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Dave Astor

Dave Astor

Posted March 30, 2009 | 08:36 AM (EST)

Jobless But Not Jokeless in Journalism


Many Americans don't care that newspapers are hemorrhaging jobs, but laid-off journalists wandering the streets could become a quality-of-life issue. So I have some suggestions about how jobless "journos" might become gainfully employed at a time when traditional media jobs are growing scarce.

There are always the predictable options such as blogging, freelancing, teaching, and PR work. But we also have to think outside the box.

For instance, new jobs could be inspired by the move of many readers from print to online. Typical moving companies, with their trucks full of furniture and lamps, aren't trained to transport readers fleeing "old media." But ex-journos could start their own moving firms -- and go on to gently encase print readers in bubble-wrapped boxes before putting them on trucks bound for their digital destinations.

Another way to create jobs would be to have reporters work shorter hours. For instance, a small newspaper with 10 reporters each toiling 45 hours a week could have 450 reporters each work one hour a week. Individual salaries would need to be adjusted accordingly but, heck, the price of gasoline has dropped since last year.

Meanwhile, journalism's wage-freezing trend creates other job possibilities. Out-of-work reporters could sell big blocks of ice to keep paychecks frozen in warmer climates. Ex-journos could also launch online travel sites specializing in trips to the Arctic Circle, where wages of vacationing reporters wouldn't unfreeze during the few days they manage to get away from their understaffed newsrooms.

What about jobs for laid-off editorial cartoonists? Given that there might be more former staff cartoonists (still living) than current staff cartoonists (presumably still living), there are enough ex-staffers to draw a huge cartoon time machine for trekking back to B.C. (Before Cutbacks). These visual satirists could then earn some bucks doing trenchant commentary on the wars of Alexander the Great. A wireless connection to transmit battlefield 'toons might be hard to find, but tech support became less expensive after it was outsourced to the poorer sections of ancient Egypt. (If you're looking for a joke here about pharaoh reporters getting buried in inverted pyramids, look elsewhere.)

Finally, if President Obama pulls most American troops out of Iraq, that would free up billions of dollars for domestic use. Put some of that money in the hands of unemployed journos, and they could build souvenir stands outside shuttered newspapers to sell mugs and other knickknacks reading: "The reporter I bought this from once had a real job."