What I Learned From Quitting My Job With Nothing Lined Up

Call it the ultimate opportunity to reinvent yourself and build new bridges … all you have to is quit your job.

Ready to hand in the resignation letter yet?

Much has changed since leaving a full-time, permanent gig in daily news.

I’ve been knocked down too many times to count.

Still, I didn’t wind up walking away from journalism and remain in the biz (and you don’t have to be a journalist to relate to the joy/terror of not knowing what to do next when the world is yours to conquer).

In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned from being a risk-taker.

  1. When you’re forced to find an income stream, you just might find a few. The key is to give yourself time to generate revenue. Be realistic.
  2. People will not understand why you left without having a new job. Don’t explain a thing. That is all.
  3. Nothing is more frustrating than well-intentioned friends and family sending you job postings. Be gracious and keep grindin’.
  4. Your reputation follows you … everywhere. You’re very much a brand. Behave accordingly.
  5. It’s OK to create something and walk away from it. I started a hyperlocal news site out of sheer frustration and curiosity. People paid attention to a very tiny project and it’s led to multiple job offers, two of which I’ve accepted (simultaneously).
  6. Keep moving. Physically (join a gym, pronto — it’s an excellent place to network and/or learn about yourself when you fall onto your face), emotionally, spiritually. It’s all connected.
  7. Savings will save your sanity. Having money in the bank is what afforded me the chance to do this crazy thing called “up and leave your job without a new start date at another company.” It’s an enormous gamble to walk away from a steady paycheque … having a little financial padding will help you sleep.
  8.  Say yes to meetings. But don’t be afraid to end the chat if you realize it’s not going to result in a positive outcome. (I once accepted a meeting with a man who’d interviewed me for a position a year prior. As soon as I sat down, he began rambling before heading into a sales pitch for a new biz he was starting. I was out of there shortly after. In hindsight, I should’ve asked for an agenda before taking the meeting).
  9. Be selective about who you give your phone number to. I’ve had too many people say “I know a journalist who works for _________. Maybe they can help you.” The reality is, they probably can’t. Get out there and meet people who don’t work in your field (or the one you’ve left behind).
  10. Be proud of yourself for taking the plunge. Maybe it worked out, perhaps it was a disaster (like me on roller skates). Either way, you did it. Most people wouldn’t have.



Cheer and happiness at the lighthouse

There were tassels and pom poms, but no cheerleaders.

A kaleidoscope of yarn bombed the Port Credit lighthouse bridge Wednesday evening.

“We thought it’ll be a colourful way to celebrate Busker Fest in Port Credit and all the things that we love,” said Cheryl Price.

She’s part of a knitting group at the nearby public library.

“They give us cheer and happiness when we see colours,” Price added.

Yarn bombing is a form of graffiti – often traced to a Houston, Texas woman or the Netherlands – celebrating the history of fibre as decoration. Anything from military tankers to bike racks to trash cans are game.

Price said volunteers have been recruited for the installation; inspired by an experiment of sorts last year.

“A group of us met and we actually yarn bombed the bench at the library,” said Susan, who didn’t give her last name. “Mysteriously, our yarn bombing project disappeared.”

They started thinking ahead to 2015, partnering with the Port Credit Business Association and others in the community to create items for display.

Passersby stopped to snap photos or mount a knitted object.

Interlaced or standing alone, each piece has a story.

“There’s a sweater that hasn’t been finished, right? So maybe somebody passed away or they haven’t gotten on to finish their project,” said Price.

Other knitted items include dish cloths and a baby’s blanket.

“Another great friend of mine did this kite over here,” Price said, motioning.

From burlap to cotton-spandex to wool, “it’s just using yarn and fibre in creative ways.”

Busker Fest runs from August 21 to 23. Visit the Port Credit Yarn Bombers for more information.

Punching Bags

Journalism isn’t for suckers. Or crybabies.

The gritty side of owning a press pass is being revealed via the Mike Duffy circus, as the trial continues in tandem with a federal election campaign.

With home page/front page spreads, and news outlets naming reporters who were publicly targeted by supporters of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it’s important to point out journalism is far from glamorous.

Abuse is a daily reality. Like cops or lawyers, there are stereotypes, labels and mistrust; public perception.

You toughen up, fast, when you realize it’s normal to be called a vulture, or your tires are slashed, or someone threatens to kill you, or a person looks you in the eye and says you’re a waste of human skin. (Note: Journalism is incredibly dangerous in many parts of the world, and I applaud, support, and admire these scribes. This post refers to an urban Canadian experience).

I’m curious to know how many of those reporters on the campaign bus got together for drinks yesterday.

The incident brings to mind a 2011 Murder Monday, as I dubbed it, ending at a west Ottawa bar. Worn out from the day’s events (door knocking, being cursed out and repeatedly accused of blackmail, not having time to eat, Ottawa’s winter, wet socks,) I badly wanted to chug a gin and tonic* yet didn’t want to go home and drink alone. So I entertained two guys at the bar (one of whom I’m now connected with on social media).

He waxed lyrical about his divorce, and his son’s mad hockey skills. I countered with victims of crime and how I wasn’t trying to paint a bad picture of the person killed.

Womp, womp.

Not quite as sexy a job as you think. Hate mail, racist comments, sexist comments, sexual innuendo, social media trolls are part of the daily grind. It’s rare to see it aired on the nightly news.

Another time, I was following a tip about a charity being defrauded. Given the nature of our media outlet, in that there was really no time for investigative work, I convinced an editor to let me go look. The payoff? Being threatened by a biker, and I do mean the Hells Angels type, not a beret-baguette-basket cyclist.

Oh, how I miss the newsroom.


*Tonic water, I’ve since learned, has too much sugar (around 20 grams per can). I now sip vodka/soda. 

Sunday Funday/Run Day

Local Run with Hart
July 29 / 10:16 PM – Runner friend, M, texts a screenshot of comedian Kevin Hart’s “impromptu” 5K and urges me to commit.

Immediately tempted to decline. Since it’s the Summer of Yes, slept on it and replied the next morning.

Run with Hart 2

Ensuing panic; the last organized run I’d participated in was probably around 2004. Anyway, here’s a recap.

Run With Hart at 8:04/Sunday morning.

5:30 – alarm goes off

6:30 – M texts to see if I’ve chickened out

Run with Hart 3

6:40 – chilly breeze comes in the front door

6:42 – text M to ask if it’s best to rock a sleeveless or long-sleeved shirt? (Sleeveless…duh)

7:04 – head out

7:24 – miss the turn and end up tailing a Toronto Police cruiser. The officer stares me down as I follow him into a tiny area to pop a U-turn. I smile, indicate left, and pray he doesn’t pull me over. Victory before the run begins/registration is complete!

7:30 – parking across the street and waiting in line to pay the machine $14

7:33 – M calls to ask where to park

7:40 – registration complete. We meet M’s bestie, N, and crazy fit (and fun) running group friends

7:43 – swag: a white Run With Hart T-shirt

Coaches warm up the crowd…THEN…

Run with Hart 5

Run with Hart 4

Kevin Hart pumps up the crowd and takes photos with his back turned to us

8:20 – start running (route: Martin Goodman Trail. Mostly flat, minus the Ontario Place hill)

8:24 – want to stop. Keep going. Running partner, N, graciously offers to pause whenever I need a break (M is way up front with fellow speedster, S, and bypasses Hart (!!!), we later learn)

8:25 – seriously, want to stop but keep going

8:36 – will anyone notice if I “fall back” or “re-tie these laces…I’ll catch up?”

8:58 – tell running partner, N, it’s time to “drop the hammer” and sprint for the finish line

8:59 – high fives galore. This running community is uber supportive and happy-go-lucky

9:00 – mission complete. Immediately given more swag: Black Nike Run Club towel

9:02 – beeline for the bathroom – not to vomit – but to wipe off and rinse face

9:07 – snack time: banana, Kind bars (the dark chocolate sea salt was incredible), water, and the shirtless, bearded dude with abs-on-abs-on-abs, with whom ladies are lining up to snap photos

M photographs me with Mr. Abs, while Hart addresses the crowd and poses with them again to feed the Insta beast

The event was sponsored by Nike, and they sure as heck know how put on a clinic. Yes, it was a ‘free’ run (with no registration fees), but it was also an optimal marketing opportunity. Inspired to download the Nike+ app and train … well done, capitalism.

10 Signs You’re Still A Journalist

1. You interview everyone … even when they’re technically interviewing you. For a job. And you think it’s normal to go into said interview with four pages of questions.

2. A high-profile politician and her advisors sit next to you at a coffee shop, and you’re THIS CLOSE to pulling out your digital voice recorder and rolling.

3. When it’s election night, anywhere in the world, you get a tingling sensation and crave pizza.

4. You curse excessively when chatting with first responders, then feel the need to disclose your expired press credentials.

5. You make mental edits when reading the newspaper, while grumbling about the buried lede.

6. Slowing down, and realizing you don’t have to pull over to cover that fatal crash/protest/crime scene…but you kind of want to.

7. Meeting a journalism student fills you with joy and pain.

8. Your friends/family watch the evening news. You’re evaluating the lineup, reporter’s stand-ups, and quality of the anchor’s intros.

9. You proudly tell people you only use Facebook to look up murder victims and pedophiles alleged pedophiles.

10. You’d rather be a barista than go into PR.

Why a Reporter Isn’t Replying to Your Story Pitch & How to Get an Answer

Picture 1

You, savvy, charming PR person, connected with a journalist, casually mentioning a prime upcoming event/launch/photo opportunity.

Journo agreed to cover it, asking you to send details.

Send, you did. You haven’t heard back. You follow up. No reply.

Key point: Reporters (generally) don’t assign themselves. Editors or producers decide what they’re filing on any given day.

Following up again, your efforts are either forgotten, ignored, or blown off.

What’s up with that?

Don’t they know how hard you worked, coming up with such witty, irresistible, not-too-pushy banter?

Chances are, it’s one of three things.

1. Journo is buried in e-mail/texts/calls/lookaheads, plus assignments galore. Cameras freeze, batteries die, the competition tweets a scoop … Your pitch may have been forgotten, or ‘snoozed’ to a later date.

2. Journo pitched the story to an editor or producer, who immediately dismissed/denied/shut down the notion of covering your prime upcoming event/launch/photo opportunity. Journo may not want to acknowledge the reality of being a peon, thus burying his/her head in the sand.

3. Journo knows your prime upcoming event/launch/photo opportunity is a bust, and/or wouldn’t be covered by their media outlet, and didn’t want to hurt your feelings. It’s akin to ending a date with “I’ll call you.”

Here’s betting it’s Number Two.

As you might already know, reporters don’t run the show in a newsroom.

They’re. At. The. Bottom. Of. The. Totem. Pole.

Let’s get supremely specific. Reporters, well, report to editors and producers. All are categorized as journalists.

Now you know why, so forget about the reporter.

Here’s how you’ll follow up: Contact the assignment editor. Phone – don’t email – the newsroom’s city desk and mention the reporter’s name. “I met Journo at ________ event … by the way, thank you for coming to that. It really helped us get the message out. Anyway, I wanted to follow up and see if there’s any chance you’ll be able to cover our _________.”

(Everyone likes being appreciated. Journalists are rarely thanked).

Assignment editors are simultaneously juggling 86.5 things, so you’ll probably have an answer on the spot. It could be a hasty ‘no’, but rejection is better than being tuned out, isn’t it?

Try this, and let me know how it goes.


5 Neurotic Things Journalists Do

1. Incessantly brag about their “sources” to friends, the person in front of them at the grocery store, family, the woman on the adjacent treadmill, and naturally, other reporters.

2. Complain about being exhausted, yet refuse to decompress.

3. Include “coffee” and/or “runner” in their Twitter bio.

4. Store a year’s supply of condiments in their cars/desks.

5. Hang out with journalists to “not talk about work”

BONUS: Use police 10 codes and/or reply to texts/emails with “10-4” or “Roger”

What I Told PR Students, In 100 Words Or Less

Picture 8

A common newsroom rant often begins, “One day, when I get the chance to tell PR students…”

Kidding. There would be at least four f-bombs, interlaced with less offensive profanity, if that quote were to run.

Anyway, I was recently given the opportunity to speak to a class at Durham College*.

Talking points on winning with journalists:

1. Anticipate needs

2. Answer/acknowledge a media request, even if you have no information to relay

3. If you can’t deliver by deadline, TELL US

*Random names on the blackboard were shouting out PR all-stars, Brad Ross (Toronto Transit Commission) and Bob Nichols (Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation).