I long ago lost track of how many hours I’ve devoted to this enterprise, but I remember the first JobFile very well.
You don’t think of time moving so quickly, or at least I don’t. In my mind, I’m 26 forever. But 20 years ago tonight, when I entered the first seven listings — that’s all there were the first week — Job File didn’t go out by Web. The World Wide Web was still months away from being opened to the public. Instead, it went by that very 1980s innovation, the fax machine.
About a dozen people received it, all in college placement offices, along with the two clubs for which I then, and still today, produce it — the Chicago Headline Club, which is the Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. I was on the board of both organizations (I’m still on INBA’s board and was president of both groups simultaneously in 1996-97, which almost killed me, but that’s a story for another day) and they wanted me to do JobFile so that they could list some local
openings in their newsletters, which were then delivered hard-copy on a monthly basis.
Within a couple of months, the Headline Club opened a phone bank with five (count ’em!) extensions, to better communicate with the membership, and JobFile began to appear there, or at least seven of the latest jobs — all that would fit on my voice mail box.
The long-disconnected phone number was 312-714-LIES, something that was pointed out to us after it was in service for a while, and which gave us quite a few laughs. It all seems so quaint. The fax disappeared in about 1997, and the phone line hung on till about 2006. There are some addresses I can still recite in my sleep because I read them on the phone message so often.
There were always print, television, radio and public relations jobs, but journalism education was added early and online about three years in. The focus became regional by late ’97, and when I met my wife (then a journalism student) in 1999, I extended the listings to cover the Carolinas, because she attended the University of South Carolina.
Today, JobFile usually runs a healthy 70 pages of agate each week, although it slimmed down to about 25 when the economy teetered on the edge of oblivion in 2008. Today, radio stations hire videographers, TV stations require
reporters to write “A” Wire copy, only shorter for the Web, and “print” journalists had better be able to master those Dark Arts that used to be considered “broadcast.” If you can’t write both broadcast and AP style, shoot video and stills, edit copy/video/audio/everything, finding a job may be difficult.
And that’s what we’re still about here at JobFile. Finding people jobs. In the best of times, there have never been enough in this field, and let’s face it, I’m hard put to figure out when the good times start. The aura of Woodward and Bernstein disappeared long ago but those of us who have stuck it out know how important the First Amendment is.
That’s one reason why I’ve spent a lot of my alleged spare time lately trying to organize an amicus brief for patch.com Shorewood (Ill.) editor Joe Hosey, who faces indefinite jail time and confiscatory fines if an appeals court refuses to overturn a judge’s contempt order. And it’s not over a matter of national security, but details in a police report! Look up Joe’s fight online at the SPJ, RTDNA, INBA, Headline Club and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web sites, among others.
A few people have asked me how many more years I’m going to do this. I’m not sure, and I don’t see anyone waiting in the wings to take it over. But for now, it’s my gift to you, because no one has ever made a cent, that I know of, from JobFile. Use it, spread the word, subscribe via the INBA Web site, and as the SPJ Code of Ethics advises us, seek the truth and report it. In the end, that’s what this is all about.