January 11, 2008

The death of a good newspaper, the start of a new life.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 3:43 am by czygyny

Howdy!

This is my very first entry in my very own blog! I am a woman in my 5th decade, energetic, talented, full of skills, full of life, having an awfully soft heart for all things lost and forlorn, very introverted and self-absorbed, and finding myself standing on the edge of a life-changing adventure, full of anticipation and uncertainty, eagerness and dread.

I have worked for our local newspaper, a mid-city-size rag, established for 60 years, or so, for two and a half decades. A place to read up on the local happenings; power outages, who was injured in that car accident you saw as you drove home that day, comics, advice for the lovelorn, and classified ads with familiar phone-prefixes. You know, your neighbor selling his boat, or offering up the latest litter of puppies. There is the usual world and business fare, too, pulled off of AP or whatever, and weekly tabs of local entertainment. A place for local folks to learn of local stuff and a bit more.

It has grown and changed quite a bit over the 26 years I have worked here as an advertising artist. I came in a few years after hot-lead was just beginning to be a nostalgic memory, went from hand drawing layouts, to creating completed ads on our very first Mac. During that time I had the satisfaction and enjoyment of being able to illustrate editorial cartoons, design T-shirts, illustrate special tabloids, draw product art for various ads-tools, cans of beans,  stuffed animals, whatever came along. I had the pleasure and fun of creating clip-art style art that rivaled much of what I saw available in our services. I even painted watercolors for special stories, my illustration of local birds was given to some community star many years ago. Awards for ads rolled in almost every year. We moved from Macs to PCs, invested our graphics department with the CorelDraw Suite instead of  the more universally accepted Adobe products. Went from version 2.4 to 12, becoming very proficient at my job. I watched our department grow from two artists to ten, and more.

But, this position that was fulfilling for so long, became less and less creative. A position opened in editorial for a full time illustrator. Suddenly I became ‘unqualified’, after 17 years of clever and lauded work, because I lacked a BA, my lowly AA just didn’t suffice. Later that position came open again, this time I encouraged my friend Phil Fountain to try for the position. He has flourished wonderfully, a happy melding of wit and cartooning skill, and he makes me proud to know him. He has his own weekly cartoon contribution and blog.

We have all weathered each change as it came along. The ‘Team’ rage came through, one ad artist paired up with one or two salespeople, making us a glorified artist/secretary/receptionist, ushered in with a horrid bear of a new ad director. Our morale was battered pretty hard by this man who loved to stand there and bounce a hardball off the wall next to you while he talked.

I had sweet, poetic justice not long ago, to find out he fell out with his corporate cronies and was sent to Alaska. Still makes me smile. In fact, I think I will, right now… 🙂

The ‘Team’ thing left not long after he did. We went back to a pool of artists who were able to handle any ad or project that came along, although we did fall into ads that became our pet projects because of the skill needed or personal request by a client. I was able to draw less and less. But, we took care with our ads. We made our product the best it could be. Even our grocery ads were sharp and (mostly) error free. And, still the awards rolled in.

We’ve had a number of supervisors, editors and publishers come and go on their corporate ladder-climbing career since our becoming a part of a well-known nation-wide media corporation. None of them have really been a part of us, we were just a stepping stone to higher positions, more prestige, larger salaries. They came and make themselves look good to the corporate suits, and off they went to a higher rung.

The calibre of who has been coming lately has been so much worse, it seems. A different breed. The new editor fired a very, very popular columnist for not producing work that went against her ethics. (They wanted a gossip column) They have cheapened our product so that it is beginning to resemble a sensation tabloid, homespun enquirer.

Those of us who weren’t quite so ambitious, or greed-driven, or just loved this community for the home it is, stayed and put our heart and soul into black ink and white paper. Some folks had even been here 49 years! Imagine that, 49 years!

Yes, we have weathered lots of changes, all of them. But, we’ve met our waterloo three months ago. Suddenly, we are herded into the conference room , sitting around the long curved table in those overly-plush black high-back seats to be told that, effective immediately, we would begin to outsource our advertising to places like India. Hummmph! India!

Never mind they don’t know how to spell, never mind they don’t have a good grasp of punctuation, or grammar. They can’t even keep from the gratuitous use of apostrophes! None of what I have seen approaches the level of our ability to proof, spell, or design, and that our customers expect. It is out of our hands. Everyday I go to work and watch my life’s work lay there like an animal to slaughter, our department thrashes and gurgles in its own life’s blood.

The powers that be assured us they were ‘fighting’ for our jobs, but we have seen the timetable get shortened again and again. Some of us were absorbed into other job openings, but that hasn’t been enough, now it has come to smoke us out with shorter hours. They suspended my long time friend and supervisor for ‘jeopardizing’ the outsourcing project. Yes, she is a pistol, and likely to speak her mind, but the only jeopardizing going on how bad it makes the director and publisher look to higher-ups. Not my problem.

Here is where I stand today. I am looking for something new. 

I need to be at home for family and personal reasons, so I am starting up a home office.

I bought a powerful computer. I managed to get DSL way out here on the end of the phone line. I am upgrading my CorelDraw suite, and saving up for the pricey Adobe products. If ‘they’ can do it, so can I!

I have 26 years of newspaper advertising, 15 of that in computer design skills. I draw in pencil, pen and ink, paint, carve, sculpt. I am quick, innovative, concise, intelligent, I have the ‘green-thumb’ of creative. I have drawn children’s books, and am in the middle of creating a graphic novel. I’ve illustrated all sorts of things for all sorts of situations with all sorts of appropriate styles. I have great copywriting skills and proofing abilities. I never got out and struck out on my own. I was comfortable where I was, but that time is over. 

I have so many marketable skills…

…just no skill at marketing!

But who says us old ones can’t learn new tricks.

Stay tuned…

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5 Comments »

  1. Fliptoons said,

    Welcome to the Blogosphere! I think you’ll find it an interesting and helpful place. I’ll be sure to point folks in this direction and please, oh please, post some of you wonderful artwork! (I believe the template you’re using can take an image 550 pixels wide, but I’m not sure.) Again, welcome! You’ve already been bookmarked!

  2. donigreenberg said,

    Who knew you were an artist AND a writer? I feel your pain. Really. Truly.

    It breaks my heart to think of your career ending this way, after all the years and all you’ve given.

    (How many going-away cards did you illustrate for the retiring or rung-climbing mucky mucks?)

    Know that there is life after you leave that place. Everyone who’s left has that same, Botox look, from the weight of the world being lifted from their brows.

    OK, there are some down sides. Like a lack of income, and a lack of medical benefits. Those are huge considerations, which, I suppose, is how the paper keeps people working there, even with whittled hours and morale in the toilet.

    You are a special person with special talents.

    I wish you the job of your dreams, maybe working at home. Keep the faith. You’re in my thoughts.
    Doni

  3. czygyny said,

    Philbert and Doni,

    Thank you very much for helping me along during this uncertain time. I have been introduced into the wonderful world of blogging, and now comes the task to learn how to compose a fun and viewer friendly presence on the the web.

    As soon as I get this durned thing figured out, and get my graphics program updated, I will start posting some of my art, AND show off my talents at photography!

    And, yes, Doni, I understand the ‘botox’ feeling, even now. The anticipation and hope of extracting myself from this cancerous, dry-rot condition has me all excited.

    Viva la change!

  4. Dang! If it was not for Philbert sending me a link, I would have thought that you enjoyed the “Roller Coaster of Death.” So many ups, but the downs are catching up.
    Yeah, the Benefits are what keep most hanging on. When they offered the buyout, I had a few questions about the pecking order if I stayed on. Not getting the answers I needed (read that as “unclear corporate mumbo-jumbo”), I decided to go ahead, despite my being newly married with more than “me” to plan for. Thank God for my military retirement with medical. I didn’t know how good the medical was until my stroke back in 2002 (Geez, six years next month).
    Anyhoo, I, too, have bookmarked your site (and am passing it on).
    Peace, Larry (no, not Shaw; the other “Stud Muffin”)

  5. Kitty said,

    awesome!


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