Sunday, July 18, 2010

That's 23 x 2, in journalism years

Seriously? I think we are going to need a bigger cake to fit nearly four dozen candles.

It's my real birthday! Not my fake birthday. Not my other fake birthday, which is really my friend Kim Grossman's birthday. I had to memorize because I carried her ID around to get into bars when I was a teenager.

I'm 46. I feel pretty good. I look pretty good. It's all pretty good.

Except I work with mostly 26 year olds now. Which is hilarious.

To review, I took a job in early June with Patch is a division of AOL and is a new project in hyperlocal journalism. The premise: That towns with populations of 30,000-75,000 have plenty of news and plenty of tech-savvy people who want to read it online. Patch is putting an editor in each town who basically (along with a bunch of freelancers) will cover the town - everything from hard news to government to sports to new businesses opening to festivals to schools. If you know me, you know I am all over this town, It is a great fit.

Patch editors are based in the town. Work from home, the library, the Starbucks, whereever. Just bring your camera, your notebook and your laptop. This part is brilliant, and it has been my own personal business model for 15 years. In my last job, as a feature writer at The Washington Times, this is how I worked. I got most of my story ideas from talking to my friends.

(Personal Plug. My site, RestonPatch, goes live on Aug. 10. Visit often. Follow me on Twitter at RestonPatch. Like us on Facebook (Reston Patch). Send me story ideas. OK, back to Snarkshelf.)

Anyway, as I gear up for this new 24-7 local news operation, it is mostly just my community and me, plugging away and planning. But when I go to meetings and trainings, the differences are obvious, Grandma. New media = newly minted adults.

Things like this. A trainer said the other day: "You'll remember from the college newspaper how this works."

I must have laughed out loud, because the trainer asked me, in a nice way, why I thought that was funny. I said "For some of us, the college newspaper was a long time ago." Said the trainer (who is somewhere in my demographic): "Welcome to my world."

Here's how long ago that was: We sometimes worked on typewriters. The phones had rotary dials. My newsroom boyfriend, he is now a woman. There has been 23 years of working in a newsroom ever since.

Oh, yeah, and you sitting to my right: That's the same amount of time you have been on this earth. Sigh.

Could have been my 23rd birthday party

Could have been my 46th birthday party.

Here was the scene at the Human Resources seminar:

New employee raises hand to ask a (reasonable) question: "Um, I am moving from my parents house to my own apartment in a few months. How do I go about changing my address for payroll?"

Me, asking a question: "I have a (six figure) 401k from my previous job. How do I go about rolling it over?"

These are the differences. It is highly, highly amusing. I was once them. They will one day be me. Meanwhile, we can all learn from each other. My training class buddy is half my age. I usually consider myself quite tech savvy, but Lauren talked me through a Mac issue the other day and has showed me what GoogleDocs can really do.

In return, I am sure I am providing her with valuable insight. Especially if she wants to know about typewriters or rotary dial phones.

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