Archive for May, 2010

Walking the Beat: Local News, Part 2

May 28th, 2010
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Looks like you're stuck with me awhile longer. Got an email yesterday from the new Star-Advertiser informing me that this is one of the Advertiser blogs they'd like to continue running. I'm cool with that.

Before I return to my regular Career Changers topics, just wanted to share a few thoughts on how journalism has changed since I was a reporter back in the 70s. A big part of it is the physical aspects of the job. Prior to the advent of email and internet searches, reporters had two options: pick up the phone or interview people face-to-face. That's why they were assigned "beats" to cover.

Like cops, reporters were expected to know their territory -- not just who's who or the latest incident, but also the back streets and alleys where sometimes you'd find the real story that was hidden in the shadows. They were a part of the community they covered, and showed up at town meetings on a regular basis. Hometown news was just that: it was the stuff that mattered to you, even if it might seem manini in the big scope of things.

On the metropolitan and national level there was also that same sense of connection between reporters and their subject material. My college journalism adviser was Maurice Carroll ("Mickey" to his students and colleagues), a veteran political reporter for the NY Times. He worked out of the City Hall news bureau, where he shared office space with newsmen from other papers to be close to the action.

For better or worse, computers and the internet have changed the nature of journalism. I remember tapping out stories on a manual typewriter, then after Mickey went through them with a pen to cross out lines and make editing changes, I'd often have to cut up paragraphs and reorder them with Scotch tape. The physical process was more time consuming -- but it also gave you more time to think about what you wrote before it got printed.

During my senior year of college, Mickey invited me to have drinks with him at an old Irish tavern near City Hall where reporters and politicians hung out together. Perhaps, that was one reason there was more civility -- politics wasn't the blood sport it is now, and reporters weren't deliberately sniffing around for personal scandals to muck up the news. They treated each other as human beings, who could disagree over beers and share a laugh about it.

In recent years, I've been on the other side of the news because of my involvement with the public beach access issue, which became a hot topic when the gate went up on L'Orange Place in Kailua. What amazed me was how many reporters and TV news people I spoke to who hadn't been to any beach in a long time. They also didn't show much interest in coming out to Kailua to see what people were so upset about. To be fair though, they probably don't have much time to get out of the office, since reporters are being asked to cover more stories as part of their daily work load.

So when I heard about Pierre Omidyar's plans for a "new approach" to journalism called CivilBeat.com, I was hopeful it would be getting back to the roots of small town reporting: walking the beat. I thought maybe they'd hire writers with an intimate understanding of the people and places they were covering. Instead, they hired an editor from Denver, and some of the CB reporters had just moved here. Okay, I get the outsider's perspective thing... but is that what locals really want?

I also figured since Civil Beat would be free of the deadline constraints that daily newspapers and TV newscasts have, they could report on issues that have been getting scant public attention. You know -- the small town stuff we all have to deal with on a daily basis, but doesn't warrant coverage because it's not on fire, or doesn't involve a vehicle crashing or someone being killed.

So far, Civil Beat has been mostly focused on the same stories the dailies and TV news have been covering. Granted, they are looking for new angles, and I like the idea of not allowing "anonymous" commenters to flame each other on their site... but if you ask me, the reporters are being a tad TOO civil over there.

I think what we all want to see more of from our local news media is a willingness to ask tough questions of government leaders, and not shy away from challenging politicians -- or anyone -- when they say things that are untrue or blatant attempts at spin. When someone publicly contradicts themselves, why aren't they being called out on their conflicting statements or actions?

Anyhow, just wanted to get that off my chest. Next week, back to career related matters. That's if the new Star-Advertiser doesn't cancel my blog!

The Future of Journalism Is...

May 26th, 2010
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Shakes Magic 8-Ball: "Reply hazy, try again."

Some readers have been asking what will happen to the Advertiser blogs when the two daily newspapers merge in June and launch StarAdvertiser.com. Last week, non-staff Advertiser bloggers got word that the Star-Bulletin will be letting us know which ones they'd like to continue. So my blog's days may be numbered.

But I don't intend to go quietly. I've always believed if you're going to write, then write like there is no tomorrow. Make your words count for something. And newspapers are something I've always been passionate about.

I started out as a college journalist in the late 70s when Woodward and Bernstein showed how important real investigative reporting was in our form of democracy. At the same time, writers like Hunter Thompson, Truman Capote and Tom Wolfe were putting their own spin on "reporting" non-fiction stories by using first-person and novelistic techniques. Today's journalism just doesn't seem to have the same soul. Now it's all about ratings and advertising revenues.

I literally grew up with news print on my fingers. As soon as I could read, I'd bring in the morning paper and flip to the comics or sports pages. My very first job was delivering the local afternoon paper to my neighbors when I was 10. My second job at age 12 was selling subscriptions to the Star-Ledger, New Jersey's largest daily. Our crew of kids went from town to town, telling people they could help us win a trip to Cape Kennedy by signing up for delivery.

In the 8th grade, our social studies teacher made us subscribe to the NY Times in order to read about the Vietnam War, which forever changed how I viewed the world. It also altered my relationship with my parents. As I learned more about the war, I began to question our government -- and by extension, my own father, who served in the Air Force and bought into the Dominoes Theory of communism as a threat to America. He refused to read the Times, a newspaper that did not shy away from exposing lies our government told us, or reporting atrocities committed by U.S. forces. When I finally spoke out against the war during dinner one night while the weekly casualties numbers were being flashed on the TV screen, we came to blows. He punched me until my face was a bloody mess.

What I discovered was facts are a dangerous threat to people with rigid beliefs. To me, journalists were NOT supposed to be objective or "fair and balanced." Because in the war of ideas, someone has to be on the side of the truth. It's not enough to simply report opposing viewpoints -- it's the fact-givers job to interpret the arguments and put them in context. However, that's almost an impossibility in our short attention span society, since most people prefer their news in convenient 30-second sound bites and pithy blog-sized chunks of text. The public wants simple solutions to complex issues, not thoughtful discussions. Who has time to read in-depth reporting these days?

Which brings me to the set-up for my next post: what do people really want from our local newspapers and TV news? And is there much future opportunity for journalists in Hawaii?

While we're on the topic, I'd like to hear what you think of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's new venture, CivilBeat.com. They started with a $19.99 per month subscription plan, which was discounted to $4.99 per month, and is now down to 99 cents for a 15 day trial period.

Any CB subscribers out there?

The next new Career Changers TV show airs Thurs., June 3 on OC16. But you can still visit our website for the link to my Squashed Gecko blog, which is about writing and the entertainment biz. No matter what happens with the Advertiser blogs, I'll still be writing something, somewhere!

Job Fair Observations, Tattoos 2

May 20th, 2010
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Although I was being somewhat facetious in my Jobs of Tomorrow post in which I suggested tattoo removal as a future franchise concept, today's Fark.com thread on awesomely bad tatts shows why it might not be such a silly idea. You'll find that link at the bottom.

At yesterday's WorkForce job fair, I saw plenty of unemployed people with tattoos on arms, legs, faces, and backs. Many looked like they were going to a cook-out at Ala Moana Park, or on their way to a pick-up game of hoops. Some guys wore ties and long-sleeved white shirts, which kind of confused me -- were they Mormons on a mission, or just over-dressed?

It makes sense to wear a sharp suit if you're applying for a sales job in the men's department at Macy's or Nordstrom -- two new participants I hadn't seen at prior job fairs. Otherwise, I'd say leave the tie and suit at home. Business-type aloha shirts and pressed slacks is the norm, so go with the flow, fellas.

What bugged me the most was overhearing how locals were talking to each other. Lots of casual profanity with every other word being "f---ing" this or that. Young guys were the worst offenders in that category. I seriously wonder if they would be capable of conducting a normal conversation if the "f" word was removed from their vocabulary.

It's also apparent that many of these unemployed people don't read newspapers or watch local TV news. If they did, they wouldn't be showing up unprepared and dressed for failure. Which brings up one of my big pet peeves: people (not you since you're reading my blog) who SHOULD be looking for every bit of free advice they can get are not taking advantage of what is available to anyone who wants it. Plain and simple, they aren't doing their homework.

The cost of a newspaper subscription is cheap compared to all the useful info you can find related to job searches and career advice. In the Sunday Advertiser classifieds, Beth Busch -- the WorkForce executive director -- has written some really useful columns for job seekers. I feel our CareerChangers.tv website also offers plenty of valuable tips and links to resources. Yet we aren't getting as many visitors as you would expect with so many local people out of work. What the heck are these unemployed folks doing with their free time?

On a positive note, there were more employers looking to hire -- Beth said they had 135 participants, which is about a 20 percent increase over last year's job fairs. There were also about 10 percent fewer job hunters attending, so it appears more people are finding work.

The problem though is most of the jobs are of the low-paying variety. I mean, it's great to see hotels and the hospitality industry were seeking workers, and entry level is better than no jobs at all. But for older, more experienced professionals, it's still tough going. They'll have to either upgrade their skills or get advanced degrees if they want to continue working in certain career fields.

We did manage to find some job seekers who were brave enough to go on camera and pitch themselves. Other people we approached didn't have a clue on how to sell themselves to a prospective employer. If you can't say out loud why someone should hire you, why should anyone hire you? Next job fair we plan on bringing in a professional business consultant to coach candidates in that area.

Here's the link to a Fark.com thread on bad tattoos. Warning: some of the photos are mildly NSFW or kind of gross... such as the belly button-centered tatts. Ewww! (My original post on Tattoo Removal Parlors idea.)

And if you know anyone who is looking for work, please tell them to check out our show on OC16! They can get details and times at our CCTV website. Mahalo.

On Camera Job Seekers Wanted!

May 18th, 2010
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At prior job fairs, we've taped employers for video job listings on the Career Changers TV show and posted them on our website for those who couldn't attend in person. On Weds., we're going to give job hunters a chance to pitch themselves on TV and our YouTube Channel. Why not give it a shot?

If you plan on going to the WorkForce job fair, May 19, we'll be there shooting between 9 am and 11 am at the Blaisdell Center. According to Beth Busch of Success Advertising Hawaii, the event organizers, there will be over 130 companies and recruiters -- which is a significant increase over last year. So perhaps things are starting to pick up for Hawaii's economy.

We'll be looking for candidates who can succinctly pitch themselves to prospective employers in 30 seconds or less. Tell them why they should hire you, or at least contact you for an interview through CCTV. Since our viewers include small business owners and people in management positions, you never know who'll be watching!

Just look for a short, balding hapa-haole guy (me) and producer Ron Darby, the taller haole guy in glasses with the high definition camera on his shoulder. You can also try calling me on my cell phone Weds. morning at 228-6521, but my phone might be off if we're taping.

We'll also follow-up on some of the job seekers we film to see how things turn out. For tips on how to make the most of career fairs, visit our website and check out some of these YouTube videos:

Beth Busch's Job Fair Preview

Judy Bishop's Resume Tips and Interview Pointers

Good luck to any of you who will be there!

Jobs of Tomorrow: Tattoo Removal Parlors

May 17th, 2010
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During a brainstorming session with my CCTV show co-producer, Ron Darby, we kicked around ideas for jobs that will be in future demand. My first thought: tattoo removal specialists. Sure, they seem like a cool idea when you're 17-years-old, drunk, or going through a mid-life identity crisis. But when you start seeing 40-something housewives with tramp stamps and pot-bellied old guys sporting Polynesian "warrior" motifs, I think it's safe to say the trend is played out.

Like it or not, in the business world tattoos are still frowned upon by some. Of course, it depends on how noticeable the tatts are and the design itself. For instance, there was a former UH basketball player who had a woman with splayed legs inked on his arm, giving birth to a basketball. In his eyes, it was a display of his love for the game. In most everyone else's eyes, it was tacky and tasteless. So he had to put a wrap around it when he played before crowds.

In a segment we just taped to promote the WorkForce career fair on May 19, event organizer Beth Busch advises job candidates to cover up larger tattoos if the position they're applying for involves interaction with customers. Personally, if a person does their job well, I couldn't care less if they look like the Illustrated Man or have piercings in their noses, ears, and private areas. Yet if I was a business owner, it would give me pause for concern before hiring them.

What does the tattoo say about the person who gets one? I'm unique? Um, no... you're actually a follower -- nearly one out of three people have tattoos now... I like art? Most tatts I see don't qualify... I like to look at myself in the mirror a lot? Yes, you do. Which makes me wonder how self-centered that individual is... I have money to burn? If you are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on tattoos, I have to question your priorities. Especially if you're a parent with kids.

Also, I keep hearing tattoos are safe, but call me crazy -- paying someone to put CHEMICAL dyes in your skin voluntarily just doesn't seem like a smart thing to do!

My suggestion for a budding entrepreneur or skin doctor would be to think of the franchise potential in opening tattoo removal centers across the country. It's like smoking -- remember when that was hip and cool? Now companies and individuals are making money by offering stop-smoking programs and nicotine-replacement products.

Anyhow, I'd like to hear from people with tattoos. Why did you get them and how much did they cost? Do you have any regrets, or are you still happy with your decision?

Here's the link to an article I read last week that prompted this blog post.

And if you have ideas for real of imaginary jobs of the future, please share them in the comments section!

Don't forget to watch or DVR our Career Changers TV show on OC16. BTW, we're looking for small biz success stories -- and we offer super-cheap ad rates for local businesses.