Audit Notes: A fallen journo does retail, local gone wrong, Abelson

Former Politico reporter on falling down the ladder

Joseph Williams had to take a retail job at 50 years old after getting fired from Politico in the wake of comments about Mitt Romney and later, the revelation that he had pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife several months earlier.

That’s how he ended up writing a piece for The Atlantic (funded by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project) on working for ten bucks an hour in middle age:

Of course, I had no idea what a modern retail job demanded. I didn’t realize the stamina that would be necessary, the extra, unpaid duties that would be tacked on, or the required disregard for one’s own self-esteem. I had landed in an alien environment obsessed with theft, where sitting down is all but forbidden, and loyalty is a one-sided proposition. For a paycheck that barely covered my expenses, I’d relinquish my privacy, making myself subject to constant searches…

Having once supervised an 80-member news division of a major metropolitan newspaper, the first weeks on my new job triggered a self-esteem meltdown. Flygirl, a supervisor half my age with a high school diploma, critiqued my shirt folding. I fruitlessly searched the shoe stockroom for the right size and style for an impatient customer. I silently prayed no one who knew me would come in during my shift.

As the learning curve flattened, however, my past life faded over the horizon and I gave up looking for an on-ramp back to journalism. Starved for approval after so much rejection, I started to take a weird, internal pride in my crappy menial job, almost against my will.

With the still-enormous rate of long-term unemployment, there are many, many stories like this out there.

— Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon flags this bizarre Grand Rapids Press obituary for the journalist Matthew Power.

Here’s the headline:

ArtPrize critic who labeled Grand Rapids ‘flyover country’ dies in Uganda

And the lede:

ArtPrize is lowbrow schlock elevated to performance art, bankrolled by a powerful family to bring cultural gravitas to Grand Rapids.

That was the view put forth by Matthew Power in GQ magazine, surveying ArtPrize 2011, in an article titled “So You Think You Can Paint?” It was the talk of the town after it appeared on the eve of ArtPrize 2012.

Power, a globetrotting reporter for publications including National Geographic and The New York Times, has died while on assignment in Northern Uganda.

That is how not to localize a story.

Gabriel Roth tweets, “Yes, local newspaper—I can’t imagine why anyone would suggest that your town is provincial”.

— Bloomberg runs another Max Abelson special, this one on how Wall Street is trying to find its Republican presidential candidates for 2016.

A belief among bankers that Obama is both (punitive and ignorant) persists even as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has doubled since he took office and the national deficit has been cut in half. Some executives see the White House’s lack of support for Wall Street jeopardizing nothing short of the American way.

John Taft, great-grandson of a president and chief executive officer of RBC Wealth Management in the U.S., likened his fear for the country to “hiding under my desk during air-raid drills because of the Cuban missile crisis,” when “literally the future of humanity hung in the balance”…

“You’ve got institutional investors which are going to fill up your book,” said Oliver, 45, who would like to see Jeb Bush run. “Wall Street people, they want to invest. They want to see an ROI.”

ROI stand for return on investment, by the way.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,