Before taking a brief respite . . .

I’ve been busy with an array of freelancing and contract work this week and will be for the next week as well, so I won’t be posting here again until the week April 13. I’m freelancing the Women’s Final Four for a number of print and online outlets and have thrown together an impromptu blog that is the first big step toward creating the ultimate sports-oriented site I have been planning for a number of months.

That sport is the one that I covered thoroughly in my newspaper days and have for nearly 20 years, and its growth and emergence has been amazing. In this second career I’m attempting to blend that experience with the dynamics of the Web, which allow me to drive down deep into a niche in ways I could never have done for a daily print publication.

As I’ve preparing to take on this challenge I’ve kept in mind a recent Wall Street Journal piece by Mark Penn about the staggering career prospects for lawyers and other professionals (including journalists) in an economy that’s probably going to be sawed off even more drastically than first imagined. Penn might not have been a very good political strategist for Hillary Clinton but he’s one of the few people to make this point that really struck a nerve with me:

“We are totally unprepared for this new phenomenon. We have safety nets for the chronically unemployed, for the fast-food workers let go (oddly they may be the only ones keeping their jobs in this recession), and for the manufacturing plants that have been shuttered. The stimulus will create construction jobs galore. But we have nothing for the tens of thousands of displaced advertising creatives and newspaper writers and editors that are among the newly unemployed. They can’t build roads — all they learned how to do was to write ads and draft editorials.”

It doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it? Some might think it sounds whiny — how tough can a bunch of overpaid, overeducated knowledge workers really have it? But it also can serve as a reminder of how persistent and resourceful we’ve got to become to weather the economy as we try to do the work we love doing the best.

A friend who recently broke one of the biggest stories in the sports world — allegations of recruiting violations with the University of Connecticut men’s basketball program — has been demonstrating this ethic during his career.

I’ve known Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports since he was an editor at Basketball Times, a small monthly publication where I’ve freelanced for 18 years. He has never worked at a daily newspaper, and after he left BT 10 years ago he jumped into the nascent online media world. After one gig after another dried up, and even after he had published a book detailing the influence of the sports shoe companies (i.e., Nike) in basketball, he still needed some steady work for a while. He got it at — wait for this — a casino.

He explains that and more in a good Q and A about his career with Real Clear Sports, offering his thoughts on the journalism profession as well. He thinks communities will be the poorer with the demise of newspapers (he lives near Detroit). But he’s a vigorous advocate for the online nature of his work, especially after UConn coach Jim Calhoun tried to dismiss Wetzel’s reporting by referring to him and his co-author, Adrian Wojnarowski, as a couple of “bloggers:”

“Sure, we’ve been fighting it from day one. I started on the Internet in the late 90’s, and you couldn’t get press passes. When I started here, I was the first sports writer, and it was a battle to get credibility, and that battle doesn’t end.  It takes time. But I don’t take it as an insult. You can call me a blogger. I’m good with that.

“You didn’t hear him refuting the story, did you?  Call me anything you want.”

Dan’s the real deal, and so is the work he’s done and the way he’s done it. Even after his “Glory Road” fame (he helped coach Don Haskins write his autobiography and also penned the movie screenplay) he hasn’t changed. He’s a hard-nosed, tenacious journalist, who passionate about what he does and is unflinching in how he goes about it.

I think he’s a great example of how journalism careers do and will continue thrive on the Web. So much of that success depends on the individuals committed to doing it.

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