Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MSN, Newspapers and Don Moore

When Don Moore began his career, he used a typewriter and a pica pole and processed his own black and white photographs in a darkroom. Today, there is a generation of young people who would not know what any of those things were -- much less how to use them. But they would know about

That is why today is a particularly fun day for me.

In January, Mr. Moore -- aka my journalism dad -- was laid off from his job at the Charlotte Sun-Herald, a small, family-owned newspaper in Port Charlotte, Fla. Why? It was hit with the same financial reality that most newspaper companies have been hit with in the last few years. Too many employees, not enough advertising to pay the bills and more people canceling their newspaper subscriptions so they can go online and read what they wanted for free.

Don was just one of the journalists that Poynter Institute's Rick Edmonds wrote about earlier this week -- one of 2,400 newspaper people who had lost their jobs as the industry struggles to find a way in this new media landscape.

When he got his pink slip, Don had no idea how to use PC, what a wireless router was or what he would do without a newspaper job -- an industry he has worked in all of his life. I wrote about his plight in a previous blog.

After stewing about it a while, I asked him if he wanted to freelance for the Web site. After all, he has spent more than 40 years in the business. Writing stories -- regardless of whether they're in print or online -- isn't exactly a new skill for him.

He agreed to do it -- tentatively. Then he spent the next few weeks trying to bring himself into this century from a technology standpoint. In that area, he had some room for improvement. After a few frustrating weeks of technical challenges, his first stories hit the site, and I wrote about him again.

But the best part of this tale is that today, one of his articles, "Is Mortgage Crisis Causing Divorce?" was picked up by The news site also shared links to two of his other stories on our site.

When I discovered msn wanted to use his work on Saturday morning, I was so tickled that I called him to share the news. He was sitting with his daughter, Shannon, at a soccer match in North Port, Fla. His granddaughter, Coral, was playing. Amid the shouts from the parents and kids, I broke the news.

"Your story is being picked up," I said.

"Oh yeah?" he said, stopping the conversation long enough to cheer for his granddaughter. "By who? AP?"

"No, no," I said, explaining that The Associated Press did not pick up stories from our site, but national web sites did. "Your story is going to be on msn."

There was a long pause in the conversation. All I could hear was the noise of the game in the background.

"Are you there?" I asked.

"Uh, yeah. What's msn?"

For a few minutes, all I could do was laugh. Then I made him hand the phone to his daughter so I could explain why I had called.

Fortunately for me, she was able to explain it all.

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