About

I escaped the newsroom, but I still write for a living — just now with state health benefits and a retirement plan! I’m a pretty lucky girl.

This is a place for the stuff that won’t fit into the confines of my day job or my freelance assignments, and certainly not into 140 characters, but that I still want to share. What’s with “Sticky Valentines,” you ask? It’s the strangest phrase in the Elvis Costello song for which I’m named, obviously.

27 thoughts on “About

  1. Heartbreaking to read your piece about leaving newspapers. I was at the Boston Globe for 30 years — riding the golden age of the biz — and took a buyout in 2005, the time you were getting into the career. “There but for fortune go you or I,” as I recall Phil Ochs singing. All the best to you.
    Steve Morse

  2. I worked in news– print, broadcast and national news magazines– for 32 years, and I watched my beloved field being chipped away every day. Like you, I now work in public relations for a state agency. However, I still miss news every single day of my life. I wish you could have had more years to enjoy it.

  3. I have been stuck in the mud at various daily newspapers in Ohio, WV and Kentucky for 16 years. I’m 39, married to a woman who is in the business as well and have two kids. We literally can’t pay all our bills each month. I felt panic in reading your post about leaving journalism. Why panic? Because I have felt those same emotions. Call it a slight form of PTSD maybe? Sadly, I work at a paper now where the reporters nor editors don’t care about the product. The pay is so little, why should they care? I haven’t seen a good piece of local enterprise journalism in a good decade.

    Don’t have kids unless you’re absolutely sure of your job’s safety. That bit me in the butt in 2009 when I was “downsized” from a mid-sized daily in WV.

    I am envious of you. Good job in getting out. It’s not the dark side, it’s the safe side. Hopefully I’ll find my way out soon.

  4. Love your writing. But I’m replying because I’m a big Costello fan and always thought it said ‘others fickle valentines’. Which aside from being grammatically flawed, didn’t make sense in context .
    Thanks for finally setting me right!

  5. As a friend from the Globe & Mail said, had I known I was living in the Golden Age of Journalism a decade ago, I wouldn’t have complained so much. I’m 30 years in the biz with the same newspaper including stops in NYC, Washington and Beijing. Alas, you are spot on.

  6. Did you tear out a page from my journal and post it online without attributing it to me?
    Seriously, I appreciate your post. Breaking up with journalism was one of the toughest decisions of my life. Sometimes, I dig out that box of yellowed clips and wonder who it’s dating now?
    I do believe the craft will survive. I like to imagine the newsroom hitting rock bottom, then clawing its way back like a phoenix rising. I may be standing on the sidelines, but I will cheer it on.

  7. The sadness of her situation comes through. I feel for her, our industry & us. Glad she made it into a good place … & that I’m “aging out” of “the business” & not just starting out. Man, what a difference from 1974. Maybe there’s hope among the retired & former journalists & a nonprofit model, ’cause the current arrangement is a loser! Can we say “online regional, nonprofit news co-ops,” friends?

  8. I came across this post and your blog via Media Bistro. Glad I did! I actually work on the “dark side” (PR) but I lament every good journalist that leaves and every newspaper that folds. Reporting is just not what it used to be – making it hard for real stories to get told. But I can’t blame people like you for moving on when the papers themselves are such a mess. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Hello Alison,
    Have now been in journalism for more than 40 years and so found myself very deeply moved by what you said about the deterioraiton of genuine journalism, line by line enforcing and confirming what I have felt for so many years in Canada and especially the US. Heartbreaking and tragic and horrifyingly bad for society at large in the Western Hemisphere. But please don’t subscribe in any way to the thought that you’ve gone to “the dark side”. Not all PR is the same and working for a non-profit in the health field is not the same as going into political, big-industry and government-agency PR on behalf of the big names and players in those fields. Believe me, I’ve seen a lot of that, simply for the money, working against all the principles that have resonated in me – and obviously you – since going into journalism. And yes, I was fortunate enough to come from a well-enough-heeled family that I didn’t have to worry about making much money and could still go after all those good and juicy stories with only fairly minimal holidays and an eventual elimation of all oveertime pay. Sadly, as you say, the powers-that-be in papers downgraded their standards of reporting to the level of so much of what comes out of the tweeters and bloggers. So eventually, in 1998, after 21 years aso a very active and investigative reporter on the natural-resources industries and federal and provincial politics beat here in Campbell River, BC, in west-coast Canada, I was laid off. Eventually I was blessed to find myself working big-time doing numerous stories for a couple of aquaculture trade magazines about and for the aquaculture industry but not owned, run or directed by the industry. Great stuff, because it allowed me to keep my journalistic independence, which I still cherish. I also continue(d) some harder-news reporting for a wire service or two. Sadly, on the other side I have seen huge numbers of journalists sucked away into the real “dark side” and that includes politics (Big P); and well-based journalism, including to do with the environmental and personal-health movements, plummet into the ground. And even the big-time editors of mass media don’t seem to care anymore if what they publish is true or just regurgitated propaganda designed to scare and make money from the public. Instead there is gossipy entertainerism and hero-worship for money and movie stars, sports figures and so-called celebs, which supplants where the real journalism needs to be. Good luck in hanging in with the non-profits in order to make a biot of money. But real, true journalism and breaking new and exclusive news is still where life really is!

    Quentin Dodd, freelance/reporter

  10. Darling Young Woman…My eldest son emailed me a link to your blog piece on Why I Left The News. In his email he wrote: “Want to read your response….”

    I am the son of a newspapering man. As was my Dad. As a little fellow, I never wanted to be a cop or a fireman or a Coca Cola truck driver. I wanted to be a newspapering man.

    Which I became. If you’d like to read more about my ink-stained odyssey, you can find it at mikeengleman.com.

    As a 74-year-old retired, widowed, former newspaperman who has written for money all of his life (until recently), I can assure you of this: There. Is. Life. After. Newspaper.

    Although I am retired, I continue to write. Every day. I now write fiction, not so much for the money it generates for me, but for the joyous thrill I feel each morning when I rush from the bed to my trusty Mac keyboard.

    And, ahem, I suppose I should also mention that the only thing I know how to do is type.

    My business card identifies me as a Writer, Optimist, Dreamer, Renegade and imparts this bit of wisdom: “Writing is not a talent. It is an affliction.”

    You left the news business when working for love became defeating. And you are mad and sorrowful because of it.

    Well, gee. Hate to tell you, darling girl, but yours is not a new story.

    See, it’s the ad guys who generate the revenue, so they get paid the most money. Except for, of course, the managers who run the business (and, child, newspapering is—and always has been—a business). Then there are the dregs who fill the news hole. They generate no revenue. They are expense items. And, as any businessman knows, the good manager minimizes expenses.

    I am writing to tell you this: Based on what I’ve read on your site, you write well. Which doesn’t merely mean that you handle words well. It also means (more importantly) that you think well. And you do it with obvious passion.

    I have observed that thinking well and approaching life with passion are the two keys to any successful career in any endeavor.

    So, use those two qualities, think outside of the box and do not settle for state health insurance benefits and a retirement plan. You’re too damn young to settle. Get out there on the ocean, catch the trade winds of life and do not stop until you can land on the shore at that place of your dreams.

    Mike Engleman
    Dallas, Texas

  11. Alison,
    Thank you for expressing what has been turning over in my mind and heart for the past several months.
    I am a just-turned-30 editor-in-chief at a community newspaper who has been in love with working on publications since I was about 15 years old. Ever since, I’ve known I was also “meant to do this.”
    But I, too, am leaving my treasured position as a journalist to venture away from the only job description that’s ever felt right. Within two months, I’ll be gone, waving goodbye to what was once a satisfying (and still an ego-pleasing) role in the community.
    I also love telling people what I do, not just because of the reaction it gets, but because I think there’s something very noble about the job. Unfortunately, at some point that isn’t enough to keep running myself so ragged.
    I don’t share all your pessimism about the state of news today. In fact, I think smaller, community-oriented journalism still has the chance, because there will always be the need for people like you to tell stories about the things that matter, from corruption at City Hall to the 103-year-old lady who found a giant lemon on her tree.
    Maybe it’s a fool’s hope — but I still have it. Just not for myself, right now, in this profession.
    It’s comforting to know there’s someone else out there my age, with a passion for journalism, who feels the same burnout.
    I’ve come to think that the profession is like the One Ring — wear it long enough, and it will eventually consume you. Even the people around me can see it — it was my wife who sent your “Why I Left” post to me, along with the loving message “You are not alone.”
    I admire your courage and hope you do well in the newest chapter of your life, and maybe even find your way back one day to your first love. I know full well how wrenching your decision must have been — to me, it feels like leaving a part of my heart behind. And it has taken a long, long time to reach this decision.
    But I am convinced it is the healthiest thing to do right now, and I hope the future bears out that thought.
    In that vein, I’ll share the words that give me hope the future will turn out all right, and that this is really just another step in a grand adventure:
    “It’s a magical world. … Go exploring.”

  12. What a beautiful true piece, heartbreaking that a person of your talent can’t make a decent wage. When I started in the 1970’s. newspapers were a way for people like me– from blue collar backgrounds– to rise from the working class to the professional class. A few years ago I was having breakfast with a really talented young reporter and she said to me, working for a newspaper was a fling she could do for a few years and then she’d have to get a real job. A lot of this is about the death of the powerhouse regional papers– like the Miami Herald and Louisville Courier-Journal, both places I worked that were flourishing then. I fear none of this says bodes well for democracy, which relies on an informed public. Thanks for writing this, though I’m sorry you had to.. Mike Winerip

  13. I too enjoyed your piece very much. I’m also an old hand, but interested in starting a new project – I’m working on developing a media platform that covers social innovation. I’ve been talking to students and young people about getting it right and getting them involved. Would you like to talk?
    mary@radiopensource.org

  14. My blog entry’s a hit? | Michelle Moriarity Witt

  15. Your post about leaving the news hit me hard. I am a college-aged student who has such an intense passion for journalsm. As someone commented already, “All I really know how to do is type.” That’s true. I know how to interview and write and type and put stories together in a matter of a few minutes and I love it. The adrenaline rush gets me going and I feel important and I feel like I am doing such great things.

    But I know this won’t last. And it’s something I have been thinking about for a while. Everyone keeps telling me and warning me against print journalism, and I don’t want to listen to them because then I am just giving in. But what I am realizing is that I am not giving into society, I am giving into the wear and tear before it starts. I can’t live like that, and I don’t want to. I want to write and I love to write, but I cannot do it in the conditions of today’s papers. I really can’t. And it’s hard to say that and make that decision after being a part of award winning staffs throughout high school and having positions on papers in college.

    I am afraid of this decision, but I know it’s the right one. Hardest decision I’ve ever made.

  16. If you are in India then do let me know.. Maybe we will catch up and I will update on the Indian media..

  17. Nobody sympathizes with your “Why I left news” post more than I do. As a decade-plus-in-the-business sports writer, oftentimes I wonder why I subject myself to such a career.

    As you referenced, it’s easy to get introduced as a sports writer at cocktail parties and instantly grab people’s attention. But is that truly worth it? Yes, there is an addictive nature to seeing your name on a byline, hearing your own voice on the radio, seeing your own face on television, etc. I look forward to that, every time. However, so little money. So many hours. So little free time. So much criticism. My honeymoon was borderline ruined because the team I covered pulled off the biggest offseason trade in franchise history while I was gone. My regular readers were nearly suicidal during my absence. All I wanted was to get back home and contribute my two cents. That was more important than another day or two with The Mrs. in Aruba. What’s wrong with me?

    I’ve been looking for an exit strategy for quite some time, yet I still find myself looking around here and there for writing jobs at bigger outfits — you know, to have an even more impressive byline. I think I need to go cold turkey just like you and be done with it once and for all. Something tells me I wouldn’t miss it very much. Even if people were less impressed with me at cocktail parties.

  18. I found your blog via someone sharing your now infamous “Why I left news” posting with a former TV journalist… I really like your writing and story telling and be looking forward to your past posts and future posts.

    Mike (a Diet Coke-fueled city government reporter)

  19. Thank you for your blog about why you left the news. I’m working as a young mmj at a cbs station but just hate it every single day. Looking to leave sooner than later. It helped me confirm that I’m not crazy, just burned out with all the crazy.

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