Becoming the News

Contributed by John Woods

It is one of our greatest fears as journalists. Whether it’s getting assaulted while covering a story, getting in a wreck on the way to a story, or getting a DUI after a long day of covering assaults and car wrecks – we don’t want to be the news.

broll1Unfortunately, and uncontrollably, more and more photojournalists are “becoming the news”. The gasping economy is coughing up financial phlegm, leading to jobs being tossed out like tissues. Some are lucky to get a month or two notice. Others may even get a month or two of severance pay. But every one of them is left with the same frustrating question – “Now what?”

Of course, some can answer this question within seconds if they’ve already been contemplating a new line of work. However, there are many (including myself before researching this article) who wouldn’t have a clue where to start. Do I first put in a claim for unemployment benefits? Do I apply for part-time or freelance gigs? Do I try to make some money off one of my hobbies? Or do I just try to sell some junk I have laying around for quick cash?


First things first – get your unemployment benefits. You’ve been paying into this money pool for years. Now it’s time to grab a bucket and scoop some out. In some states, you can do it online. Just search the keywords “unemployment claim (insert state)”, and you might find out you can do everything from your home computer. If you can’t, at least you’ll know where to find your local unemployment office.

Once you have your benefits lined up, it’s time to hit the proverbial pavement. And this doesn’t mean only applying for full time jobs. Money is money. If you can get something part time or freelance, it’s better than nothing. Don’t turn up your nose just because it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. The utility bills don’t care where the money comes from. They just care about getting paid on time.

How about that hobby you shelved years ago? It might be time to dust it off and put it to work. Whether you can paint pictures or houses, sculpt clay or cakes, or run errands or marathons – chances are you can make some money from it. You can advertise it for free online, or put up flyers in busy parts of town. And don’t forget about the online auction sites. All of a sudden, those baseball cards you’ve been hanging on to since third grade could come in handy.

Finally, don’t forget about the people you’ve met on the job. Remember that nice person from the PR firm / professional sports team / non-profit you interviewed who gave you their card and said “Call me if you need anything”? Call them. They might not be able to get you a job, but there’s a good chance that they know someone who can.

The economic articles that I’ve read agree that this financial flu will run it’s course within a couple years. So just do what you can (legally!) to survive until then. Take a part time job. Learn a new skill. Maybe even bring an old skill out of hiding. Just remember – this recession isn’t going to last forever. We just need to wait for capitalism to get released from the intensive care unit. Let’s just hope that after this illness, it builds up some economic antibodies.


iphone-0821John Woods has been shooting news since 2002 – currently at KMBC in Kansas City. KC is also where he found my soon-to-be wife. Woods loves the midwest because his passion is storm chasing – he’s been doing that since he learned how to drive. His craziest assignment was chasing down a fugitive who befriended a prison volunteer and escaped by hiding in a dog crate.

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