Sunday, January 3, 2016

Facing the New Year in an Uncertain Industry

First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year. The upcoming months will certainly be interesting to say the least, with elections looming and so many other changes that are likely to ensue, including those in the newspaper industry.

For those who don't know me, I began freelance writing five years ago after spending years in education until a $22 million deficit forced layoffs.

As a writer, I'm not altogether sure what to expect these next 362 days and because of that, I keep a wary eye on newspaperdeathwatch.com.  It seemed the minute I started this new "venture" is when the industry started taking on water and so I often feel like I'm on a sinking ship. I have been known to say more than once, "I picked a good time to start freelance writing." When I do, my mind wanders to this clip, which still cracks me up, but then again, I'm a big fan of the short-lived Police Squad too, so there you have it.



For several years, I freelanced for one of the leading newspapers in our area and then the hammer came down. The popular periodical, which launched in 1854, and during its heyday was published twice daily, reduced print production to three days a week starting on January 1, 2013. With the changes, so went the majority of the freelancers.

Thankfully, I am still employed by two other newspapers, but these days I'm noticing far fewer pitches being accepted at one, likely due to a reduced six-day a week schedule, or maybe end-of-the-year budget concerns, but speculation at this point is simply that. Other changes have been implemented as well, including the elimination of coverage in certain municipalities and a reduction in home delivery to several areas. 

I live about an hour away from the home based of another newspaper where I've been assigned steady work over the years. Not long ago, I visited the city, only to witness the building up for sale. (See Airplane! clip again.)

I love working for both newspapers, but the second one covers most of the big acts that perform at the Luhr's Center in Shippensburg, Pa. Because of this, I have had the opportunity to interview music stars like Peter Noone, Robert Cray, Walt Parazaider of Chicago (such a nice man) and Rodney Justo, lead vocalist of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, to name just a few. Today Danny Hutton from Three Dog Night called me and we're scheduled for an interview tomorrow.

I still work regularly for a local monthly publication that is going strong and several regional magazines as well, so for now, I'm managing to stay busy.

This year gets a B- on the rating scale due to newspaper cut backs, but brights spots include a new food column and the invitation to two press trips, which were a lot of fun and a good learning experience.

For the new year, I plan on pitching to more national publications and continuing with this relatively new blog--which I hope to upgrade as time passes.

I am more than anxious for January 4 to get here because things grind to a halt during the holidays. Few folks are available for interviews and queries stay maddeningly stuck in the queue.

I did manage to get some work done during the past two weeks however and combined it with a stay at the Radisson Blu in Philly where we visited our favorite places like Rittenhouse Square, Liberty Place and diBruno Bros. In between, I paid a work visit to Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, Pa. The trip through Gratz alone was worth it with its rolling countryside and Amish buggies everywhere. I never saw so many hawks in one place either--too bad I couldn't get pictures of them.

Traveling through Stroudsburg, Pa



A plethora of buggies were spotted in and around Gratz, Pa

 Lobby of the Radisson Blu Warwick, Philadelphia

 



Longwood Gardens is a beautiful place and worthy of a visit. An orchid extravaganza is coming up in a few weeks and in summer the grounds are breathtaking. You can read more in the article I wrote for the Chambersburg Public Opinion here.

Meanwhile, here are a few pictures that didn't make the 'cut.'





A succulent fountain

duPont Summer home



A "silver safe" to keep du Ponts' collection from being boosted


That's about it for now--once again, have a safe and healthy New Year and cheers to many more!











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