Mike Kent's advice to former Star job-hunters: LIFE AFTER GANNETT

Dateline: Tue 19 Aug 2008

Kent, 63 years old, was a longtime employee, second-generation, of the Star newsroom who took a buyout last summer. He is sharing his experience today, in light of what is going down at 307 N. Penn.

"I was at The Star for 20 1/2 years, starting in the newsroom as general copy editor/Mac systems editor/final editor of business news and on to indystar.com and from there to IT, developing and maintaining our web sites. Now I'm the managing editor for a technology/business web site and I can work from anywhere, definitely a plus.

"I think we all knew the layoffs were coming, it's mostly a surprise it took this long. I went through all kinds of emotions after my buyout last summer and found I didn't like not having a job. The good news is there's very good life after Gannett, less stress for sure.

"The tough news is it wasn't easy hitting the pavement and looking once I decided I didn't want to be retired. But from my experiences, I can say the web is the best source; many companies require filling out forms on the web anyway. For journalists, craigslist and mediabistro are good resources.

"Beyond that, anyone laid off should be sure they understand about COBRA health insurance and realize that a lot of jobs any more don't include health benefits. And of course set up an e-mail account at one of the free sites like gmail if you don't have one; makes life much easier. There's also blogging, but that's a really high-stress endeavor since there's so much competition to be first with a story and attract advertisers..."

Other words of wisdom: Mike sees a lot of freelance writers out there. Learning to navigate the Web is a must to keep up with competition.

The struggle for newspapers has been a chronic problem, he notes. He traces the decline to (perhaps) the switch from the industry's abandonment of newspaper boys and girls to deliver the paper (adults wanted to help the kids, he suggests) and going to contractors who did not know neighborhoods, subscribers or the protocol of timely delivery.

As for the future of newspapers -- a subject which consumes many of us --- he thinks the Star is well-positioned as long as it emphasizes credibility in its web reporting. The danger is going to too many freelancers/guest writers and canned copy who produce unreliable news.

Bottom line:

"Gannett, I think, will survive intact and have time to right the ship on the web, since it has a poison pill that would have otherwise caused raiders to snap it up by now. And it does have 14% of the Internet space the last time I checked, so its chances of survival and comeback are pretty good, just notthe way it used to be. I don't expect it to be broken up like Knight-Ridder, which I also worked for."

It may not be "good news," but today, we'll take all we can get...

Thanks, Mike, for timely words.

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