When a newsroom shuts down, there’s usually a series of announcements, internal memos and “I’m looking for work” tweets. Most times, it ends there.
But in one Washington newspaper this week, there’s a full-page advertisement devoted to helping soon-to-be jobless journalists find work again. Here’s what it says on page five of today’s Issaquah Press: “We’re professional journalists. On Feb. 25, we’re for hire.”
Below that is a list of reasons why they’ll make great colleagues (“journalists work well on deadline”), and mini-resumés of each employee.
It’s the end of more than a century of journalism for the Issaquah Press, which started publishing in 1900. The Seattle Times bought the weekly in 1995 and later added the Sammamish Review, SnoValley Star and Newcastle News to the free community weekly family.
Editor Scott Stoddard started 15 months ago. Before that, he’d worked in dailies. But after reading a prediction that only very big and the very, very small news organizations would survive, “I thought a 14,000-circulation weekly would be a safe spot,” he said, “but unfortunately it wasn’t.”
The papers announced their closure in January, and Stoddard started thinking about his colleagues, himself and what they’d all do next.
Washington is a crowded market for journalists looking for jobs, he said, with recent buyouts and layoffs reducing the Seattle Times newsroom by more than 20 and Seattle’s KOMO cutting its investigative team.
Stoddard pitched the idea of a full-page house ad to his staff. If anyone was uncomfortable with it, he said, they wouldn’t do it.
“It was all or nothing,” he said.
Everyone agreed. They wrote their own profiles and posed for a picture on the weekly’s loading dock. Stoddard wrote the copy and put the page together. And he remembered a list he’d read years ago, when the industry started to look bad, about reasons to hire a journalist.
He found another one of those lists (there are several) to run with the story.
Journalists at the Issaquah Press aren’t the only ones to use their storytelling power to find employment. When Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome shut down, colleagues worked together to find their next jobs.
Digital journalists at Al Jazeera America also built a site to advertise their skills.
Stoddard doesn’t yet have any solid leads for jobs, but he’d love to stay in journalism, he said. He hasn’t heard from readers about the page, but journalists around the country have shared it on Twitter. Stoddard’s tweet with the page has gotten 17,000 impressions, he said, beating out his most viewed tweet ever announcing the closure of the papers.
When he first came here, Stoddard said, he wasn’t sure what to expect. What he found was a solid team of hard workers who embraced being a weekly newspaper and a daily digital news operation.
Now, they have 25 days left.
“We still have three newspapers to put out,” Stoddard said. “We still have stories to report.”
At a recent staff meeting, the newsroom talked about how they wanted to wind things down. The tradition, Stoddard said, is to do a big retrospective for the last issue. That’s not what they’re doing.
“We decided as a staff that we are just going to put our best stories out there,” he said, “and say goodbye that way.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story’s headline said that the weeklies were closing down next month. That’s incorrect, they’re closing at the end of this month. We apologize for the error. It has been corrected.