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Journalist Unbroken

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July 13, 1995. The day Gannett began the demise of expert, ethical journalism and journalists’ lives by trying to break the six Detroit News and Detroit Free Press labor unions.

The Strike Begins

It was the late afternoon and I was working in the sports department of The Detroit News. There was an announcement made that all union staff had to clear their desk drawers and leave the building. The strike had begun.

I wasn’t prepared, but I put everything in a small box and walked outside. At the door, I was handed a picket sign and with pride, began walking the line with all the other journalists, Teamsters and union members.

I think I was in shock. Because although we’d had union meetings talking about this day, what to do, when it would happen, and what would happen that day, I was stunned. I had worked since high school towards this position, in this profession. Yet, eight years into my newspaper career, at what I considered its peak, I was walking out. By choice.

I’d saved for a house and was glad I hadn’t found one yet. I was single, no kids, three dogs, two cats. I’d lived in Detroit since 1987. The Detroit News was my fifth newspaper, but I had always thought it would be my last. And, I was right. I never worked in newspapers again.

All my plans, my hard work, the competitive edge that woke me at five a.m., working all day and sometimes all night breaking stories, editing pages, writing columns, however, were not wasted. I was just being prepped for the next step forward. 

Gannett didn’t break the unions, or me, or the incredibly talented people that I was honored to work with at The Detroit News and Free Press. While the strike went on until February 14, 1997, I had to change careers. 

My Segue into Advertising

I had to leave the newspaper industry because I was blackballed and labeled a trouble-making striker by my former employers. (Moi?) When references were requested, newspapers were also told that I was still on strike, although I had formally left the strike and was writing freelance boxing articles to pay the bills while job hunting.

I remember hearing “you’re hired!” at a New York newspaper where I had interviewed. But, minutes later I was told that I couldn’t be hired because I was accused of causing trouble on the picket line in Sterling Heights, Mich. I did not.

I had interviewed at The Los Angeles Times, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, The St. Petersburg Times, and I had even returned to The Michigan Chronicle to see if I could freelance there. 

Thankfully, a dear friend and still an employee of The Chronicle, Linda Moragne, told me that Don Coleman was looking for me. Don, owned Don Coleman Advertising and Linda said that Don asked what I was doing since the strike. He used to read my boxing column and needed a senior copywriter.

Several 5 a.m. breakfast meetings later, I was hired to work on 13 corporate accounts including General Mills, Domino’s Pizza, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Western Union, and many others. Two weeks later I was presenting scripts with the Jeep team at Jeep’s world headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. 

I enjoyed advertising almost as much as I did journalism. It was challenging and it took me all the way out of my comfort zone. I was asked to perform scripts, I had to learn how to present campaigns, the hours were grueling (115 one week), but I was writing and learning and pitching new business with the agency. I wrote and produced TV, radio, print, and events campaigns. And, I built and worked on some of the first websites for many clients. 

I worked with wonderfully skilled people, Fortune 500 brands, and made great friends at DCA/GlobalHue. Thank you, Don.

Next Stop: North Carolina

I had begun event planning for Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Kmart, the Navy, and others while at GlobalHue, and eventually, I was hired away by Urban Sports & Entertainment Group in North Carolina. They brought me to South to help run The CIAA Tournament, and The Honda Battle of the Bands.  I worked with really cool clients and made many more new friends.

Welcomed to Florida 

Ultimately, I was inspired to found my own website and advertising agency and brought it to Florida. In July 2010, I launched The Marketing Square in Winter Park, Florida, after working with clients in Michigan and North Carolina.

It was the peak of the recession, but I was welcomed to Florida by entrepreneurs who boot-strapped their way into new careers with websites and advertising. It was at this time that I found my niche with licensed professionals whose advertising and ethics are governed by The Florida Bar, The American Medical Association, Real Estate Boards, and the SEC.

Today, I have amazing clients, all who I call my friends, first. Lawyers, doctors, financial and real estate firms, and small businesses of all kinds, in several states.

Yes, I miss journalism. I miss sports reporting full time. I miss authentic, old-school, ethical journalism. But I still do some boxing writing on this website and am producing videos to be posted on my YouTube channel. 

Union Busting: The Inception of Not News

If you wonder what happened to fair and balanced reporting, Google the Gannett Newspaper Strike. Gannett was the first of many corporations to control and destroy the media. Those corporations shape the not news that we all see today.

In your Google search, you’ll learn about thousands of ethical, experienced, and trained journalists forced out of careers for which they were educated, interned for, competed for, and then, worked their way up the ranks to work within. But, you will not hear about all the journalists who thrived and survived in other careers. Gannett doesn’t cover those stories.

You do hear, however, about how journalists are restricted and governed. Reporters and journalists who have struggled to remain in the field, are battling for information, access, and story placement. You may even be someone who has fallen victim to the anti-journalist movement and think that “the media” is equated with journalism. It is not. 

What is the Media?

The media is any source of online or offline information procured, molded and created for consumption by anyone. It can be controlled by corporations, media outlets, politicians, advertisers, or uneducated, unskilled groups. It may be an entertainment channel or may even be dubbed a news outlet.

Do not confuse media with journalism. 

All media is NOT journalism or produced by journalists. Journalists are impartial. Journalists check facts. Journalists use sources to represent both sides of an issue. Journalists are educated and have degrees in journalism. Trained internships in journalism. Years of experience in a craft that is thriving.

I don’t read or watch or listen to not news. I write, post and create content that is important to me and to the entrepreneurs that I work with. I read and research online using vetted resources through libraries and universities. I do not use Google for my answers.

That’s my choice. I suggest that whatever you read, watch, or listen to, that you know better to believe everything that’s on the Internet or within a medium.

Journalism Survives, Unbroken

Journalism isn’t dead, it’s fighting for its life in a world of not news, social media, click bait and garbage that offers at best, inaccurate information.

Journalism is not a safe career. Journalists are not only under attack in anti-journalism campaigns, but they’re dying while trying to uphold the freedom of the press. 

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, of the 1,345 journalists that died between 1992 and 2019, 863 journalists were murdered. Six journalists have been murdered in 2019.

I look forward to generations of ethical journalism. We all walked the picket line for a reason. There are many thousands of journalists worldwide who are upholding the ethics codes learned in J-school. Who compete for careers that are more difficult to perform today than ever.

Train yourself to vet your sources for news and information. There are journalists looking for truth, exposing corruption, exploitation, and lies. There is fair and balanced information out there. Work to be that educated reader, viewer, or listener. True journalism is worth the effort.

4 Responses
  • Al Heggen
    July 15, 2019

    Thanks, Bekah! Keep me on your mailing list. Looking forward to more interesting and challenging reflections and real news.

    • Rebekah Brown
      July 18, 2019

      Hi Al,

      Thanks for reading. I actually just completed the piece…had lots of client work to finish, first. I don’t write as much because I’m usually working for clients these days but I’ll send you a notice.

  • LaVonne M Kohlman
    July 16, 2019

    Great article Rebekah! I didn’t realize all that happened to you in your career path! You are one tough cookie! Of course, that comes from watching Helen doing HER thing after Bob passed away…..I’m sure you picked up a few traits from her on your path!:) Keep on doing!:) Hugs to you!

    • Rebekah Brown
      July 18, 2019

      Thank you, LaVonne. The path changes continually. I just make the necessary changes so that I have the choices that determine my future.

      How is your jewelry business?

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