Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Journalism Jobs - The Great American Paradox

The journalism industry has been a battleground for several months now, but it seems that things are getting worse and worse. Rather than the hiring freezes thawing out (as I had hoped would happen, starting around now as the weather hypothetically thaws out ... in the Northeast), it seems that fewer and fewer opportunities are presenting themselves, and that any contacts you may have that aren't sitting pretty at the top of the masthead are too worried about their own hides to deal with someone they only kind of know through virtual connections.

It was disappointing, to say the least, when I found out yesterday that a magazine I contributed to, Louisiana Cookin', had a full editorial calendar completely booked up for 2009. This is partly due to the fact that a few of the issues are doing double duty on the newsstands, staying up for two months rather than just the one. For instance, this month's issue, the February--a delightful issue, might I add, chock-full of handy recipes from Heart-Healthy Creole (my own article) to blackening methods (written by Bonnie Warren, a legend in her own right with whom I had the pleasure of dining with at Brennan's when researching my dessert cover story for Where Y'at)--became available in mid-January, not to be replaced until mid-March. Next month, my Lenten Light article makes an appearance in this publication, but unfortunately, that's going to be it for me and this beautifully presented regional glossy for the rest of '09.

New Orleans Bride is just a quarterly, so there's not much brewing on that front for a while; and the other magazines owned by local periodical Renaissance Publishing, holder of titles like St. Charles Avenue, Mardi Gras Guide, and New Orleans Magazine among others can easily have their in-house editorial team provide pieces as sizes of publications around town, the dry, politically-leaning Gambit Weekly included, get smaller. New Orleans Living, headed by PR superwoman and managing editor Cheryl Lemoine, is hard-pressed to find pieces for their regular contributors, and Where magazine wouldn't return my calls. Granted, I only made around two calls and wasn't nearly as persistent as I am now, and didn't have the credentials I have now, but still. Same goes for Urban Dog.

So what's a gal to do?

In light of this local drought of work, I've decided to chase bigger game. I sent out some pitches to Taste of the South, a bigger publication similar in theme to Louisiana Cookin' in its focus on Southern food and recipe density. Alessandra Bulow, an assistant to the EIC at Food & Wine magazine in New York, helped me send pitches to the right editors, all of whom are out until ... well, basically next week. Bummer. I still need to buckle down and write the journal pieces for consideration for Southern Living, that warmer outreach of the hard-hit and badly hurting giant Time Inc., so that I can better petition for consideration for a position when their freeze lifts.

The outlook isn't that great, though, for any kind of hiring hold to be loosened at publishing conglomerates anywhere. MediaBistro's Revolving Door, their industry newsletter, grows more and more depressing every week as this web site is axed, that title is folded, and hundreds upon hundreds more in outposts everywhere get their pink slips. Advertising is down everywhere, which means the media industry, on the whole, is suffering in an unholy way.

In short, it seems that editorial jobs, freelance or otherwise, are the stuff dreams are made of these days ... more so than they were when I was a kid hoping to grow up and be a writer. Journalism jobs are more a contradiction than a qualifier now; more an oxymoron than a term.

This is a shitty, shitty time to be chasing a dream. But if I don't have a dream, what have I got to live for? It's the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment that makes life life, right?

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