August 09, 2014

Age discrimination and other hiring issues in the 'liberal media'

Update, Jan. 13, 2015: Six months after passing me by,  possibly for age-related reasons, the Bastrop Advertiser's managing editor has spit the bit, and it's hiring again. I may apply again, but if I do, I'm going to insist on some information up front, related to the original version of this post.

Meanwhile, the Austin American-Statesman, running second to the Dallas Morning News in digital world idiocy among major Texas papers, has almost totally folded the Advertiser's website into its own. 

I don't like it for two reasons.

First, it undercuts what's left of the "community newspaper" idea.

Second, I do NOT like the "Microsoft Surface/Windows 8" type website layout in general.

Now, back to the original post.

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For people who have gotten of a certain age, as they hunt for new jobs, a common phrase is "X is the new X," in terms of a certain age.

Well, I've come to believe that's very true at times.

Especially in terms of age discrimination. 

I had originally dialed back some critique of a recent hiring process, described here, to in exchange, at that link, focus more on the idiocy of the Austin American-Statesman and/or Cox Communications with its suburban and exurban papers in Austin.

Well, I've decided to do a part two, and dial the heat back up.

Speaking of, it looks like I'm still in my current location in the media world, vis-a-vis an interview I had to go to another location, which would be a community newspaper under the umbrella of the Austin-American Statesman. I was their official No. 2.

That said, is saying that the winner had more social media skills an unofficial version of age discrimination? (I was told this was the deciding factor.) I've been  officially age-discriminated against once. I was told so off the record, that's how I know.

And I've seen claims of bigger age discrimination, in the previous decade, in cases where the employer claimed that people were let go because it was thought they couldn't learn new computer skills. And, that was at another newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, about six years ago. I guess it was just "happenstance" that many of the people let go were older, and columnist or critic types, who happen to make bigger bucks in the newspaper world.

Interesting that those were all newspapers, eh?

It's the real world, and the so-called librul media is actually, in general, one of the more conservative members of the real world on this and other fiscal-related bottom lines. I'll note, as part of that, that "community" newspapers, especially, are bad about using "blind box" help wanteds. And, since the Great Recession, and Internet 2.0, and the combined detritus nuking newspapers, many have gotten worse about all of this.

First, because I'm kind of tired of this, I'm naming names, to a degree.

It was one of the community newspapers owned by the Austin American-Statesman. I'm not naming the person who interviewed me, as I don't know if that person did or did not have the final call on the hiring. And, that person may have not had the final call on age X being the new age X.

And, I can't legally prove any of this. Age discrimination, as the ex-employees who sued the Snooze soon learned, is a lot harder to prove than racial or sexual discrimination.

That said?

As for the claims of not noting my social media background? Per the top 1/4 of the first page of my resume:
COMPUTER SKILLS
• Quark  • Photoshop  • InDesign  • Office • Video • Web content  • Social media • QuickBooks
Last I checked, "social media" was spelled as, uh, "social media"! So, that's undercut right there. Plus, "Web content"? That means that, using either a house-based system or a third-party web host, I have experience (and it's extensive) in website "publishing" for various newspapers. I've done that for years.

If you, the interviewer, wanted to know more about my skills, and amount of usage, of Facebook, or Twitter, or Google+ or Instagram or Pinterest, all you had to do was ask. But, since the Bastrop Advertiser only lists the first three under "social media" on its home page, although it has a Pinterest icon on the "more social media" link below the first three.

Now, I don't list "blogging" for two reasons. One, it's not always considered "social media." Two, I got Googled once, and I keep personal blogging detached from my journalism resume for that reason. 

Second, the interviewer with whom I had such rapport didn't ask ANY questions, to the best of my memory, specific to my social media skills. My memory is never perfect, hence the caveat. But, it's usually pretty damned good, so put that caveat in agate type with an asterisk. And, I know, I know, this person didn't ask any advanced questions about social media, such as target audiences, what each of the different types of social media is best for, etc.

Third, the Bastrop Advertiser doesn't even have its own social media feeds. The "trio" listed above? The links it its website are all for the Austin American-Statesman social media sites. The same is true of every other one of the Statesman's community newspapers.

So, the desire for social media skills? It's all bullshit. 

If you really actually cared about social media, each of your community papers would link its own social media accounts on its pages. If I'm interested in the community newspaper in Bastrop, or Pflugerville, or Round Rock, and I'm interested in its online presence, I don't want to be directed to Statesman Tweets.

And, if this were "only" an IT error off of using a Statesman template for new community paper websites, if I'm the only person in a full year who caught it and complained, that's sad.

Fourth, beyond my own previous personal experience from before this? I was in the Metroplex when, as part of the "bleed," in 2008 or 2009, the Dallas Morning News canned a bunch of older staffers, almost all of them columnists and critics, as noted more briefly above. It got sued — I haven't Googled recently to find the results. In the filing of the suit, the plaintiffs mentioned that computer skills, or alleged lack thereof, and ability to learn and/or improve them, or lack thereof, were among the reasons for the dismissals.

Ahh, the "don't have skills" with the presumption one's too old to learn them. In our tech world, that's one of the "easiest" excuses/pseudo-justifications in the deck for age discrimination. 

And older folks at newspapers, like elsewhere, make more money. Usually, the hope is that a younger person will work for less. You can always, in a vacancy, go back to the older person if you tried to lowball the younger person too much and he or she said now. That's if a role isn't contracted out to a freelancer, as more and more big dailies are doing with more and more columnist and critic spots, with "created" vacancies.

And, I've seen other tricks of the trade, too. I don't know if they're more common in newspapers than other media, or media in general versus other jobs, but I've seen other tricks of the trade, too.

Advertise a job, get resumes, interview the top candidates, then hire nobody. Re-advertise the job a month later, having "skimmed" whoever first applied so that you can now raise the bar on minimum qualifications without raising the pay. 

Or a related trick. Advertise the job, interview top candidates. Decide whether some internal candidate is close enough to the top that he or she will be fobbed off by a fancy title and 15-20 percent less pay than the old managing editor, if they even know what the salary is.

Beyond that, if either the American-Statesman, or its Cox Communications parent, is so idiotic as to say it will, and I quote, "never" have paywalls for the web versions of its community newspapers? I was a bit hesitant about that issue already. If you want to be dumb enough to piss money away, I'm going to be smart enough to think twice about going there.

There is of course no chance in hell a person in my position would win a legal action, if one were undertaken, even if justified.

I'll admit part of this is just upset over something not panning out. But, something that smells like age discrimination stinks. Even if it wasn't deliberate, it was presumptuous as hell.

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