Breaking news: My teacher-education courses ended this weekend and my over-busy schedule of the past seven months now has some breathing room. Ergo, I’ll be blogging again. Hopefully there are still some readers out there. So, here goes.
Yesterday, I got this e-mail from Nick R. Martin of Heat City:
“You better start blogging again now that you’ve been named best news blog!”
He was referring to the Arizona Press Club awards, which, were given out May 15, exactly a year to the date that Gannett Co., Inc. stopped publishing the Tucson Citizen newspaper, laid off 65 staffers and converted the paper’s website into a community blogging/citizen journalism site produced by dozens of unpaid bloggers and administered by two former Citizen employees. (Geez, that was a mouthful.)
Mark Evans, my former editor and TucsonCitizen.com’s site administrator, was kind enough to report on the three APC awards I received over on his blog, so I won’t repeat it all here. But I want to add a couple things and expound on a third.
First, while I’ve won second and third place awards in various contests in the past decade, I’ve never placed first in anything, especially not in a category judged by someone from the New York Times!!! So I’m pretty jazzed about that. (I have an overwhelming urge to send some Godiva chocolates to judge Aron Pilhofer, editor of the Times’ Newsroom Interactive Technologies and founder of DocumentCloud. I’m fighting that embarrassing urge by blogging and reminding myself that I’m unemployed.)
Secondly, if you’re wondering how a God blog won best news blog in Arizona, it is because of my “and more” posts on the University of Arizona and the craziness of the faculty poll and Provost Meredith Hay, among other things.
Finally, and here’s the exposition, the irony of my award and one Heat City received for breaking news cannot be ignored. (Well, I mean, you could ignore it, but then you’d miss the fun part.) Young Martin, who has more gumption, tenacity and intuition than many journalists twice his age, was laid off from the East Valley Tribune Jan. 2, 2009 and started his kick-tail news site three days later. (Yes, he is an overachieving go-getter. Mr. Pilhofer, you should call him.)
Martin’s first-place award came for a series of exclusive stories about the arrests of two white supremacists suspected in the 2004 bombing of the city of Scottsdale’s diversity office, news he broke on Heat City hours before the wires or local papers. And here’s the irony: Martin and I were laid off from paying newspaper jobs only to win awards for free reporting we’ve done in the aftermath. Which has to be, we agreed (only half-jokingly), part of a grand conspiracy by mega-bucks media companies shutting down newspapers to keep their profit margins up — laid-off journalists are doing exactly what the industry was hoping they’d do by reporting the news sans paychecks.
Granted, many unemployed reporters aren’t doing what Martin is doing, nor near as well. Lord knows I’m not. But one has to wonder how long Martin and his ilk can live on Top Ramen and the up-down freelance work cycle before packing it in and saying, “Yes, ma’am, I’ll take that $15/hour job answering phones” or “Grad school doesn’t look that bad.” And one has to wonder how long it will take before people realize they are less informed than they were a year or two or five ago, or how long it will be before they agree to pay for the news they are now receiving for free – or if they ever will.
If you want to support Martin, donate on his site via the “Give to Heat City” button on this page. If you want to support me, vote yes on Proposition 100 tomorrow. And thanks for reading. Up tomorrow sometime – an update on all of this, including Gannett’s decision to turn over the Tucson Citizen newspaper archives to the Arizona Daily Star.