Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Life after newspapers

A fellow 60 Percenter shared a fascinating article with me today on "Is There Life After Newspapers?" The writer interviewed several former newspaper employees who had lost their jobs in recent years. 

Not all the news is bad -- more than half have found work, including a good chunk as full-time freelancers. The article is long, but worthwhile:

The numbers bear out what we discussed yesterday at the (trumpets please) First Ever 60 Percenters Lunch Meeting. I proclaimed that newspapers have already begun the process of operating like magazines, with a skeleton staff of editors, advertising reps and managers, and will continue to go down that path and rely more on freelancers. It makes more sense as a business model. And whether the news is delivered on paper, on the Web or on a thin, pliable sheet of plastic that you can tuck into a briefcase or backpack, there always will be news.

Freelancers, in turn, will be more like reporters of old: Experts on their subject or subjects. 

When I lived in Detroit, the writers at the Detroit News and Free Press (and even, usually, at the suburban dailies -- yes, "suburban dailies," plural -- now an oxymoron) knew their field of expertise inside and out. Whether it was covering courts, the music scene, fashion, police beat or the always-entertaining mayor's office, these writers dug their heels into a beat and stayed for years.

Here, reporters and editors are shuffled around regularly. There are a few great ones -- for instance, I think Richard Nilsen probably knows more about arts than anyone in this state, and he's damn good at communicating about them. And the Tribune lost a real jewel with the layoff of Mark Scarp, who is a walking encyclopedia of Scottsdale (of course, the Tribune ceased publishing in Scottsdale, which is why he was let go, but if anyone else starts up a Scottsdale community paper, he should be number one on the list of writers).

For freelancers, what this means is that while it's always important to be a jack-of-all-trades so that we can spread ourselves around, it's a good idea to hone one or even a few areas of special interest. Smart media managers will seek out these knowledgeable people and not worry about sharing them with other outlets, because there will be so many niche publications and not a lot of direct competition as in the old days between "major dailies."

Being a freelancer -- or a contractor, as I used to be called when I did most of my work for a publishing company -- is the future of journalism and writing in general (because what we do is not always journalism, as we know). We are an important part of the new model for media. It's exciting that people are reading more and more thanks to the Web, and that means a need for content. 

And that means a need for us.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Money-making tips

I don't want to be all gloom and doom on this board, so here are a few tips on making money from fellow freelancers.

Alan Korwin suggests a service called Money Line to find work. There's a fee to join POMA (Professional Outdoor Media Association; more info at 

Also, you can join the Society of Professional Journalists and post your data on its freelance board; it's included in the cost of membership. Visit for details. The local Valley of the Pro chapter is at Look for info on the SPJ regional conference April 3-4 to come soon to 60 Percenters.

And this is from Deb Krol: "But it's not all bad out there: I've actually been getting invites to query from High Country News--anybody got some great enviro stories and no place to pitch them? Send them to Jodi Peterson...that's They don't pay oodles but at least it's something in the pipeline."

Here is some info on the POMA service:

The Professional Outdoor Media Association's (POMA) Money Line service is connecting professionals and growing their businesses.

Are you benefiting? 

Money Line connects entities that are looking for writers, photographers, editors, public relations and marketing specialists or staffers with qualified professionals -- POMA members. And, the service is free. During the past month, Money Line has connected:

A writer with a magazine that needed a monthly columnist

Several publications with photographers who were able to fulfill unusual photographic need

An up-and-coming journalist with a market otherwise inaccessible an

A public relations firm with an outdoor industry professional who can represent the agency's outdoor clients

"I have been impressed with POMA's Money Line service each time I've used it," said Cheryl Snider, general manager of JB Scott Publishing.

Arizona Woman's change of life

One more Valley publication has ceased to exist -- at least in its original form -- leaving us freelancers with one less decent-paying outlet.

The Arizona Republic, on the back of Wednesday's Business section, announced Arizona Woman would become "a regular feature section within AZ magazine." It was a tiny article buried just below the fold, and I can't find it on

It says it will be "part of a strategy to focus on women in Scottsdale and the East Valley." ValleyPRBlog has some things to say about that:

Shortly after I left the Republic, in the summer of 2007, Arizona Woman was cut to 6 issues a year, so I took that as a sign. I hadn't written for it in a while, but a few 60 Percenters did, and I feel for them. I don't know what "regular feature" means exactly, but I know it means fewer words and lower costs.

The Valley's freelance opportunities are drying up more every day, it seems.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Freelance Success

I keep forgetting to let you all in on this web site that I learned about from Jackie Dishner, a fellow Phoenix-area freelancer I met in November on a press trip.

Jackie said she used to write for local publications, like many of us do, but found more lucrative work in the national market. I'm sure most or all of us would love to break into bigger publications, but how? 

Jackie dished the dirt: She said it's helped her immensely in landing gigs for national mags and web sites. It's $99 a year and gives tips on which editors are looking for which kinds of stories, with contact info.

I took some time off recently (just laziness, not like I went anywhere exciting or had secret plastic surgery or anything) and didn't check it out. But I signed up today and I have high hopes that it will launch my career into fascinating new territory. Maybe Cat Fancy will need my services! How about Architect Magazine? Heck, I'll take Plumbing Supplies Today if it means more than 30 cents a word.

All together now: "Thanks, Jackie!"

And on the same subject, I haven't been hearing from many of you lately, and hardly anyone is coming to the 60 Percenters lunch next Tuesday at noon at Curry Leaf in Ahwatukee (a few of us will be there, though). I started the group and this blog to share helpful info like this nugget from Jackie, or tips on publications to avoid due to non-payment, or advice on anything related to the freelance business. But it seems like no one is interested anymore. 

Does anyone out there care? Do you want me to keep organizing the monthly get-togethers? How about the blog? I won't keep bugging you if you don't want me to.

Friday, January 16, 2009

More juicy info on jury experience

After my most recent post on my jury experience, I got an e-mail from a reader who stumbled across 60 Percenters while doing a search for information on Marjorie Orbin. I asked for and received permission to post it here, with some data redacted. 

Enjoy! I know I did...

Marjorie Orbin used to be Marjorie LAST NAME REDACTED... she was married to a friend of my hubby's who used to marry, (serially), hookers.   She was one in a long line of such women, and we, (hubby and I), were actually the only witnesses to their "marriage" before a Justice of the Peace in East Orange, NJ.  I will never forget the blushing bride's comment after the ceremony:  "Let's get the hell out of here!".  
Once I had the dubious honor of trying to introduce her to a "normal" activity.  I love horse-back riding, and she thought it would be good exercise.   She showed up at the indoor ring dressed entirely in see-through white silk, and combined with her 42D bustline and tiny waist made quite an impression on the men at the facility!   I gave up after that....   But, when her husband Bob and mine decided to take "the wives" to Giants Stadium, she dressed in her "Hooker Outfit" and when she got up to go to the bathroom, two entire sections stood up and cheered!   (Barbie Doll meets Hugh Hefner....)
She seemed to have absolutely no human emotions and eventually tried to hit old Bob on the head with a cast iron skillet.   He divorced her, but disappeard soon thereafter.   We've never seen him again!    That was about 19 years ago... wonder if he survived her!   He left NJ very suddenly, and left lots of friends with unpaid debts from him.  One fellow tracked him down to see if he might be in his Florida house, but nobody ever heard from Bob LAST NAME REDACTED again.
Be glad if you don't sit on her jury!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The case

I thought I'd update everyone on my jury duty experience.

I had to report to Superior Court on Dec. 10. I figured it might be a routine DUI, burglary or drug case; maybe take a few days or a week at most if I had been chosen. 

But no.

Judge Anderson was seating jurors for the case of Marjorie Orbin, a former Las Vegas showgirl accused of killed art dealer husband Jay Orbin, sawing off his limbs and head, stuffing his torso into black garbage bags and a garbage bin, and leaving him in the desert. The state is seeking the death penalty.

(What is it about these Scottsdale wives sawing up their husbands? Remember hair stylist Valerie Pape, convicted of killing her husband and cutting him up?)

There were a few articles about Marjorie Orbin's case when she was arrested, and I read them, but I didn't remember Orbin's name. One reporter wrote that a close friend of Orbin's said a few years ago she "started making threats to kill Jay by shooting him, wrapping him up and leaving him in the desert."

Yes, good plan: share your pre-meditated murder M.O. with friends. Now, I routinely threaten to kill my husband in his sleep, put him through a wood chipper and bury the remains under a sidewalk if he does not stop his off-key singing. But we both know that OF COURSE I would never do that. I'd do something totally different and unexpected, like shooting him, sawing off his limbs and head, and putting him in a trash can in the desert.

Just kidding, Honey.

Anyway, the trial was supposed to start last week and run through the end of May. I was almost in a panic. Five months! Egad! 

Even though trial hours only would be 1:30-4:30 p.m. weekdays, with some days off for holidays and judge's time off, that would severely hamper my ability to earn a living. As fascinating as it sounded and as much as I take seriously my civic duty, I simply couldn't do it.

I'm estimating here, but there were well more than 100 people called, probably more like 150, and I'd say at least 80 percent of us claimed hardship and were dismissed. We had to fill out a form explaining our reason, which the judge and attorneys reviewed. Other judges choose the jury differently, my judge friend told me, but this is how Judge Anderson did it.

In any event, I hope that the media continues to cover the case as it progresses so I can watch the highlights and read about it instead of having to hunker down in a jury box every day. At lunch break, I ducked into the courtroom where the Serial Shooter trial was happening, and let me tell you, it was boooorrrrriiinnnng that day. Evidential minutiae, ad nauseum.

The wheels of justice can sometimes resemble a shiny new Maserati, especially if you just see the sensational parts, but in reality, they're more of an old Ford Fiesta with a mis-matched front quarter panel.

Still, it's our Ford Fiesta, and I'm just glad we get around in it the best we can.