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Ten Years of Blogging at Oberjuerge.com

March 10th, 2018 · 5 Comments · Abu Dhabi, Beijing Olympics, France, Hong Kong, Journalism, LANG, Newspapers, Olympics, Paris, Sports Journalism, The National, The Sun, UAE

This blog commenced on March 10, 2008. Ten years ago today.

It was four days after I had been fired by the Los Angeles News Group, and I wanted to let co-workers and other journalists know what had happened, with as many specifics as I could recall pertaining to the (then mostly novel) concept of being booted out of the newsroom.

It was a Thursday, around lunch, that I got a call …

I went back and read that post, 10 years hence, and I am struck by a few things.

Oh, and before I get to that … I have made a point of publishing at least one blog post per day for those 10 years.

I may be one or two days short of 10 years  — 120 months; 520 weeks; 3,653 days, counting three February 29ths — without interruption; I took down a post a few months ago that  I decided was too harsh, and maybe I missed one or two. But I am well over 3,653 posts, because in the early days I often blogged several times a day.

Going forward, however, I will not feel an obligation to file every day. I’m guessing I still will, now and then, but not like the past 10 years — when I was often (often) oppressed by the notion that “I have not blogged yet.” It seemed important to me, forcing myself to write every day, as I had done for the previous three decades.

And it takes a surprising (still, to me) amount of time even to blog-not-very-well, which many of you will have noticed.

So, October 10, 2008, from the perspective of 3,653 days ago:

–The biggest misconception in the first post is my apparent conviction that I was fired as part of a momentary downturn in print journalism.

We all now know that March of 2008 was a key moment in the Great Recession that brought down banks. It was not just a tricky moment for print, it was the departure point for worldwide economic dislocation– the worst downturn since the Great Depression, eight decades before.

But … of the legions of people fired, in 2008 and 2009, a disproportionate number of them were print journalists. Because our industry was collapsing, as readers abandoned print for the worldwide web. Ten years later many great newspapers have been humbled or gone out of business, and tens of thousands of veteran journalists have been forced out of their jobs, abandoned by their chosen field of endeavor. Other industries bounced back; print did not.

–The play by play of the firing is perhaps useful, particularly when seen from the vantage point of editors/publishers/HR people. Firing newspaper people in industrial quantities was not something print was not quite doing yet, and this was how they did it when they were dealing with a handful of people.

They allowed me to stay in the building all day, and to move a bunch of files. Not that it hurt the company; it was just a bit slipshod. A year later, I’m sure, firings were far better organized, with a security guard escorting people out of the office fairly promptly. All that.

–I may have overstated the animus I thought the editor felt for me. It might mostly have been about a well-paid middle-aged guy (me) who seemed like a luxury and getting him off the books. Then again, probably not; I had been called in semi-recently by the editor for saying something seditious about a decline in prep coverage.

–I said, 10 years ago today, I was not surprised. But, really, I was. I was not surprised that it could happen, but I thought it was somewhere down the road. Also, a week before, the L.A. Daily News had laid off a couple of people, and I remember thinking, while sitting in the Riviera golf course media room, “ah, that’s too bad for them.” Thinking back, though, I know I had decided getting fired was for someone else. Also, I had too often heard I was “the face of the newspaper” and some of that bunk had sunk in. Over the next decade, a lot of “newspaper faces” ended up unemployed.

–Then there was this, as a reason to get me out of the newsroom, and this is what I wrote, 10 years ago:

“I had reached a point where I routinely was embarrassed by the product I worked for, and if you find yourself feeling that way, maybe it’s time to go. I had been there when The Sun was a good little paper, and it was hard for me to watch it slide into nothingness.”

I think that condemnation probably was oozing out of my pores, by March 6, 2008.

–I asked the editor what he would recommend I do next. He said, “Create your own local sports network,” or something like that — which actually was not a bad idea at all. If I were ready to hustle, I perhaps could have found some financial backing to write Inland Empire-area sports every day for the next 10 years, posting it all online, rather like this blog. I might have made some money; this blog has earned me something like $50 in a decade.

–I did not say it back then, the first day of the blog, but I have written it a dozen times since:

Getting fired when I did was actually a big break for me and led to a what seems to have been a more interesting final decade of my career.

I was fired early enough in 2008 that I was able to do some free-lancing for The New York Times — which at that moment had not yet been overrun by desperate veterans looking for something to do. They published four or five stories from me on the men’s national soccer team (I covered a World Cup qualifying away game in El Salvador) and a few feature pieces on Nascar — with story ideas from former colleague Nate Ryan.

I also was able to get to the Beijing Olympics, that summer, because U.S. credentials were going begging, as was housing, and I had already been credentialed. I did more free-lancing, from Beijing — and a lot of blogging on this site. Certainly, too, it was a very important Olympics.

Those NYT bylines perhaps were key in getting hired as a four-month temporary copy editor in the Hong Kong offices of the (NYT-operated) International Herald Tribune, from October of 2008 through January of 2009. Just being in HK was a great experience. I offered to stay on, but they were not interested. Another break. (Wait for it.)

By August of 2009, our financial situation was getting … oh, a bit, interesting, and jobs were not to be had for guys in their 50s, and one day it struck me: “We can do nothing in Paris as well as we can do it in Long Beach.” And we swapped apartments with a Paris friend, and did  Paris things.

Then another turning point: A door-key-handover meeting with the friend of our friend, in the latter’s apartment. This other woman was working as a journalism instructor at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. As we talked that afternoon, over several bottles of rose, our new friend said, “You should apply to the newspaper there! It’s new and people you know work there!” Which led to The National in the UAE capital, and a mountain of gee-whiz, Middle East blog topics, as well as pretty good salaries with a lot of perks. We were in Abu Dhabi for six-plus years, and eventually I was sports editor again, and it turned around our financial situation, leading to retirement at the end of 2015, and the move to France.

So. The firing, an incident which seemed so disorienting, even disastrous, financially, turned out more than OK. I thought I would be a lifer in San Bernardino; I was fortunate that I was not.

And the world has gotten 10 years of this blog. For better or worse!

(An unexpected benefit? I often blogged about our travel, and if I want to go back and check on how we felt about an Africa game reserve or Sri Lanka or Thailand or Istanbul … it is here.)

This is not the end. But don’t expect a one-a-day regimen, from this point forward. That was more work than I am ready to take on, in 2018.

Cheers, and thanks!

 

 

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Albert // Mar 13, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Your blog will continue to be a site I visit, I guess just not daily anymore. Cheers PaulO!

  • 2 Chris Runnels // Mar 14, 2018 at 5:20 am

    I started reading The Sun regularly as a teen in the late 80’s. Your column was always a highlight, whether in Sports or the brief time in Metro. I thank you for all the years of entertaining storytelling and reporting.
    I found this blog about a year after you left the Sun. I’ve found your life adventures fascinating and inspiring.
    Thanks for everything.

  • 3 Nate Ryan // Mar 16, 2018 at 5:50 am

    Rereading the comments from that first post, I’m glad some of what I’d hoped for (continued, and perhaps greater, exposure of your sublime writing to the world on a regular basis, including at many newspapers bigger than the one you’d left) did come true.

    Also glad that you are giving yourself a break from the daily grind, even if my weekly visits to binge on your highly readable posts won’t be quite as nourishing. You’ve earned it!

    Cheers,
    Nate

  • 4 Ben Bolch // Mar 17, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Thanks for taking us along on your wild ride. Have thoroughly enjoyed reading about all of it, especially the slice-of-life posts from your many exotic locales. Glad things have worked out so well for you. One door closes, another opens, often to more enticing possibilities.

  • 5 Steve Dilbeck // May 10, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    Quitter.

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