Occupy print journalism

Twenty five million, two hundred twenty eight thousand, eight hundred … seconds.

That’s four hundred twenty thousand, four hundred eighty minutes.

Or, seven thousand eight hours.

Two hundred ninety two days.

Exactly 9 months and 17 days since the Los Angeles Daily News decided that they could no longer afford to keep me employed there.

That’s longer than the average gestation period of a human being in the 21st century (280 days) and it’s the longest vacation I’ve ever had.

In those 292 days my income, obviously, plummeted, my savings account strained, my health insurance went away and my car turned over 200,000 miles.

We also buried Joey, one of our three kitties, in our back yard.

It was nearly impossible during those first few weeks of unemployment last summer, to keep from fulminating in this space or on Twitter about what it felt like to be the age that I am, and to be shown the door by an industry that, after 30 years, would likely never let me back in.

I wanted to verbally disembowel the executives at Media News Group, the publisher of the Daily News, the editor. But I resisted because I didn’t see the point in erupting in a pyroclastic flow of hot gas and lava and I surmised the fluid negativity would just drown me in pessimism.

Later in the fall and winter I still wanted to write something about how my life had changed but realized I was still reacting to events that I had no control over and still, pretty gloomy.

It was also about this time that I actually began to notice that I really enjoyed sleeping in every day and I liked the fact that nobody was expecting me to show up somewhere and lick their ass. The unfamiliar feeling that weekends and weekdays had no significance began to fade and soon every day was simply, mine.

The fact that print journalism, an industry that appears to be on it’s last legs, was behind me no longer felt grievous or regrettable, it was actually liberating.

I had been rescued from the Titanic and although I wouldn’t watch her go down from a lifeboat I wasn’t going to go down with her.

Then, over the next months it became clear there was no Carpathia in sight and the water was getting pretty cold.

I started swimming but making it to the mainland, where I would actually be able to make my mortgage payment started to seem insurmountable.

Here is where I could begin an entire diatribe railing against Wall Street and GMAC and Fannie Mae and Countrywide and the Bush Administration and why bananas don’t taste as good as they used to, but that would take all night and in the end would serve no purpose other than to drown myself in pessimism.

Besides, I’d rather talk about Michelle Shocked.

Yes, THAT Michelle Shocked. The Texas-born, singer-songwriter probably best known for “When I Grow Up” which was released on her second album “Short Sharp Shocked” in 1988.

In 1995, Michelle contributed an original song to the soundtrack for the film “Dead Man Walking” called “Quality of Mercy.”

Maybe more importantly, Michelle was arrested during the November 29, 2011, eviction of the Occupy Los Angeles movement.

To say that we met her last week would not be inaccurate.

Michelle is currently in the middle of a 5-year tour she calls “Road Works.” The show is part playlist of solid bluesy/folksy songs from her nearly 30-year repertoire, part sing-a-long and part press conference bringing to light the abuse and corruption perpetrated by bankers and politicians to gain monumental profits at the expense of the American taxpayer through the housing crisis.

Last Thursday night, for Linda’s birthday, we went to see her at Zoey’s Cafe in Ventura. After the show we stood in the bar with her and her accomplices and listened to her advice as to how to deal with the fact that our house is being “stolen” from us by the bank.

During the show Michelle tells the story behind a song she wrote called “Bring Blanca Back” which chronicles the plight of Blanca Cardenas who was deported to Mexico after a legally questionable foreclosure on the home she owned for 8 years.

Michelle goes on to say that “According to realtytrac.com, in California during January of 2012, 1 out of every 265 housing units had been foreclosed on, with a total of 51,584 foreclosures.”

In January alone.

Just in California.

Michelle, and many others, believe there isn’t a housing crisis in America, there is a foreclosure crisis and that the bulk of those processes violate one law or another.

According to occupyfightsforclosures.org, which is affiliated with the OccupyLA movement,

“A recent San Francisco County audit of 384 foreclosures has stated that 99 percent of  those foreclosures had questionable activity, 84 percent had a clear violation of law, and over two-thirds had four or more violations. Occupiers, and non-Occupiers alike, are demanding a moratorium on foreclosures while investigations—that have yet to begin—are conducted.”

If you’re thinking that people who are in foreclosure just made bad decisions or bought too much house or made false statements on loan applications, you should read Gale Holland’s story published in the Los Angeles Times on April 13, 2012.

Last week I went to a local bar in town for a beer and to watch the Red Wings game. I ended up sitting next to a guy about my age who told me that he was also from Detroit and was also long-time Wings fan.

He also told me he was in default on his house and was about to go into foreclosure.

When we walked into Zoey’s last Thursday night, we had no idea that we would hear a lot of talk about the 99% and the foreclosure crisis and the occupy movement.

We came there to see a singer-songwriter we like play at a tiny club in our favorite Southern California town. But we came there thinking about the envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL that was left on our door the day before. Inside the envelope was a note from GMAC Mortgage.

After dinner we were seated at a table right in front of the stage. We shared the table with two other women.

Both of them told us they were losing their houses.

Tomorrow, I start a new job in, of all things, print journalism. After two hundred and ninety two days, the drought has ended.

Will GMAC be able to steal my house?

I’ll let you know.

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About tgapen

I'm a photographer, editor, designer, art director, writer, webmaster and Photoshopper and I'm a student of HTML5, CSS3 and Rock n Roll guitar. I live in the burbs of Los Angeles and used to commute 10 hours a week to and from various jobs at L.A. newspapers. My wife is amazing, we have two amazing cats and zero kids. The moon is my planet, I love rain, good, strong coffee and a Gibson ES-335.

1 thought on “Occupy print journalism

  1. I feel your pain Tom! you deserve a fabulous job including benefits!!! Regarding your portfolio..Love your eye!…the light you capture is engaging, compositions are thought provoking, motion artistically traveling to the next point of interest….close ups, crisp invitations. Lovely Linda makes for sweet eye candy!

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