John Rocker on ‘Survivor’ — Good Luck with the ‘Outwit’ Part

John Rocker, CBS, Survivor, reality TV, Braves, baseball, closer, Jeff Probst

John Rocker when he was a closer for the Atlanta Braves

Say it ain’t so, Jeff Probst.

You’re not really putting mean ole John Rocker on “Survivor,” are you? Not on one of my favorite shows for so many years now – shoot, almost as far back as Rocker’s flash-in-the-spotlight 15 minutes of fame.

I worked at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution then. All of us in Atlanta remember the big lunk for being a big jerk while a closer for the Braves, particularly in that infamous Sports Illustrated article, where he said nasty things about gays, immigrants, minorities, New Yorkers and, gosh, just about everybody.

And after that, I wrote about him a time or two when, even outside of the limelight, he found a way to be obnoxious, particularly to gays.

When I was in the media, I never got to meet him, although I have seen him in person. He is, without a doubt, one of the sexiest, most physically beautiful men I’ve ever seen. And talk about a powerful masculine presence… (I mean the kind that has nothing to do with a gay man being attracted to a hot ballplayer.) He’s huge, built, aggressive, obnoxious and used to commanding attention. You know the type – loves how intimidating he usually is, probably asserts himself when he doesn’t get the attention he’s used to.

Jeff Probst, Survivor, CBS, reality TV, John Rocker

Jeff Probst, host and true “Survivor” stud

There’s often some guy like that on “Survivor,” which pits castaways in a competition that is part physical, part survival skills and part social. “Outlast, Outplay, Outwit.”

Outwit. Ha.

The Rocker types never last long. Too physically threatening, too socially divisive and tone deaf… and, well, usually not the smartest in the bunch.

“Survivor” has had pro athletes on previous seasons, most of them way more famous and accomplished than Rocker, who had a few years of notoriety before his obnoxiousness eclipsed his gifts as a closer. Future Hall of Famer Jeff Kent was on a few seasons ago and most of the other contestants had no idea of his wealth and stature. So maybe Rocker can coast under the radar.

Given his long track record, though, I’m guessing we’re in for a whole new round of reasons to hate him or laugh at him when the season starts Sept. 24.

He probably won’t last three episodes. But I’ll be watching every minute.

Got me, Probst.

John Rocker, CBS, Survivor, gay couple, baseball, braves, atlanta

Rocker and his girlfriend, top row left, join a gay couple and some racial minorities (uh-oh!) on the coming season of “Survivor.”


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9 Times Truman Capote Inspired Me to Reach for the ‘Inner Music that Words Make’

Truman Capote, journalism, writer, "In Cold Blood," "Music for Chameleons," "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Capote in the “In Cold Blood” years

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Truman Capote’s death. He was just 59, but the decades of drinking and drugging made him look much older and pathetic when you’d see him on The Johnny Carson Show, silly and chatting away in that nasal, high-pitched voice.

That’s all I knew of him until I was old enough to discover his talent as a writer and aim to emulate it – or, at least, a lot of it. I wanted to become a journalist, and Capote was one of the generation of great American writers to merge a poet’s precision with a reporter’s eye – and a novelist’s sweep, most successfully, of course, with “In Cold Blood.”

That book showed reportage as art. And one of his later books, “Music for Chameleons,” further jazzed me with Capote’s first-person tenderness and uniquely vivid descriptions.

To celebrate the great words Capote left, here are nine segments and quotes that have stuck with me over the decades. And if you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and read “In Cold Blood,” “Music for Chameleons” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (and no, the Audrey Hepburn movie doesn’t count).


1. “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.”


2. “You know those days when you’ve got the mean reds…. the blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re sad, that’s all. But the mean reds are horrible. You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is.”

~ Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”


 

Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Music for Chameleons, journalist, writing, writer

His masterwork

3. “The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’ ”

~ The opening of “In Cold Blood”


4. “I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.”

~ Perry Smith from “In Cold Blood”


5. “… he called after her as she disappeared down the path, a pretty girl in a hurry, her smooth hair swinging, shining – just such a young woman as Nancy might have been. Then, starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”

~ The closing lines of “In Cold Blood”


Truman Capote, Marilyn Monroe, In Cold Blood, Beautiful Child, Music for Chameleons

Capote with Marilyn Monroe

6. Marilyn: Remember, I said if anybody ever asked you what I was like, what Marilyn Monroe was really like—well, how would you answer them? (Her tone was teaseful, mocking, yet earnest, too: she wanted an honest reply.) I bet you’d tell them I was a slob. A banana split.

TC: Of course. But I’d also say…

(The light was leaving. She seemed to fade with it, blend with the sky and clouds, recede beyond them. I wanted to lift my voice louder than the seagulls’ cries and call her back: Marilyn! Marilyn, why did everything have to turn out the way it did? Why does life have to be so rotten?)

TC: I’d say…

Marilyn: I can’t hear you.

TC: I’d say you are a beautiful child.

~ from his memoir of Marilyn Monroe in “Music for Chameleons”


7. “She sounds like banana tastes.”

~ from a profile of a cleaning woman in “Music for Chameleons”


8. “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”

~ from “Answered Prayers — The Unfinished Novel”


9.”That’s not writing; that’s typing.”

Capote about “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac


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Wrapping up the Challenge: 3 (of Many) Positive Things about Life in Atlanta

college football hall of fame, atlanta, attractions

Atlanta’s newest attraction. Y’all come.

It’s been great to share good thoughts with the Positive Challenge, and I’ll keep up my attitude of gratitude. But today I’m wrapping my seven-day Positive Challenge with a look at three great things about my city, Atlanta.

1. Downtown rocks. With the newest addition of the College Football Hall of Fame following the Center for Civil and Human Rights by just weeks, we now have a bunch of great reasons for folks to spend all day, or more, downtown. Unheard of just a few years ago, and a boon for residents, tourists, conventioneers, businesses, etc.

2. The BeltLine Corridor. I enjoy starting a bike ride at the Inman Park end of the Atlanta BeltLine, riding past the soon-to-open Ponce City Market, and circling the loop inside Piedmont Park (the city’s crown jewel). Throw in a popsicle from the King of Pops or some Jake’s Ice Cream, and that’s a great afternoon.

3. Labor Day Weekend. Coming up fast again… Annual favorites DragonCon, the Decatur Book Festival, Black Gay Pride and … what else am I missing? This year, the Braves host the Marlins and the Phillies. And hometown superstar Jennifer Nettles plays Chastain… Who has time to grill? Dang.


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No Ice Bucket Needed for This Challenge — Just Make the Positive Choice

Atlanta BeltLine, public art, sculpture, overpass, North Avenue, Ponce City Market, Positive Challenge, civic improvements, Atlanta is getting better all the time, Nicole Brodeur

Nicole Brodeur

When Nicole Brodeur does something, I notice. She’s a great journalist, super-smart and one of my favorite friends.  She’s a columnist at The Seattle Times and, if you don’t read her, start now, even if you’re nowhere the Space Needle. She wrote yesterday about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and a former NFL player who has the disease and still participated in the popular social media money- and awareness-raiser.

But what moved me to action personally was Nicole’s Facebook posts about The Positive Challenge. I asked her about it. Here’s what she said:

The Positive Challenge was thrown down by Jacqui Banaszynski. I’m not clear on the rules, but I believe that you have to write three positive things about your life, or that happened in your life, every day for a week. And you can tag someone to take over when you’re finished. I’m almost finished, so you start on Monday. Tag, Jay Croft, you’re it!

Replied Jacqui: Post three positive thoughts or events each day for seven days. Tag two people a day to do the same. All that is optional, of course.

Atlanta BeltLine, public art, sculpture, overpass, North Avenue, Ponce City Market, Positive Challenge, civic improvements, Atlanta is getting better all the time, Nicole Brodeur, Jacqui Banaszynski

Jacqui Banaszynski

Well, all right. I’ve always found it a good idea to do what smart, beautiful women suggest. So I accepted the challenge. Today is Day Four. I’ll keep updating it on my own Facebook page.

What about you? Do you make a point to practice gratitude or positivity every day? Someone once said something like, “Happiness doesn’t bring gratitude — gratitude brings happiness.” I like that.

 

Here goes.

Atlanta BeltLine, public art, sculpture, overpass, North Avenue, Ponce City Market, Positive Challenge, civic improvements, Atlanta is getting better all the time, Nicole Brodeur

New sculpture on the BeltLine

DAY ONE OF THE POSITIVE CHALLENGE

  1. I’m grateful for awesome friends like you.
  2. Can I say something as simple as coffee? Because I’m drinking it right now and would be useless without it.
  3. 
The words, the words… always, the words.

 

DAY TWO OF THE POSITIVE CHALLENGE

  1. I was pleased to see new public art on the BeltLine overlooking North Avenue last night on my way home. Today I shared a photo of it here that Atlanta BeltLine put up. Yay. Love public art. Love the Atlanta BeltLine. Love civic improvement and community involvement.
  2. I reconnected with an old friend this week. Great to catch up. Hope I can see him again soon.
  3. I’m healthy. Everything works. No physical problems. And I’ve been sleeping great the last year, which was not the case for a long time. So: thankful for my health, every day.

DAY THREE OF THE POSITIVE CHALLENGE

  1. I love that my job is so close to my house. I can come home for lunch. In fact, I’m home for lunch right now. In the craziness of metro Atlanta traffic, this close proximity is no small blessing.
  1. I love cheat days. Not because I love to cheat so much (except for ice cream), but because it’s inevitable that at least one day a week will be chaotic or, yes, tempting, and the cheat-day concept is a nice reminder that it’s OK to be, you know, imperfect. Dadgummit.
  1. I’m grateful that today is my friend Tony’s 50th birthday and that my friend John, Tony’s partner, will be celebrating his 60th soon. Because I’d go crazy without them and, you know, I like nice round numbers like 50 and 60… which is why I’m staying 40 forever! Bah-da-bing!

DAY FOUR OF THE POSITIVE CHALLENGE

Something a little different today: Three pics from a great Sunday evening watching the Braves win (!!!) at Turner Field. Ya gotta believe in The Boys. Still, even this late…

Atlanta Braves, positive challenge, Turner Field, Braves leaving Atlanta for Cobb, Jay Croft, storycroft, Byron Whitt, Atlanta, friends at a baseball game

At a Braves game with my buddy Byron Whitt, enjoying Turner Field and its proximity IN THE CITY OF ATLANTA while we still can.

Atlanta Braves, Chris Johnson, Turner Field, best ass in baseball, best butt in baseball, sexiest baseball player, most handsome baseball player

My favorite Brave, Chris Johnson. OK, my baseball BF, right Trish Buswell? Chris, you can email me here on the blog. Or Facebook or Twitter. Or just wave next time you’re at bat, and I’ll know you’re thinking of me.

Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times, Positive Choice, Jay Croft, Atlanta, Braves, ice cream, Turner Field

Ice cream + baseball = summertime bliss.

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Read This Book: 9 Ways ‘Epic Content Marketing’ Delivers

Joe Pulizzi, Epic Content Marketing, storytelling, brand journalism, expert, Jay Croft, Atlanta, storycroft, public relations, corporate communications

Joe Pulizzi’s “Epic Content Marketing” is available in all formats. I liked the audiobook version so much I downloaded the Kindle version.

I read a lot about content marketing — books, blogs, Twitter feeds, white papers. There’s so much content about content that it’s great to find an outstanding piece to recommend — something that speaks with authority but isn’t didactic. Something well-reported and smoothly written. Something with an expert’s knowledge and a mentor’s heart.

Joe Pulizzi’s most recent book, “Epic Content Marketing,” hits all those marks and more. Pulizzi has legions of followers and the book came out last year. But everyone interested in brand journalism/storytelling/content marketing should find something of interest and value here, from beginners to experts, from writers to CEOs.  Even the know-it-alls on theory will appreciate the countless examples of best practices Pulizzi presents. He’s like Malcolm Gladwell (“Outliers,” “The Tipping Point”) in his thorough presentation of case studies that prove his points about communicating to drive business goals.

(“Tweet Naked” and two more worth reading)

Here are nine highlights of “Epic Content Marketing.” Some will be familiar, some fresh, and others might just crystallize your thoughts. That’s part of the value of a book like this – it’s a little bit of everything, in a broad and useful context. Flip through it, skip around. Lots of good stuff. You know: good content worth sharing and discussing.

  1. Joe Pulizzi, storytelling, storycroft, Atlanta, Jay Croft, Epic Content Marketing, Jell-0

    Jell-O’s early example

    “Customers don’t care about you, your products or services,” he says. “They care about themselves.”

  2. Pulizzi cites the many “content marketing” definitions and settles on this one: “Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyers more intelligent or perhaps entertaining them to build an emotional connection.”
  3. U.S. consumers are hit with 5,000 marketing messages a day, up from 500 in the 1970s.  “Telling a quality story to the right person at the right time always cuts through the clutter.”
  4. Storytelling goes back to the cave, and content marketing goes back at least as far as John Deere and its magazine, The Furrow, 120 years ago. Then came Jell-O recipe books … and radio soap operas…
  5. Joe Pulizzi, Content marketing, brand journalism, storytelling, storycroft, Jay Croft, Atlanta, Red Bull

    Red Bull is a leader of content marketing, Pulizzi says.

    Corporations engaged in content marketing find residual benefits like improved morale, recruiting and internal collaboration.

  6. Smart brands and companies are hiring journalists to tell stories — to plan and create content.
  7. That dovetails with Pulizzi’s “less is more” approach: Don’t sell so hard. Content shouldn’t be advertorial. It has to bring value on its own to create new customers or strengthen bonds with existing buyers.
  8. Pieces of content (articles, graphics, photos, videos, etc.) are business assets. Think of them – speak of them – as such.
  9. Pulizzi’s Six Principles of Epic Content Marketing: 
  • Fill a need
  • Be consistent
  • Be human
  • Have a point of view
  • Avoid sales-speak
  • Be best of breed

Along with endless examples of brands, bloggers and resources to help writers, marketers and executives, Pulizzi employs helpful formatting that keeps his reasoning on track and the book highly readable.

But the book’s most endearing strength is his good-hearted enthusiasm. He’s sharing what he’s learned because he’s excited about it and wants you to be, too.

Worked on me, Joe.


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11 Ways I’m Terrible at Writing Blog Titles!

53564334Among the key lessons I’ve learned about blogging is the importance of writing a great title. (Or is it a headline? Either one, I guess.)

I’ve written blog posts here that I thought would burn up my page-view counter … and then… crickets.

I can’t say why for sure, of course. But it’s occurred to me that my titles need some work. I looked around the blogosphere for tips, and analyzed what I was doing vs. what worked and didn’t work. Here are 11 tips I’ve found or learned on my own.

If you’re reading this, maybe that means I’m catching on, right? Send me more. I need all the help I can get!

  1. Use numbers in titles. For examples, the one on this post… Content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi says using two numbers is even better. I tried this recently with How 5 Friends Reinvented Themselves, and 6 Resources on How You Can, Too. The results were good, but not great. (What gives, Joe?)
  2. Controversy sells. Maybe, but I’m uncomfortable with being deliberately provocative. Should I have titled this post, 7 Reasons Why You’re Wrong to Focus on Titles? I could have put “suck” in this title, but that’s borderline vulgar, isn’t it? My mother reads this. Damn it.
  3. Use keywords if you can, but don’t be obnoxious about it. Try to optimize for SEO.
  4. Keep it tight and punchy, with bold words and maybe even a little attitude.
  5. Find the right length to maximize on the channels you use to share. Stop at least 10 characters short of Twitter’s 140-character limit so it’s easy for followers to retweet you. “I try to shoot for 70 characters or less in my titles so they don’t get cut off in most emails and search engine results,” says Corey Eridon of hubspot.com.
  6. Some punctuation is OK, like question marks and even exclamation points, which I usually hate! (I double-dipped on this one: Does Exercise Make You More Creative? Go Take a Walk and Let Us Know!) More problematic are special characters like @ and #.
  7. Be topical. I had success with this (‘The Normal Heart’ and How a Story Evolves) because I wrote it the week “The Normal Heart” debuted and was receiving media attention. It wouldn’t have worked months before or later. 
  8. Start with the title in mind and then write to it. This seemed counter-intuitive to me at first. But I caught on pretty quickly, like with this one, 11 Ways to Keep Balance in Your Life.
  9. Be Clear about What You’re Offering. This was one of my best performers: 16 Easy Ways to Write Better.
  10. A blog post is not a newspaper article. I used to write headlines for a living, and I was good at it. But this is not that.
  11. Odd numbers are better than even. So they say…

How’d I do? Here’s a link to a dozen more resources on writing better titles. Check ‘em out.


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What’s Her Story: From Covering Atlanta’s Mean Streets to Hollywood’s ‘Different Kind of Scary’

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Maria Elena Fernandez, writer, writerchica, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta, Hollywood, reporter, Venice Beach, Latina

Maria Elena Fernandez

Maria Elena Fernandez and I became fast friends at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the mid-‘90s when we were both Metro reporters. She was on the police beat and I had the courts. She’d cover a murder and its investigation, and then I’d get the trial. It was a fun tag-team.

Fast-forward through the next decade or so, and Maria ended up in Los Angeles, spending a dozen years covering TV for The LA Times. That switch from the streets to the studios was followed by another, from print to digital. Maria joined The Daily Beast and then NBCNews.com. She lives in Venice with her fabulous husband and their two dogs. The last time I visited, she was prepping for the next day’s Emmy Awards. A far cry from, say, interviewing suspects, victims and cops here in Atlanta.

We covered crime together in Atlanta and then you took on showbiz in Hollywood. Which is scarier?

Good question! There’s probably nothing more nerve-wracking and challenging than knocking on the door of someone who just experienced a personal tragedy. You talk to parents whose missing child has been found dead, and anything can happen in terms of how they respond to you.  It takes a special kind of strength and heart.

That said, Hollywood is a scary beast of a different kind, without public records or the public right-to-know on your side. All you have is your ability to connect and establish relationships. When you’re covering crime and you catch a cop doing something wrong, you might get a call from someone accusing you of being biased or not getting the whole story. But in Hollywood, you get angry, berating calls from people saying things like, “How could you? I thought you were a friend.”

It’s a very different perception of what a journalistic relationship is and entails. It’s a different kind of scary, in other words.

Which do you like better?

Maria Elena Fernandez, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jay Croft, Los Angeles times, MSNBC, Daily Beast, crime, Atlanta, Hollywood, show business, journalism, newspapers, reporters, online

Con mi amiga, Maria Elena Fernandez, on Venice Beach a couple of years ago.

I like them both because they bring out different sides of my personality. I love news, I love to cover things that matter, and when I was covering crime, I very rarely felt I was writing something trivial. I enjoy covering  entertainment the most when I’m writing about something in the zeitgeist. People take their pop culture interests seriously and it’s always really fun when you have the inside scoop on people’s favorite movies, TV shows, actors.

I never get tired of talking to the writers and producers behind shows and movies. They are the real geniuses to me. I love the way their minds work. But the way Hollywood operates can be really draining. On those days I miss running around communities and talking to people who don’t necessarily want to be famous.

Now, put it all together, like when life handed me the “Desperate Housewives” trial (when Nicollette Sheridan sued over losing her role) and I am in heaven. Big show, big stars, big drama unfolding in a courtroom. It was a rare, open, behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood. I always tell people who love stories: Hang out in a courtroom.

That’s for sure! People always ask me if I miss the old newspaper days. I don’t. Do you?

I miss the time I used to be able to spend reporting a story. It literally feels like a luxury to think back now to the days when a crime happened late at night, and I’d spend the next 12 hours figuring it out before I wrote a word. In today’s Digital Age, that’s a lifetime. Now you confirm something’s happened and a few sentences are up on a site in a flash.

Cuban-mapWhere did you get your passion for telling stories?

My grandmother was my best friend when I was a kid. We went on long walks every afternoon and she’d tell me all kinds of stories about her life in Cuba. When I couldn’t sleep at night, she’d tell me more. She never even finished elementary school, but she was gifted. She made me love words, the way they sound together. She was hilarious. Her favorite words were all curse words! My father, too, played a big part. He taught himself English reading the newspaper and made me fall in love with newspapers at an early age. He always used to tell me if you want to write, you must read. He was so right.

As a reader, do you like print or digital?

I still love to hold a book in my hands, but I can’t remember when the last time I actually touched a newspaper. And I can’t live without with my iPad.

Joe Manganiello, Maria Elena Fernandez, True Blood, Emmy Awards, Emmys, LA Times, reporter, MSNBC

With Joe Manganiello at the Emmys

A little Hollywood dish, please? Who are the most gorgeous stars you’ve met? I was so jealous when you met Alcide from “True Blood.”  The smartest? Funniest? A behind-the-scenes moment, something like that?

There have been some grand moments, like riding horses with William Shatner. As a big fan of “24,” meeting Kiefer Sutherland and watching him go from aggro Jack Bauer to soft-spoken and grateful off-camera is a pretty cool way to spend a workday. Also:  spending the day at James Spader’s favorite sculpture garden or getting make-up tips from the stunning RuPaul. Come on! When a short interview over coffee turns into a three-hour lunch just because you’re having a blast with a very funny person like Sofia Vergara, the job is a joy. Antonio Banderas re-enacted a scene from “Puss in Boots” for me during an interview, and my heart was won!  Lunch with the entire cast of “Big Bang Theory” was also really memorable. It was early in the run of the show–before it was the big hit it was today. It’s great when you meet people under those circumstances and later see that success doesn’t change who they are essentially. That is rare. Chris Colfer, America Ferrera are people I’d count in that short list, too. And, of course, the almighty Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. And I would be crazy not to include one of the best days ever: a one-hour interview with Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray about a year before Hagman died. That one was for the ages.

We have so much film and TV production here in Atlanta. Any chance you’ll come back and cover something going on here?

Oh yeah! I would love to. Atlanta is home to the biggest show on TV. I need to get over there and interview some zombies!

Follow Maria Elena Fernandez on Twitter @writerchica and me at @JayCroft


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How Jackie Onassis and a Hopeful Author Helped Me Find a New Career

jackie onassis, martha stewart, books, editor, doubleday, viking, careers, reinvention, new career, how to find a new career, Chapter 2, Plan B

Jackie Onassis in her book-editor years

One day when Jackie Onassis was a book editor at Doubleday in the 1970s, her assistant came into her office and said, “Mrs. Onassis, your next appointment is here.”

Jackie slowly looked up and breathily asked, “And what does this one want to write a book about?”

“She wants to educate people about how to host dinner parties, make nice invitations, entertain properly in the home – that kind of thing,” the assistant said.

Jackie didn’t blink. “But doesn’t everyone already know how to do that?” she said, as the assistant brought in … Martha Stewart.

Cute story, right?

Well, it helped change my life a few years ago, when I realized I needed a Plan B, like the folks I blogged about Monday.

I had decided to leave the newspaper industry. It was showing signs of the disaster that soon followed and, somehow, I saw the “iceberg dead ahead” a bit before many of my colleagues and started looking for a life raft (way too much of a scramble to be called Plan B).

But when I began looking for another way to make a living, I was overwhelmed by bizspeak about “skill sets” and “project management” and “holistically synergizing teams and assets” — or whatever.

One night with a friend, I was complaining – whining, maybe – that my skills as a writer, editor and manager were not transferable outside of a newsroom.

“You think just because you can write well that everybody can write well,” he said. “Is that what all you newspaper people think – that you don’t know how to do anything special? Every day, you lead meetings and send out reporters to cover the news, and then you make a hundred business decisions about the product your company sells.”

Martha Stewart, jackie onassis, books, new career, reinvention, chapter 2, plan b, how to jump-start your career

Hey, girl.

That’s when my friend smiled and shook his head and told me the story about Jackie and Martha.

And then I understood. Maybe my skills and experience were, indeed, special. Maybe I could be of use to a different kind of organization.

Armed with this fresh perspective, I continued networking and eventually found a new place to work in corporate communications, where I felt appreciated and was nurtured in my transition into the business world, so different from the frat-house culture of newsrooms.

I tell that story a lot when I hear people with career troubles in any industry. Hang in there. Forget the nonsense you were told. Not everybody knows how to do what you do.

Thanks, Jackie. And Martha.


 

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MY OWN VERSION:  How Jackie Onassis helped me write my own Chapter 2…

Chapter 2, Second Act, Plan B, how to start a new career, re-invention, re-create yourself, re-invent yourself, madonna, fitzgerald

The author of “The Great Gatsby”

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “There are no second acts in American lives.”

But I never believed him.

And now, in the years after the Internet revolution the economic recession, we have proof all around us — so many Americans having to reinvent themselves to keep their careers going, find a new one or just make a living.

This topic of re-creating yourself has been on my mind a lot lately, whether you call it a second act, a Plan B or self-invention. If we all write the story of our lives, then sometimes we have to turn a page, right?

Russ Kendall, a photojournalist of many years, left newspapers 18 months ago to run a pizza restaurant in Washington State. Russ and I worked together in Alaska in the early ‘90s. I left the business seven years ago. Since then, more than 54,000 jobs have been lost in the industry.

Chapter 2, Second Act, Plan B, how to start a new career, re-invention, re-create yourself, re-invent yourself, madonna, fitzgerald, russ kendall, gusto's pizza

Russ Kendall of Gusto Wood Fired Pizza in Bellingham, Wash.

This summer, Russ started a Facebook group for ex-newspaper people, or those who might soon be ex-newspaper people. He calls it What’s Your Plan B and it has 1,300 members. Many have shared their stories of despair and inspiration.

“This group is designed not so much to share the horror stories we all have but more to help each other to move forward with a successful Plan B,” Russ says.

Newspaper guru Jim Romenesko wrote a nice little piece about it here. He shared this: Most of the posts are serious, but I laughed at this one: “Um.. Photojournalism WAS my plan B. Plan A was to own a video rental store.”

Not just journalists

Chapter 2, Second Act, Plan B, how to start a new career, re-invention, re-create yourself, re-invent yourself, madonna, fitzgerald

The mother of reinvention, Madonna, had other ideas. Here’s the poster from her Re-Invention Tour.

Every day on Facebook, I see other former journalists going to law school or getting MBAs. But it’s not just the news business that got the rug pulled out from under it. And some people choose to change their lives for reasons that are more personal than the struggles of an industry alone.

  • I know a doctor who left his practice, went back to school in his 50s to get another advanced degree – and then changed cities and career focus. He’s still a doctor, but in an entirely different field. He wanted to make a big change for the remaining chapters of his career and took empowering, successful steps to do it.
  • He and I were having dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Atlanta recently. The waiter, clearly 40-ish, joked that he was a college sophomore, so we asked him about that. He said he’s going to nursing school so he can help people and have a new, more rewarding career.
  • Another friend used to be a high-flying chef in New York City, back when he was wild and single. Now a happily married dad of three in an Atlanta suburb, he runs a family travel business with his wife. Side jobs cooking and teaching give him an outlet for his passion and skill in the kitchen.
  • And just Friday night, I went to a wedding reception. The couple had asked a friend, an IT professional of 30 years, to prepare his gourmet cupcakes. He’s testing the waters for a new chapter of his own. (I told him he had to do it – the cupcakes were that good.)

Plenty of articles, resources

Chapter 2, Second Act, Plan B, how to start a new career, re-invention, re-create yourself, re-invent yourself, madonna, fitzgerald

From Psychology Today

There are many good articles and online resources for anyone wanting to write their own Act 2. Here are a few:

  • “Major life changes are never easy, because your instincts and the urgent matters of the day work against you. But when you learn to focus on your future self, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve,” says a Psychology Today article.
  • From The Harvard Business Review: How to Reinvent Yourself After 50.
  • From techcrunch.com: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Reinventing Yourself.
  • “Are you serious about transformation? I’m not talking about polishing yourself, improving yourself, making things a bit better. I’m talking about the reset button—a reinvention that changes the game. That means an overhaul in what you believe and how you do your job. If you’re up for that, then right here, right now, you can start. How? Do work that matters.” From a success.com piece headlined Ways to Reinvent Yourself.
  • From More magazine: 10 Things to Know Before You Change Your Life.
  • From Forbes: Five Steps to Reinventing Yourself Professionally.

Share your experiences through the link at the top.


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They Found Their Voices: Photos from Atlanta’s Powerful Center for Civil and Human Rights

“My friends, find your voice.”

Center for Civil and Human Rights, CCHR, Martin Luther King, MLK, Atlanta, museum, civil rights, John Lewis, Edmund Pettis Bridge, George Wallace, segregation, March on Washington

His eyes seeing; hers shut in prayer… A child watches a giant-screen presentation about the March on Washington. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

My head was spinning just moments into my tour of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the newest jewel in downtown Atlanta’s crown of attractions and in its history as a mecca of the struggle for equality.

So much comes at you, right from the start. TV news images of racists like former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox saying the most hateful, ignorant, awful statements, the noise from several of the broadcasts competing in a cacophony of hate … Bull Connor’s office door… a bus covered in photos of Freedom Riders… a replica of a lunch counter that lets you hear and feel a sample of what it might’ve been like… those infamous film clips of hoses being turned on citizens… On and on…

Then the March on Washington and I Have a Dream, in a big room of white… followed by the Four Little Girls, LBJ, and then Martin Luther King’s assassination…

It’s so much that by the time I reached the end, when images were flashing on giant panels depicting civil rights struggles by women, gays, religious minorities and others, I heard a recorded voice say, “My friends, find your voice,” and something clicked.

The fight for what’s right is much bigger and scarier and out-of-control than that, of course. But learning to stand up for yourself and others like you, to use words to form community and share principles, hope and decency… well, it’s hard to imagine any kind of civil rights movement without the voices. All of them and each of them, from King’s magnificence to Rosa Parks’s quietude, from James Brown singing and dancing after King’s murder to the wails of sadness at the funerals, to LBJ’s White House leadership and the Nobel committee’s recognition of King. At the museum, King’s frighteningly powerful speech foreshadowing his death induces chills and gasps still.

Find your voice, indeed.

Click on a photo to make it bigger. Scroll over to see a caption.

 

The Center for Civil and Human Rights, 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., Atlanta, GA, 30313. (678) 999-8990. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days.


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