Ed Garsten is the Editorial Director of the controversial Chrysler Group's Media Blog. Ed's story begins with him calling blogs idiotic and ends with how blogs rejuvenated his life. How he got to that point via CNN and broadcast news is quite a tale.
To say I had no interest in banging on a computer keyboard for any reason would be an understatement. In 1981 I joined CNN, which, at the time, had the biggest computerized broadcast newsroom anywhere. They had some typewriters that worked most of the time, but none of the computers worked all of the time.
With those odds, why change? So I didn’t. I scratched out my swill on paper until a supervisor informed me the typewriters were going bye-bye so I had to give up the ghost along with actual ink.
After years of peering into those green screen “dumb” terminals, my eyesight deteriorated, but my patience grew to the point where I no longer whacked the side of the bland beige boxes ever time it lost my story or show rundown. Yes, I was slowly being co-opted into the computer world and once I stopped swearing, I learned to take advantage of all the stuff it could do…like fix my lousy spelling. It’s broadcasting, who cares how you spell?
By the end of the 1990’s CNN had fully embraced the Internet and we correspondents had to learn to file for the web first, then radio, then the television network. That was my first crack at multi-tasking, although cleaning up my kid’s crap while watching TV was my first official attempt, although in the mid-1980’s they didn’t formalize it with that term.
In 2001, I, along with hundreds of other folks, were laid off from CNN when the disastrous AOL-Time Warner merger happened. Television stations weren’t keen to hire middle aged ex-network guys who might command a living wage.
A Detroit news director actually looked me in the eye and said, “We’re not looking for journalists, we want street characters, like they have in New York City.”
I’m a native New Yorker, actually, so I figured I could play one on TV, but no dice. So I went to work as a print reporter at the Associated Press as the National Auto Writer. Print guys, I learned, don’t get out much, but they do pound the keyboard pretty hard hunting the Internet for story ideas, when they’re not on the phone begging for tips.
This is when I first became aware of blogs. I thought they were idiotic. There was all this nonsense from people who needed to get out more often. One guy posted this on his blog: “Man, I had to wait three hours in line for Space Mountain at Disney World. I was bummed.” But to my amazement, the guy received scads of comments from other schlemiels who also got stuck in the Space Mountain line and shared their misery.
Hmmmm…in a way a community of Space Mountain schlemiels was established and it hit home to me that that’s what blogging is all about...creating communities. I discovered many more of these communities while digging for stories. There were people who got stuck with lemons when they bought new cars. There were auto company employees who blogged to stay in touch with fellow workers and share experiences.
Fast forward three years after I’d left the AP to cover General Motors for The Detroit News. That job was about played out for a number of reasons, and I really didn’t know what to do next, besides go to another paper or attempt a comeback in broadcasting, which seemed remote.
But one Saturday as I returned home from the airport, my phone was ringing. On the other end of the line was a fellow journalist who also had a stake in a small Ann Arbor web design company. He asked if I was ready to ditch the News and cross the “line” to PR, sort of, by editing a new media blog DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group was going to launch.
We quickly met over a few beers and he laid it all out to me. The blog, still unnamed, would be for journalists only. I warned him there’s no way reporters are going to tip their hands on a blog by asking questions or making comments. Didn’t matter, he said. The company was already aware of that. Unlike other blogs it wouldn’t be driven by the number of comments but by how effective the medium would be at affecting the tone and frequency of coverage. They specifically wanted a reporter as the blog’s editorial director help guide the content toward the type of material journalists would use in their stories, and to write most of the stuff.
It took about a second to take the job. It was just like those early
days at CNN when the thought of sustaining a 24-hour television news
network seemed both a folly and an unmistakable opportunity. You just
had to take the chance, and I’ve never regretted it.
Sure, sometimes I miss getting my hands dirty on a great story, but my life has always been about communicating, so this just seemed like a logical progression.
At 53, this old dog was still learning new tricks. More than 9 months into this I’m still learning and figure that’s the way it’s going to be as blogging and the technology that supports it evolves and I have to keep up.
It’s no understatement that this opportunity has rejuvenated my life. Five years ago I was devastated to get laid off from a job I loved at a company where I’d worked nearly 20 years. Now, all I can say to CNN is….thank you.Technorati Tags: Blogger_Stories, Ed_Garsten, Chrysler_Media_Blog