For me, 2009 began on a rocky note. I was canned as part of a workforce downsizing at the Riverside Press-Enterprise, where I’d worked as a schools beat reporter for four years. The layoff thrust me onto California’s unemployment rolls. I was stuck there for six seemingly endless months. At least, there still was enough cash left in the state’s coffers then to keep me and countless other Californians subsisting “on the dole,” as they say in my native England.
Then, as I was about to quit journalism outright — with not even a glimmer of a glimmer of hope on the horizon — a totally unexpected but welcome break came my way in mid-September: the opportunity to take on my first editing gig in a 15-year career, as the Daily Pilot’s new city editor. I’m so thankful to be working again, and in a challenging new job and a managerial role that I’m enjoying, serving the paper’s readers in Newport-Mesa. The salary is nothing to write home about, but it’s a job that delivers a fortnightly paycheck.
Yet California’s economic picture remains bleak. In October, the state unemployment rate hit 12.5%. And the nation’s economy is supposed to be on the rebound? When I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll be thinking of a guy I met the other day, a lunch counter neighbor of mine named Matt. This fellow Californian was an unemployed corporate pilot who grew up in Newport Beach, where his dad still lives. Matt said he used to fly executive jets and charter flights out of John Wayne Airport, before joining another crew based out of Van Nuys. When we met two months ago, he told me that he had been laid off a year earlier and that he was still looking to be re-employed.