Goodbye to all of that…

by Chris on December 3, 2009

To the USA TODAY managers who made the decision to lay me off, in less than 140 characters I tell you: Good luck steering the Titanic. And thanks for the head start. Now I’m really going to run.

Even Brenda Starr's been downsizedToday is the last day that I’ll walk through USA TODAY’s glass and marble lobby, itself a monument to flusher times.

I’ve been laid off from my dream job, and I’m not going to lie. It sucks. I enjoyed almost everything about my immediate world there, from my globe-trotting reporters to my creative production team to my hard-working and open-minded boss. My group was tight, and we laughed and learned from each other every day.

But what bothers me the most is what my firing represented. See, I’ve been learning all the tricks that a modern multi-platform journalist is supposed to know. In the past 22 months, I’ve blogged, tweeted, shot photos and videos, and handled speaking engagements. I edited my section, managed my high-personality staff and then in my spare time, I wrote cover stories – something that very few other editors at USA TODAY do. I hustled and I cajoled and I ended up out on my ass anyway.

I’m a true believer in the power of journalism. I walked into my first newspaper office when I was 16, fell in love with deadlines and chaos, and never  looked back. During my 20 years in the mainstream media, I’ve written stories that have changed lives, and I’ve written stories purely for entertainment. I felt it was a calling, more so than a job.

But increasingly, things have become more interesting outside the newsroom bubble. I’d go to conferences and meet people who were making it just fine on their own. Some were creating niche businesses, busting up the paradigm. Others were parlaying old school media talents into fresh ventures, with a moxie that made me wish I had the freedom to emulate them. The air inside USAT’s towers on Jones Branch Drive always seemed a little stale after that.

These freelancers-slash-entrerpreneurs are smart. They are nimble. And now they are my role models, as I join their ranks.

So to the managers who made this decision, in less than 140 characters I tell you: Good luck steering the Titanic. And thanks for the head start. Now I’m really going to run.

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Schvenzlerman December 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

You go girl. I always lied to you about USAT’s prospects just to be nice (sorry). Like the other major print media, they’ll be lining up at bankruptcy court before too long. It’s a paradigm shift: Arianna Huffington and Matt Drudge win. Print journalism will, of course, survive in niches, but educated and connected youths are not reading newspapers and advertisers are following them. It’s basically over. Close the door on the way out.

Take a look at the Inky. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s most affluent neighborhood, some of their newspaper box windows show a Friday edition on Sat. and Sun. Every single weekend. DOA.

Good riddance to dead wood media. They served as establishment shills. New media’s massive decentralization empowers people.

Now if we could just get rid of National Pentagon Radio…



Christine December 3, 2009 at 11:53 am

You know, I think you have something here. It sounds as if you have something in the works, and if this blog is any indication, I think you’ll have a bigger and better future than one any news organization can offer you these days. When you become a media mogul, can I come work for you?


Sunil December 3, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Go Chris go , I know the feeling as I was in the corp world for 20 plus years and have been blog running for the last 3 years . I love it and never looked back. All the best to you .



Gary Arndt December 3, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Welcome to reality!


Kendra December 3, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Chris, it sounds as though you have what it takes to make it in the world of exciting, expansive, entrepreneurial enterprise. And you’re right, in the end they really have done you a favor. The world of digital communications and online media is alive. The best of luck to you.


Mike December 3, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Congratulations. This may not seem like a good thing right now, but trust me, it is. I too was laid off after more than 20 years in the newspaper business. Like you I was a jack of all trades, writing, editing, photography, web management, even ad sales for the web site.
Didn’t help me when my Gannett paper decided to cut costs. I was lucky enough to be in the first round of layoffs almost eight years ago, having been around long enough that my experience and years of service were seen as a liability because of the amount of pay and benefits I had accrued.
There is life after newspapers. The event sparked a career change as I neared fifty and I have never been happier. I now work for one of the companies annually ranked in the top five best companies to work for. It’s stable, even in this economic climate and I make almost three times what I ever did at the newspaper.
Keep your chin up, don’t look back and treat this as an opportunity to reinvent yourself!


Shadia December 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Chris – good for you! You will prevail. Hey, if you’re interested, my 30 readers would love to read your stuff? Interested in a non-paying guest post over at (Okay, 35 readers…)


Second Time Down December 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm

I’ve been in newspapers nearly 30 years. Lost a reporting job last November when my Washington bureau closed. Lucked into a reporting slot at an interesting trade pub. My first question during my interview: “Anyone ever laid off here?” Nope.

Just found out we’ll probably fold in June.

Condolences, and good luck. To all of us.


Scott W. Somerville December 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm

You go, girl! You’re dumping the past and creating the future. We’ll be watching and cheering you on.


Dave C December 3, 2009 at 5:02 pm

I’m embarrassed to say you’re right. Though only a reader, I’ve always loved newspapers. I have a print & online subscription to the WSJ, and you’d be amazed how many days the paper turns yellow on my sidewalk while I read the online edition, increasingly on my IPhone. The only edition I’m sure to read in print is Saturday’s, while sitting on the deck with my coffee. The primary reason for the shift is that it’s much easier to share something online, and I do several times a day.
While content is still valuable, a huge chunk of a daily paper is syndicated content, identical across hundreds of sources, leaving little reason to read a paper. Heck, even the AP screws their customers by posting their stories online for free. Sadly most local investigative journalism is in the alternative paper, and local papers have too many sacred cows they won’t touch. Add in the rediculous Craigslist free classifieds, and there’s hardly any reason to read a local paper. I read editorials from across the country daily, but any blog can repurpose those from a hundred puplications at a whack for free.
Sooner or later, everyone will block valuable content from free use. Maybe the writers themselves will create a subscription model, or an aggregator can make micropayments for each subscriber, I don’t know. The only daily I know with a solid business model currently is the WSJ. Goodluck as you jump into the trenches of the new media!


Alan Solomon December 3, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Hang in.


Gus December 3, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Sorry to hear this.
No one actually even bought USA Today despite what that horse’s ass Al claimed. It was and is a crappy, silly newspaper. There’s a reason it piled up outside hotel room doors.


Chris December 3, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Gus – Actually, I found the reporters at USA Today were extremely hard working and talented. Top management, not so much. Wherever I traveled, I always found people who enjoyed it and read it regularly.


steve December 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Losing a job sucks, but let’s be real here.

One, Gannett is a truly awful company with no soul that has no idea how to practice real journalism and will eventually get its deserved come-uppance. Two, you bought into the hype. So what if you twittered and blogged and took pictures and made videos? Did you expose any corruption? Take down any crooked politicians? Make the powers that be fear you when you came calling? Win any Pulitzers, or come close? Change the world in any real way, large or small? Make anyone cry with your prose? If not, then, really, what we have here is just another travel writer coming to grips with the reality of journalism today, which is rapidly getting right-sized. The best journalists, the ones who can consistently deliver real news and keep government honest and deliver scoops that matter, will, for the most part, always have jobs. Those who write for the food section or the real estate section or the travel section will not, nor will those who can only re-write press releases or serve as stenographers for the local sewer board. It really is as simple as that. The process is not without pain, and not without some talented news folks getting screwed, much due to the incompetence of management that refuses to recognize what’s happening and clings too long to the old way of doing things that has resulted in once-bloated staffs now stretched too thin and still trying to do everything they were doing a dozen years ago: the chicken dinners and front-page feature no one reads and the food page. And not doing anything, particularly hard news, well. But real journalism is still possible, indeed, inevitable. Those who think they can survive as journalists into the future without doing hardcore news are sadly mistaken.

Good luck in your future endeavors.


Chris December 3, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Steve – Actually, I had a respectable career on the News side before I went into travel journalism. I wrote about crappy schools in New Orleans and corrupt state troopers in Pennsylvania and a lot of other hard-hitting stories. And the travel stories that we do here at USA TODAY always have a news peg. My latest piece about to come out is about how Grenada has dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. So I’d suggest you take a look at my About Me section, which outlines my jobs at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, before you start making assumptions.

Thanks for reading.


Meremortal December 3, 2009 at 6:15 pm

All the best, Chris. It’s not about hope and change, it’s about persevere and achieve.

You will.


Maurice Finkelberger December 3, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Better late than never, I guess. In the past two days I’ve had to throw out newspapers left on my driveway. In fact, last night I was outside when one was delivered. As I walked over, picked it up, and carried it to the garbage can I thought “wouldn’t it be more efficent if the delivery guy could just put it in my garbage himself?”


JohnMc December 3, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Wish you the best of luck in landing on your feet.

However I saw one entry in your post that always disturbs me —

I’m a true believer in the power of journalism. I walked into my first newspaper office when I was 16, fell in love with deadlines and chaos, and never looked back. During my 20 years in the mainstream media, I’ve written stories that have changed lives, and I’ve written stories purely for entertainment. I felt it was a calling, more so than a job. ”

The problem with such thoughts is that they don’t belong. Never have. Individuals working for media are to report what they see, not what they think should be. Ever since that attitude has flipped, reportage has been on the decline.

Good luck in the future.


Chris December 3, 2009 at 6:32 pm

John – My career was built on reportage, not opinion. I’m actually uncomfortable writing about myself, so the transition to blogging will be interesting, to say the least. All of my work at USAT, as well as previous newspapers, was fact based. What I hope to provide on this blog going forward is honest, fact-based travel reporting.


George December 3, 2009 at 6:29 pm

I’m glad you added that last bit. Good luck. Make a difference.


Schvenzlerman December 3, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Let’s put this business aside and focus on the really important things. Who’s the uber-minkstress on your blog banner in the 3rd photo from the left? Where was that shot taken?


Schvenzlerman December 3, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Oops, 4th from left.


MISS_MSRY December 3, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I took a buyout from Hearst and became a beach bum. Very rewarding.


lounews December 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm

RC and boiled peanuts always helps during these times.


Tracy Barnett December 3, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Chris, on the one hand I can’t believe it – you were one of the best things to happen to USA Today’s travel section! – but on the other hand, I guess it was inevitable. You have outgrown them.

I’m really excited to see what you’ll do next. I suspect it will be more rewarding and exciting than anything that has come before.

Here’s a piece I wrote after being canned as travel editor at the Houston Chronicle. I think you’ll see some parallels.

Hang in there, stay in touch, and let me know if you’re in the mood to write a guest post for Roads Less Traveled, I’d be honored!


Marisela Riveros December 3, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Hi Chris! I (and many colleagues) can relate to what you are going through today.
Welcome to the other side!
Stay positive and you will “really run.”

Your new Freelancer/Entrepreneur friend


Keith December 3, 2009 at 10:12 pm

With your skills you’re going to kick ass as a freelancer/entrepreneur – whatever you decide to do.

Everything all screwed up in the industry right now, but the smart, agile and hungry journalists will do just fine. It might be a little scary for a bit, but things will settle down in a few years.

Of course, if the economy continues to suck wind, it may be a little longer.



Penny December 3, 2009 at 10:36 pm

My sympathies. I know just what you mean. I liked being a journalist and working in a newsroom. I’m over 50 and I’m not entrepreneurial, so I don’t know what to do next. Anyway, good luck with the next venture.


Christopher Smith December 3, 2009 at 10:37 pm

You’re a great writer, editor, communicator, and story teller. Whether you want to make it on your own or join the ranks of corporate America, there’s many places for you. You’ll do fine. Keep your chin up. You rock.


steve December 3, 2009 at 11:12 pm


Sorry if I made assumptions. But the essential truth remains: If you had the talent to take on cops, politicians, etc. and deliver news, real news, you should have stuck with that. There are far too few folks who can do that, and far too much you-know-what published that editors consider stories because they’re cheap to produce, even though no one reads them. You made a career choice and went into travel writing. Bad call (especially with Gannett). If you can still do hard news, then scramble back. If you’re good enough, you’ll make it, but it will surely be a tough climb and with crummy pay. Or maybe you’ll find something else. One more prediction: The days of j school are numbered. A dozen years from now, no one will be majoring in journalism or communications. What journalists do is not rocket science. It’s common sense, curiosity, drive, a work ethic and, in the best of worlds, the ability to turn a phrase. The best journalists this country has produced did not go to j school. They were too busy either working or majoring in something–English, philosophy, history, political science–that instilled critical thinking skills, something that’s been on the wane in the media ever since the rise of journalism as a so-called profession with doctorates attached. Journalism is a calling, a noble calling. But it isn’t law, it isn’t medicine, it isn’t even close. Maybe I’m whistling past the graveyard here, but the sooner journalism dumps its pretentiousness and returns to its roots, a journey I think the Internet is hastening, however painfully, the better off everyone will be. Perhaps not financially. No editor should be making six figures to sit in meetings and ponder eye-scan studies, and very soon no editor will. But the very best will make good livings, the competent will live comfortably and the rest will find other ways to put food on their tables.


Chris December 4, 2009 at 12:04 am

Steve –

Old habits die hard. I look at your comment and want to edit the hell out of it! 🙂

You are right, I’ve made a choice. I love travel writing because I get to explore new places and tell people about fantastic things they can do. It’s more fun than the other stuff, more frankly – and my fellow traveler writers/bloggers are the most interesting people on the planet. It’s my passion and I’m sticking with it.

Thanks for reading, I appreciate your views and I appreciate you reaching out, even if it’s negative. But in the end, this is a travel blog. And tomorrow we’ll back to our regular scheduled programming. You can choose to read…or not! 🙂


Hard News Lover December 4, 2009 at 12:08 am


Although I am a hard news lover, perhaps like yourself, I would take exception to your suggestion that great journalists do not exist in sections other than hard news. Most journalists have covered several beats, and often move into other areas for promotional opportunities. And yes, many very talented hard news reporters have been laid off – mostly because of the state of print media…. that’s another topic altogether.

The reason is pretty clear – print media is old and many young people don’t get their news or information from print. Circulation means advertising, and if circulation is down, advertizing dollars disappear. When those disappear in a big way, newpapapers are forced to lay off in droves.

I do agree with you that the best will find their way into other successful gigs, but not necessarily hard news. I’m not knocking hard news – I wish there were more of it. The problem is people don’t care as much about hard news or good journalism in general anymore, and organizations still have to chase the advertizing dollars by offering other content, much of of which you might consider fluff.

I hope the best for every journalist regardless of what their calling might be.


Don Faust December 4, 2009 at 12:16 am

Schvenzlerman – to answer your prior comment, I took the photo of the “uber-minkstress” as you refer to in the website banner. The photo was taken in the New Orleans French Quarter during Mardi Gras this last February 2009.

The woman was in a walking parade crew called the Dragonflies. I yelled out to her and she turned briefly for a quick pose.


Tim December 4, 2009 at 1:20 am

Steve doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


Dean December 4, 2009 at 8:50 am

Wow. Brilliant! Incredible!! The profoundness of your words makes me wonder why anyone would want to let someone like you go.

One door closes, and many more open. My suspicion is that this is a blessing in disguise for you. If you need a job (which I doubt) I’d hire you in a heartbeat. Seriously….

All the best to you and yours. You seem like a wonderful person with a big heart and great intellect. The world is your oyster….



E December 4, 2009 at 9:19 am

Among other things, it was the incessant drive to save money that killed print journalism.

The comment above was right. There’s almost no need to read a most local papers because all they do is rehash AP stories to fill up space. There’s nothing new or creative, no real journalism in the majority of locals. They simply report news as fed to them as opposed to finding the news and then reporting on it. The cost cutting cut out the budgets for reporters to do real investigative reporting.

And, the reporting in the dining, travel etc. sections has become too timid as well. Can’t piss off current or potential advertisers.

There’s no new, creative, thought-provoking photography because no one wants to pay for in-house, on-staff, full-time photographers.

And, remember fact checkers??? They got the ax first and now we can’t rely on much of what we read because there was no independent fact checkers.


Anika Malone December 4, 2009 at 9:23 am

Good luck in your future endeavors, but that last graf was just not classy. 🙁


Mike December 4, 2009 at 9:32 am

Lots of great posts and insights here. LOVE the discussion about hard news, something we don’t see nearly enough of these days.

Another post that grabbed my eye was this one:

“Hey, if you’re interested, my 30 readers would love to read your stuff? Interested in a non-paying guest post over at”

The answer to this question should be a resounding, unqualified NO! But sadly, all too often these days, it isn’t. So what if you can write well and people love to read your work if they’re not willing to pay for it.

Michelle Haimoff has had an ongoing debate about this problem at the HuffPo:

But this YouTube video featuring Harlan Ellison is my all time favorite, simply entitled “Pay the Writer.”

The biggest problem we writers face is all the unpaid gigs. Hard to be a successful entrepreneur in a world without pay, dominated by multimillionaires like Arianna who are happy to squawk about political, social, and economic inequities while paying their writers less than the average migrant farm worker.

In other words, zero.


Chris December 4, 2009 at 9:34 am

Anika –

It was strong, yes. But Gannett hasn’t exactly handled this in a classy manner.

After our layoff, they held a meeting with remaining staffers and assured them that they were making plenty of a profit this quarter and that this move was made to appease Wall Street. And they also laid off by seniority so they wouldn’t have to pay out a lot of severance in the 4th quarter. AND they had a party in the newsroom yesterday as several of us were packing our bags.

Classy, indeed. With a K!

In any case, thanks for your well wishes. I hope you come back to the site to read my travel news and destination coverage!

Edited to add that, as a former coworker pointed out to me, not all of the layoffs were done by seniority. USAT Weekend had several senior people who also lost their jobs last week. I’ve also been told that the party was more of a meet-and-greet, and the champagne was an afterthought. Still….Monday might have been better.


Beenthere December 4, 2009 at 9:49 am

As someone who’s been in your shoes, I can assure you that this layoff will be the best thing that ever happened to you. Seriously.

Let’s face it, these days those blog/twitter/video skills aren’t a nice-to-have, but a must-have in emerging media. Too bad your print bosses didn’t get it. But you’ll see working in the pure digital space is such a refreshing experience. Good luck to you!


M.J. December 4, 2009 at 9:51 am

Many congratulations! And having been a refugee from a Tribune Co. paper (albeit of my own doing, not theirs, thank God) — and a friend of many ousted Gannettoids — I applaud your last graf. It’s sad to watch an industry self-destruct, especially one that we loved so much.

And I’m a big fan of hard news myself (I still make my living slinging it), but I find Steve’s remarks rather patronizing and offensive. There’s plenty of good journalism, without having to resort to gossip or snark, to be had in the “soft” parts of the industry.

I concur with Hard News Lover: “I hope the best for every journalist regardless of what their calling might be.”


Cee Cee December 4, 2009 at 9:51 am

Chris welcome to the other side of journalism. I too got the push last year after a couple of decades in magazine journalism. It’s better to forge your way in this new landscape now because you’ll have a head start on a whole lot of other print journalists who still don’t have a clue. This time we can perhaps help shape the paradigm instead of becoming by-products of its shift. Good luck to us all!


Karen Little December 4, 2009 at 9:53 am

Chris – writers once represented some type of subject matter expertise. Today, many instantly learn, regurgitate, write, snap pictures, run video, edit writing, photos, and videos, edit their own works, and publish within the relative isolation of their circumstances. In the end, these writers don’t know any more about the subject they published than the readers who are now avoiding their work.

I’m going through a change similar to yours, although I did not work with the daily press. A few of my insights based on this process are –

+ within the area of our interests and expertise, is there anything that anyone really needs to learn (or enjoy) from our writing that would persuade them to give back (i.e., pay us)?

+ what is the most valuable thing we know that others need?

+ what types of enterprises can we be involved with in which our overall publishing skills significantly contribute?

+ what new skills do we need to learn?

+ what existing skills do we need to kiss goodbye?

Two years ago, my website was pulling 5,000 people a day and growing. I tried to get a partner and was told by several big wigs at a huge Internet media and media measurement company where I had a day job that no one would talk to me unless I was pulling 25,000 daily or better. Note that this huge Internet media company is in the process of selling its few valuable assets after churning staff like dandruff and I’m still chugging along. Despite that company’s resources (including employing some of the best writer/analysts in the industry), it did not identify a pot of Internet gold. What it did do, however, is continuously write about what wasn’t working in the publishing industry and, I guess, the big wigs took it to heart. But I digress.

Unfortunately, I had to cut my own personal budget after being laid off from said huge company, and have had to start from scratch again. I’m just pulling out of that.

Working alone poses a number of quality issues – which, when one looks at profitable Craiglist, you wouldn’t think exist. For a publisher who actually cares about content, there is always a push for something new and what somebody else thinks you must do (as in you MUST have Facebook and you MUST tweet). This is on top of researching, assimilating, photographing, designing, writing, editing, publishing, etc. All of these tasks are best performed by groups of talented people but can now, for better or worse, be accomplished by one.

IMHO, a big mistake publishers are making is selling out to automated ad services. At one time, an ad in a publication meant that that company supported the publication and the publication supported it. Today, belly fat, acai berry, and yellow teeth ads not only predominate many online content, they are displayed up near the masthead and article title. Its Google’s automated ad services, and not its search engine, that killed mainstream publishing. Bargain rates for advertisers reflect the fact that today, their ads really don’t have much value (or pull).

Any, I certainly wish I had your background, skills, and knowledge bundled into my own skill set. Barring that, together (but apart), smart people like us do find our calling and sources of support. The world (as you know) is ours! Its up to us to stride forward.

Karen Little –


PaulineF December 4, 2009 at 10:05 am

Chris a moving and informative blog.

What’s missing here is how dangerous it is for us to be firing all our most senior, experienced journalists. Because let’s face it: a democracy cannot exist without an informed populace. We NEED news, well-reported, well-hewn stories, so we can keep our leaders accountable.

There was a fascinating piece in Mother Jones recently about a piece that the NYTimes ran about the triage that went on in hospitals in New Orleans during Katrina. Because of that piece, indictments were handed down and hospitals across the US have been reevaluating their own triage systems. That one article cost the NYTimes $300,000, because it was 3 years in the making. Will any blogger EVER be able to replicate that level of dedication to a story? I don’t know how they could afford to.

My heart goes out to you and to all of us: this destruction of journalism as we know it not only is hurting incredibly talented, dedicated like you, but it’s going to end up hurting our society deeply, in ways most of us haven’t even anticipated.


Melanie December 4, 2009 at 10:28 am

So sorry to hear about the loss, Chris. I was laid off from Travel Channel Online in 2000 and I still haven’t gotten over it. It was the happiest I’ve ever been in a 9-7.

I’ve been freelancing on and off since then, and it has been mostly satisfying (though hardly to my wallet). I do agree that being on this side of the travel writing wall has made me more nimble, as you say.

Anyhow, glad I stumbled upon your post. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff. Funny enough, I actually blogged about one of your last pieces for USAT, the New Moon hysteria in Volterra. Thanks for the tip! 🙂


Nimit Mehra December 4, 2009 at 10:39 am

Best of luck!!!


new media novice December 4, 2009 at 10:58 am

Chris, I’m sorry about your situation. I can relate as I lost my Barbie dream job in 2008 after nearly a decade as a senior editor at a luxury magazine. I’ve spent the last 19 years in print publishing, so I have no web experience other than consulting on the launch of our publication’s website and writing for it.
Since leaving my job, I’ve stayed busy as a freelancer specializing in travel (among other subjects), but it’s not a living wage and the constant pitching to unresponsive editors is frustrating. Sometimes, I feel like I’m in sales cold calling. Over the course of a month, I can spend as much, if not more, time writing pitches rather than articles. When the powers that be do say yes, they usually only want a blurb for a few hundred bucks–editorial budgets are tight, you know! Sum up your week in Botswana in 150 words, please.
As many of my best ideas have been turned down by editors over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about adding a blog to my website where I can produce them myself. My site is essentially a digital portfolio/CV for prospective clients, so I get only about 100 visitors per month. The question is how to build an audience and, more importantly, how to make money from it? I just don’t understand the blogging business model. If I shift my time and energy away from pitching and writing paying stories to writing my own blog, how does that help me pay the bills? Even better than a blog, I’d like to launch a whole new model–a multimedia web platform. I have the concept, but where to begin? I need some enlightenment on the new media world as I, too, am ready to run!


Susan Wilson December 4, 2009 at 11:25 am

Chris, thanks for the honesty. I am finding out how people with passion for what they do can fit into other industries. It’s scary and good at the same time. Thanks for keeping us all in the loop and connected.

And you are right about the air being stale.


Konrad December 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm

^^the honesty of your piece is admirable, your thin skin is not. outside the Gannett / USA Today bubble, Steve’s comments are hardly deserving of, “Edit the hell out of.” They’re a lot more honest and useful than the mindless cheerleading – Go! Chris! – which peppers the comments section. To characterize his comments as “negative” indicates where you are on your learning curve … a newbie, & though there’s nothing wrong with that, your post (and contrary reactions to same) – dilute the impact of the original post. You seem to be coming from a shoot – the – messenger place. Steve’s observation that you, essentially, sold out, seems spot on. And selling out meant slipping into a comfortable cocoon that’s made you wholly unprepared for the -back to the real world! – rough and tumble internet. What if you took your truly and undeniably enviable skill set and applied them to the sort of investigative journalism Steve references & combined that with your love of travel writing?

I hated travel writing and never did much of it but the one instance that I did (Jamaica), I ditched the country’s PR planned trip and drove through the country, & discovered a country that’s been on the verge of collapse for decades (and once Cuba opens up, as it will, sooner than later), the ragged tourist industry will go away and we’ll have a … Carribean hot spot! truly hot. But that’s not what the magazine I was on assignment for wanted (nor, I suspect, would USA Today have ever published a short print / longer web version.) A piece that references the “occasional” (yet more frequent than is comfortable for the Jamaica Tourist Board to let see the light of day), murders and disappearances of tourists, or the residential treatment facility (Tranquility Bay, now closed) where American teens were warehoused, after being kidnapped and moved, in a filthy hotel, run by low-paid natives, and subjected to EST derived brainwashing for years on end.

THAT sort of travel journalism, I would pay to read. Now might be the time for you to do it.


Chris December 4, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Konrad – Oh, come on. If I was really thin skinned, I wouldn’t have published Steve’s comments at all! And I do have the right to express my opinion on my own blog (in fact, that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most!)

As far as selling out goes, I took promotions and jobs during my career that I thought I’d enjoy. I like learning new skills. That’s fun for me. I also like traveling the world so now I hope they can mesh.

You are right that I’m a newbie. And that’s why I’m generally positive about this. I’m excited to see where the next steps go.


David Molyneaux December 4, 2009 at 1:19 pm


I wish you well on the journalist/entrepreneur path. Welcome. A warning: No one fills the potholes.

Keep in touch,

David Molyneaux,


Tracy Barnett December 4, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Hey Steve and Konrad, while your critique of the media industry may have merit, your critique of Chris is way off base. Have you actually read her work? She’s paid her dues and earned her way to a place where she could really enjoy herself for a little while. If that’s selling out, so be it. I believe in social responsibility too but I personally think that’s a bit of a sour-grapes view.
I’m pretty critical of the newspaper industry myself, but I think you’re not only insensitive but off the mark in mixing up the faults of a multibillion dollar industry with one of its employees.
Personally I admire Chris’s talent and her courage in publishing all of this. It’s been an interesting discussion. I hope we can keep it constructive and respectful. God knows Chris has enough to deal with right now without readers taking potshots.


sandman December 4, 2009 at 3:29 pm

There’s just too many of us and not enough money to go around to pay us anymore. No matter how much we cheerlead, that doesn’t change that situation. We’re all learning the same new skills, too, which is leading to a flood of unemployable amateur video and internet workers.

For me, after 20 years of stable freelance writing work, it’s time to change my career completely.


Tim December 4, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I’ve got the urge to edit Konrad, too.


Steve Jermanok December 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm


I’ve been freelance writing for two decades now and it’s been a heluva ride. Enjoy your freedom and don’t ever let rejection get you down.

Now it’s off the gym at 4 pm. No traffic on the road, no waiting for the machines. Just don’t tell anyone else.


Steve Jermanok


Anne December 4, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Wow!!! And i mean wow. I feel every drop of your pain and it is a bit snarky but so hopeful at the end and really inspiring. I am excited to see what you do next!!!

Best of luck to you


Will_the_bloke December 4, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Really inspired by this. Good luck to you!


Barbara Bryn Klare December 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

Touched by your story of Love and Chaos (love of journalism, the chaos of it all and of losing your job). Keep your chin up and let me know if I can help. – Barbara Bryn, Personal Finance, SF


Irene December 5, 2009 at 9:56 pm


As a former participant in the newspaper industry world, and having done business with Gannett as well, I think you leave with the right frame of mind – confident and vowing to make the most of it, while recognizing that the newspaper industry is dying not a slow death, but a quick one.

I didn’t take your article nor your follow-up comments as thin-skinned, but rather as a realistic assessment. The industry is dying because people are not willing to admit to seeing the writing on the wall.


Rich Truesdell December 6, 2009 at 1:58 am

Chris, sorry to hear of your leaving USAT. The first thing I do at breakfast Friday mornings is to look at the USAT purple section. As the editorial director of a small but growing website, Automotive Traveler (, I’m always looking for future story ideas to pass along to my contributors, and USAT is always a good place to start, especially expanding on selections from the weekly Top 10 lists.

If you are looking for a new home to expand your visibility I would love to talk with you as I think that, with our 50,000 monthly visitors, would be a good opportunity for you, contributing short blogs that link back to your personal blog/website. While I have been forced to take a step back from day-to-day contributions as I have just launched a new monthly automotive magazine, Chevy Enthusiast, now that I am getting back to a regular schedule, I have to reinvigorate, and the first thing that is on the agenda is to get some new contributors. Interested in talking? Contact me at the E-mail address I left when I posted this comment or visit and leave a message there in the “Contact AT” tab.

Good luck where ever you land.

Richard Truesdell
Editorial Director,


Jules Siegel December 6, 2009 at 8:38 am

I’ve freelanced all my life since I left a job at fabled Magazine Management Company after interviewing Bob Dylan for the Saturday Evening Post. I went on to publish stories in Esquire, Playboy, Rolling Stone and many other magazines. These days I concentrate on my own self-published books, three of which are in the Artists’ Books Collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

The pay has been kind of lousy, but the hours are great. It’s a lot better than going into some corporate office every day. The trick is to reduce your lifestyle to the essentials. What do you really need? You will possibly be surprised to find out how much of your personal spending is just wasteful consumerism.

Also remember that freelance journalism offers no pension plan. You need to create your own royalty-producing projects such as books and films. Freedom does have its price, so be sure to invest in works that will capture your talent and provide you with residuals.


Will_the_bloke December 6, 2009 at 8:44 am

I was struck by one thing in re-reading your post. You said you were a true believer in the power of journalism from the get-go, but then you only cite ways that you apparently fell in love with the process and the feverish, high-octane pace.

I’m just curious. What else about the “power of journalism” appealed to you? Was there anything about its social role that was equally appealing to you?


Laura Martone December 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm

As a fellow SATW member (and a former NU Wildcat), I just want to add my own condolences to the list… I’m sorry that you lost your dream job, but I’m glad you have such a go-get-’em attitude about it. Good luck, Chris!


Axel Schultze December 9, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Chris – sorry to hear this – but be happy it’s new and not in a year or so when USA Today finally closes entirely. The least will have the hardest time because the jobs are taken by the ones who left before them. Whenever we experience fundamental changes in our society – there are marvelous new opportunities. We have an economic downturn yet – more new little companies are founded than ever before.
This is the spirit of America, this is why I love this country.

Take your contacts, your experience, your passion and start something new. Something the new world needs.

All the best for a grandiose 2010



Shawn L. Alexander December 10, 2009 at 4:54 am

I’m experiencing a problem with seeing your page clearly through the most recent release of Opera. Looks fine in IE7 and Firefox though.Hope you have a nice day.


matt golas December 14, 2009 at 6:13 pm

when you are in philly call me.


Lindy Howard June 6, 2011 at 3:39 am

It’s amazing how some things seem horrible at the time but then looking back, they turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. It’s great you’ve turned it into a success story Chris. 🙂


Chris June 6, 2011 at 9:52 am

@Lindy – Thanks! I wrote that piece almost two years ago, and you are right, it’s amazing how things look in retrospect. I’ve learned so much since then. Thanks for commenting!


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