Thursday, March 18, 2010

A career move at least partially precipitated by this blog

I somewhat covered, on this blog, the historic wildfires of 2008 in Brevard County. The outbreak destroyed three dozen homes. Above, firefighters stood in front of a blaze in Viera and stopped it from burning homes only feet behind them.

The 2010 wildfire season has commenced in Central Florida, and this grass blaze near Lake Washington Road in Melbourne started one morning two weeks ago when I was out for coffee. The gaper I am, I went to the scene and sipped my 7-Eleven joe while waiting for something drastic to happen. Disappointingly, the most exciting thing to happen was when a bedraggled fellow rubbernecker with long, oily hair and torn jeans spilled his bicycle in front of the fire-rescue crews. Apparently, talking on his cell phone and pedaling, all while watching the smoke plume, took more concentration than he could muster. He was unhurt.

After nearly three years of rubbernecking by day - then posting the results of those adventures on The Offlede - and editing newspaper stories by night, I'm making a change. I've decided to employ my photographic and reporting skills toward more financially gainful ends than just a blog with a loyal but limited following.

As of April 5, I will switch from copy editing - one of the most noble, thankless jobs in journalism - to reporting, a post in which I'll be responsible for reacting to breaking news and covering wide-ranging stories on multiple platforms: online, in print and possibly on television. I'll be writing and shooting video and photos of man-induced incidents and natural disasters, including fires, which have so often attracted me in the past. (I do enjoy an adrenaline boost from time to time.) It'll be similar to my reportage in Bangor, Maine, but much different from the stories I wrote in Washington, D.C.

There's no telling the nature of the impact on this blog. I do suspect that some things will be covered exclusively for my employer, but I'll alert readers here to any notable photos I take, of course. Coincidentally, The Offlede is at least partially responsible for this career development, as it has been unhidden from my bosses and a showcase of my work beyond the copy desk. It also kept my other skills and interests sharp while I practiced full-time editing.

On The Offlede, more than a year has gone by since I last addressed any element of journalism. Some of the photos I take could qualify as journalism, but I haven't been directly discussing the state of the industry. The reason is simple: Journalism is not something journalists want to talk about these days. Newspapers, my medium of choice, have incessantly cut employees and forced them to take unpaid leave. With fewer co-workers, our jobs have gotten more difficult, but we have continued to step up to the plate and make the most of the situation. All of this we have done without rewards, as pay has been reduced and frozen.

But, or so it appears, we're in for a bit of a thaw.

No journalist wants to jinx his own profession, but I don't subscribe to superstition. With some promising indicators - increasing circulation and heightened advertising business - the industry is a much more palatable topic around the dinner table these days. Few people think journalism eventually will die. And I'm definitely not one of them. But in the future, unfortunately, reporting likely will become more valuable than editing. To be a journalist who can execute both tasks raises my stock, making it less likely that an employer would unload me. That's why I thought a change was in order.

I'll miss copy editing. I'll miss the responsibility to ensure quality on Page 1, a job I've had for most of my time at FLORIDA TODAY. I'll miss catching errors that could have led to lawsuits and other embarrassing situations for my employer. I'll miss cracking jokes that only other copy editors understand (I won't even attempt one here). I'll miss writing the newspaper words that people always read: the headlines.

I won't miss working weekends.

Taken off the hard-hit Corey Road in Malabar in 2008, this photo of smoke-diffused sunlight derived some beauty from such an ugly situation.

Near where the previous photo was shot, this tractor sat in the front lawn of a home that was threatened briefly by the blaze.

1 comment:

Tim Robertson said...

Congratulations on the reporting gig. Now we just expect spotless copy from you. Good luck chasing fires and crashes, but I still expect shuttle launch and bird photos from you.