One Hundred Monkeys in Texas

November 19, 2008

Why corporate America needs copy editors

Filed under: Business,Journalism — alancochrum @ 2:55 pm
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I recently received a mailer from a major U.S. entertainment company reminding me that it was time to renew my participation in a particular program. This is a multi-multi-million-dollar company that undoubtedly spent many thousands of dollars to print and mail out these cards.

At the bottom of the card’s front, in all-cap, 24-point type, it said: “Pay’s for itself in just two visits!”

Pay’s. With an apostrophe.

I also recently filled out an electronic job application for an editing position. One of the items said, “Detail your Copy Editing experience” — with the word experience misspelled.

I report; you decide.

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October 7, 2008

Passing through ripples in time

Filed under: Business,Work — alancochrum @ 8:20 am
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I had no idea how off my clock was.

I spent almost twenty-five years in the newspaper business. That meant that every 24 hours, we were putting out a new product. (My last paper had an afternoon edition for part of my tenure, so you could say it was every 12 hours, but that didn’t really affect me.)

And in my part of the paper, planning was almost exclusively short-range — very short-range. Generally speaking, a week or so at the most. Definite decisions about the next day’s page were made less than 12 hours before it was sent to the presses. (Now, of course, with cable TV and Web pages, a once-a-day news cycle is a dinosaur. But I digress.)

Stepping out of that environment and into my current job-hunting situation is like going through a time warp. All of a sudden, everything … has … slow…ed … doowwnnn …

I recently received one of those “Thanks, but we decided to go with another applicant” notes. (Make no mistake — it was nice to get the note. At least I know what happened. These days, e-mailing a job application is like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s verse: “I shot an arrow into the air / It fell to earth, I knew not where.”) The pertinent point: I had applied for this job 10 weeks before.

Of course, the nice thing about the Internet for employers is that it enables you to find all those candidates who otherwise never would have known about your opening. And not having been responsible for hiring decisions, I’m sure that I don’t appreciate all the problems involved.

But after spending half my life in an environment where the time frame for decision-making was usually less than one day, and almost always less than one week, it’s quite a jolt to find myself in one where taking months is not unusual.

September 10, 2008

Irony on Line 1, sir

Filed under: Business,Work — alancochrum @ 11:10 am
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I am reading one of those automated job-board e-mails, which notifies me that there is a career fair today at the local convention center a few miles away.

I have never been to a career fair before, nor (I suspect) is mine the sort of career that such fairs normally cater to. However: You Never Can Tell. So I make copies of my resume, pull on a tie and jacket and drive over.

And what company should be one of the main sponsors of this soiree but … yes, you guessed it: the one from which I was laid off, which only this month has been in a buyout drive. Another major sponsor: my old employer’s principal regional competitor, which has been working on a buyout drive of its own. Which, if you need a little help connecting the dots, means that neither is looking very hard for skill sets like mine at the moment.

Well, if nothing else, I got a little mental chuckle out of the morning trip.

September 8, 2008

That whirring sound

Filed under: Business,Journalism,Newspapers,Texas — alancochrum @ 9:03 am
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When I was on the editorial board of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, every now and then a reader who was unhappy about some aspect of the paper’s performance would remark that Amon Carter must be rolling over in his grave.

Amon G. Carter Sr. was the North Texas businessman/publisher who put together the newspaper about a century ago. He was also a notorious community booster, and the story goes that when events required him to go to Dallas, he would take a sack lunch so as to avoid purchasing anything in Big D. Given that he has been dead for more than five decades, I found it rather amusing that letter-writers would still invoke him as the guiding spirit of the paper.

 (The curious can read about Carter in Amon, a 1978 book by longtime Star-Telegram scribe Jerry Flemmons.)

However, I am fairly certain that I recently heard the old boy doing a few rpm’s in his final resting place, given that (insert pregnant pause here) the Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News have agreed to a joint distribution agreement in parts of their circulation areas.

Given the economic crunch in the industry — the cumulative total in recent years of employee buyouts and layoffs at the two papers is in the multiple hundreds — the venture does make a certain amount of economic sense. But if the soil over a certain Cowtown publisher’s casket looks unusually disturbed, you now know the reason.

August 13, 2008

After the storm surge?

Filed under: Business,Economy — alancochrum @ 3:12 pm
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I was coming home yesterday from a vision therapy appointment for one of my kids when the notices caught my eye: Gasoline at $3.66, $3.65, $3.67 …

I recently have been driving significantly less than I once did, so prices may have been at this level for a while now without my noticing. But the image that leaped to my mind was the aftermath of a hurricane.

The storm swells and reaches landfall; the flood pours into the unfortunate city. The water rises, and rises, and rises, farther than many of the residents have ever seen or troubled themselves to imagine.

For a seemingly endless time, the new sea laps against the house walls and the street signs and the car tops. Then, subtly, one day it seems lower. Then it’s definite — the water is below the watermark. And gradually the grimy tide ebbs and drains, the flotsam and jetsam come to rest, and the precise damage can be calculated.

Exactly where we are in the course of Hurricane Petroleum I don’t know. (Maybe we’re only in the eye of the storm.) But the surge seems to have abated somewhat, and I somehow have a vision of teams of economists, all wearing hip waders, venturing forth to see how many of our structures are left standing, and in what condition.

July 14, 2008

The adventure of the stockbrokers’ clerks

Filed under: Business — alancochrum @ 3:57 pm
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I started reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories while I was in junior high school. This quite possibly contributed to my already awesome NQ (nerd quotient), given that I was hauling around one volume or the other of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a huge two-book set edited by William S. Baring-Gould.

I now own a copy of that same set, and I recently decided to fill in the gaps in my reading by working through the handful of stories that I either had skipped or did not remember reading. Today’s lunchtime story was “The Stockbroker’s Clerk,” whose plot has some similarities to another story with which I am much more familiar, “The Red-Headed League.”

The irony of this is that I received in the mail today a package from the financial services company that administers the 401(k) I had with my ex-employer. So — what am I going to do with my account? That same question is being asked and answered by the approximately 1,400 people who also were laid off along with me.

Among the choices, I understand, are (1) leave the money where it is or (2) roll it into an IRA with the same company. But you can also roll it into another employer’s retirement plan, or into an IRA with another company — in which case the money exits the current firm’s coffers.

That rushing sound I think I hear? It is the sound of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars cascading out of that company into whatever financial stream, pond or lake the owners pick. My company decided to lay off several hundred people, and now, weeks afterward, the aftershocks are jolting the reservoir of another corporation further downstream.

It makes me wonder whether those 1,400 may soon be joined by some stockbrokers’ clerks, or maybe some of the stockbrokers themselves.

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