'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

For U.S. journalists, two good reasons to stop complaining

iran protest

Taking photos of the Iran protests landed countless journalists in jail. (Image by buridan via Flickr)

It’s a sad, woe-is-me kind of time for journalists. Newspapers shuttered! Internet ruining everything! No jobs! Ads disappearing! But two excellent stories in my favorite paper of record give a little perspective.

The first, from Iran, is the gut punch: Journalists there are not only losing their jobs at a record clip — 2,000 in recent months, by some reports — but they are being jailed, tortured, and exiled. The New York Times gets the story of one riveting escape, a photographer who made it to the comparative safety of northern Iraq:

For two months Ehsan Maleki traveled around Iran with a backpack containing his cameras, a few pieces of clothing and his laptop computer, taking pictures of the reformist candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi during the presidential campaign. He did not know that his backpack and his cameras would soon become his only possessions, or that he would be forced to crawl out of the country hiding in a herd of sheep.

The second, from a small town in New Mexico, is maybe equally inspiring. In it, we learn about the new life of the ex-D.C. correspondent for a now-shuttered western paper. Moving to tiny Guadalupe, M. E. Sprengelmeyer could either afford to buy a house… or one of the town’s two weekly newspapers. He chose newsprint over stucco:

Eight months ago, Mr. Sprengelmeyer, 42, worked as the sole Washington correspondent for The Rocky Mountain News, the Denver newspaper that went out of business in February, but his job these days is a far cry from the Senate press gallery.

In August, he embarked on a new life in this isolated little town as owner, publisher, editor, primary writer and sometime ad salesman, photographer and deliverer of the weekly Guadalupe County Communicator, circulation about 2,000.

Sprengelmeyer is actually making pretty good money, he says, and he’s even considering bringing his new paper out twice a week. “I couldn’t do this if I had a family,” he tells the Times. “But it feels like it matters, and I’m having fun.”

So as we mourn the apparently bygone days of Conde excess, Time Inc grandeur, Hearst munificence, and Times Co glory, don’t underestimate the scrappy reality on the ground.

For every laid-off Senior Editor in Manhattan there are 500 wildcats roaming foreign lands with pen and paper, braving FSB intimidation or Basij batons. And for every jettisoned Staff Photographer in L.A. there’s a wily entrepreneur doing it her own way in small-town USA.

Buck up! Others actually do die — or at least move to New Mexico — trying.

Extra credit: Check out Sprengelmeyer’s bitchin’, unapologetic story about owning two of Jack Abramoff’s old suits.

via Reporter Resurrects Career – Buys His Own Paper – NYTimes.com.

via Iranian Journalists Flee, Fearing Retribution for Covering Protests – NYTimes.com.

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Filed under: Don't be lazy, Economy, Jobs, Journalism, New York Times, , , , ,

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