost hours of mega marathons of “Teen Mom 2.”

    We complete a year’s worth of mandatory “working hours” in a few weeks at our new neighborhood food co-op because hey, maybe deep down, we are hipsters at heart. We’re not. Organic cookies taste like sss…saw dust.

    We have lots and lots of meet-and greet coffees. Actually, correction. We – the newly unemployed — pay for lots and lots of meet-and-greet coffees, because apparently things are tough all over.

    We do the “like me, hire me” tap/lap dance for folks who finish their free coffee and say as much as they’d like to hire us, they have nothing to offer. In fact, they sigh, they don’t even know how long they’re going to be employed. We offer them another free cup of coffee, because they seem sad.

    We send so many emails that go unanswered that we occasionally hold a mirror under our noses to make sure we aren’t dead.

    We swallow our pride and send another email.

    On really bad days, we watch repeats of those “Teen Mom 2” mega marathons.

    Last week, I did what many displaced journalists do. I took a part-time gig at a public relations firm, the supposed softest landing pad for many journalists who get out of the business.

    I gained a whole new respect for pr, but lasted a week — which in my defense is like 20 in journalism years.

    And now, we’re considering taking some freelance work with a medical trade magazine. We have zero experience in the medical field. We haven’t a clue what “Standalone ASC’s” or “Automated Fluid Waste Disposal Systems” are, or if we should “Blame Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on Mesh?” But we could probably fake it, right? And isn’t recreating yourself all about trying new things?

    So, what am I proposing? A blog or recurring feature called Recreating Helen: What happens when a 40-ish journalist leaves her crumbling paper to move to a new city, with, wait for it, more crumbling papers? Who knows – but maybe you and your readers would be interested in coming along for the ride? Because it’s tough out there for everyone starting off or starting over – no matter their age.

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