New Year, New Job, New Subway Commute

The New Year began with one big change for me: I started a new job at the Rachael Ray Show as its Publicity Coordinator. Wednesday was my first day, and while I’m still getting the hang of things, I can tell it’s going to be a fulfilling experience. I already feel very lucky to be part of that team.

After working as a temp in Sports Illustrated‘s communications department for four months, it became clear that there might not be a chance for longer-term employment there – not for any bad reason, but just because that’s how things go sometimes in a down economy. But, I felt encouraged and grateful for the support of my bosses, who assured me they were in my corner as I looked for a new position. One of them had a connection to the show, knew they needed a new Publicity Coordinator, and I was lucky enough to get the job.

Aside from the work being rooted in public relations and social media, nearly everything about it is different from previous positions I’ve held. After thinking for most of college that I wanted to work in sports, I’m really enjoying the shift to the entertainment industry (if I’ve learned anything since graduating from college, it’s that you shouldn’t be surprised if your idea of a perfect career radically changes). My passion for sports – as a fan – has not dulled, and I’m not ruling out a return to the field somewhere down the road, but having a new focus is refreshing.

I’m also in a new part of the city. My new office is in Chelsea – a departure from the fast pace of Midtown. It’s a painless commute, although a bit longer, but that just means I’m finishing three to five more pages of Team of Rivals each morning.

And while everything about the challenge and promise of a new job is great, there’s another benefit: This is a full-time, real-person, big-kid position. I’m no longer a temp or an intern. It gives some degree of permanence to my time in New York City and a bit of an accomplished feeling, in that I landed a job in my dream city and desired field. Obviously, I still have a lot to prove, but I’m proud of having taken the first step.

Not much else is new for me in the new year, but the job change and a wonderful week home in Portland for Christmas have me looking at NYC in a different light. It’s only January 5, but 2013 is already giving me a lot to love. I hope it’s doing the same for you.

Brief P.S.: I typically can’t keep a New Year’s Resolution past the third week of January, but I’m seriously resolved to write more in 2013. So many thoughts pop in and out of my head on a daily basis, and I’d like to develop many of them more fully right here. We’ll see how it goes.

Lincoln, Perception and Storytelling

After months of anticipation, my sister and I saw Lincoln this past weekend, taking advantage of the movie’s early release in New York City theaters. While I’ve always taken a particular interest in the Civil War when it comes to studying American history, Hope is the real Civil War buff and had been beside herself with excitement for weeks at the idea of seeing her favorite time period gloriously displayed on screen.

To our surprise, she was underwhelmed, while I absolutely loved it. Sure, it dragged a bit at the end, and I found the opening scene (in which Union soldiers recite the Gettysburg Address back to Lincoln during his visit to a battlefield) to be a little cheesy, but I just couldn’t (actually, still can’t) get over Daniel Day-Lewis’ tremendous performance as the president. Not to go all Roger Ebert here, but I have never been so convinced that an actor really was the person he was portraying. Obviously, there is no way of knowing whether he’s doing a spot-on impression of Lincoln’s voice, gait and mannerisms. But assuming tremendous research went into making it as accurate as possible, I don’t know how someone couldn’t be blown away by how real it seems.

Prior to seeing the movie, I decided to start reading Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 book upon which much of Lincoln‘s plot is drawn. I still have a ways to go with it, but I’m glad I read a little before seeing the movie (for, say, some background knowledge on characters like William Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State) and am finding it easier to digest with some mental image (albeit not the “real” thing) of characters and places described in the book.

I’m on page 142 of 754 so there’s still a lot to digest, but I have been struck by two facets of Lincoln I never knew existed:

  1. Master storyteller. If nothing else, Lincoln is worth  it for the scene in which the president tells a story about Ethan Allen and a George Washington portrait in an outhouse (just trust me). It’s not just worth it because the story is laugh-out-loud funny; the way Daniel Day-Lewis delivers (and, I want to believe, Lincoln delivered) it – timing, emphasis, everything – is riveting. And as I read the book, I’m intrigued by all the mentions of Lincoln as a masterful storyteller. He grew up listening to his father regale friends, neighbors and travelers who boarded at their Kentucky home, carefully remembering every detail and re-telling the stories for his own friends the next day. Goodwin called it a “passion for rendering experience into powerful language.” From what I can tell so far, nearly everyone who made contact with Lincoln was smitten by his stories and the way his face lit up as he told them. I suppose I always thought of Lincoln as a no-nonsense, serious man, but I like knowing he was much more than a stoic face looking back at me from a Mathew Brady portrait.
  2. Savvy PR man. Lincoln believed you only are that which you are perceived to be. No matter what’s on the inside, people will like or dislike you (or vote for or against you) based on who they think you are, not who you think yourself to be. To me, this is a huge part of why companies invest in public relations: They want to control how they are perceived. To Lincoln, it was a driving factor in his political pursuits, primarily because he desperately wanted history to remember his name (mission accomplished), and knew that wouldn’t happen unless he made a name for himself in modern times. He seemed to believe, writes Goodwin, that “ideas of a person’s worth are tied to the way others, both contemporaries and future generations, perceive him.” I love that quote. Whether or not that’s how it should be, that’s how it is, and Lincoln played the political game with that in mind. I really don’t have much interest in modern-day politics, but I’m eager to learn more about how Lincoln’s rise to the top was aided by his deep understanding of perception’s importance.

My copy of Team of Rivals is already littered with highlighter marks and Post-it notes as I organize my thoughts, but I might turn here in the coming days and weeks in order to archive and consider them more fully.

And just for kicks: The Lincoln trailer, if you haven’t already seen it; background on how Lincoln came to life in the movie, from Diane Sawyer’s interview with Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis; and if you need to be convinced that this movie is worthy of your time, Ebert’s review.

Breakfast and an iPad

Today marks the end of an era for the Landsem household: My parents ended our subscription to The Oregonian.

For as long as I can remember, The Oregonian has been part of my life. In middle and high school, I’d read the sports or living sections while eating breakfast (Fridays were reserved for the A&E). I loved reading the comics in color on Sundays, too. A self-proclaimed hoarder, I have copies stuffed in my closet commemorating the deaths of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy, and countless sports sections recounting the Oregon Ducks’ recent football success.

Our final Oregonian.

I’m a journalism major in the “print v. web/newspapers dying/internet paywall” age; that print papers are on the decline is not news to me. But for some reason, that discussion never really hit home until last night, when my parents announced that today’s paper would be our last home-delivered Oregonian.

While much of my parents’ decision to cancel their subscription is based on the availability of other options – my dad can read a print copy of The Wall Street Journal at work, they both have iPads and both read a lot online as it is – another factor was the poor delivery service. I haven’t been home to witness it, but my dad’s been frustrated for a few months since our delivery is often missed.

I’m sure the Oregonian has bigger worries, but when it’s so easy for consumers to get their news elsewhere, you’d think they’d bend over backwards to serve loyal customers (my parents have subscribed since they married in 1986; and really, since 1982, when my dad split a subscription with his roommates at OSU). After a few days of no paper, and no apparent effort on the part of the paper to remedy the situation, my parents decided it was time to cancel.

My parents are not customer service snobs; they’ve considered unsubscribing a few times in the past, but never had as many reasons to as they do now. One factor in their decision was as simple as clearing the clutter that accumulates with a daily paper. They still plan to buy the Sunday edition from Starbucks or 7-Eleven, to take advantage of the expanded feature sections and coupons.

I completely understand what they’re doing. Since I’m not home 90% of the time, it doesn’t even affect me. But metaphorically speaking, a stage of my life ended with the end of the Oregonian subscription. The Landsems are no longer one of the households keeping print media alive. My eight-year-old sister will never run outside, pajama-clad, and grab the paper to read over breakfast. To archive major world events, I won’t save a front page in my closet drawer; I’ll take a screenshot or clip to Evernote.

It is sad, but more for what it represents in journalism than for what it means to my family. I’m not losing any sleep over it – I’m waking up with breakfast and The New York Times on my iPad.

“News” Update

In recent news:

First: ESPN has canned the LeGarrette Blount video from my previous post.  My apologies…you can watch this instead.  Totally unrelated, but much more lighthearted.

Second: I’ve realized that I can see the future: it’s quite possible that my life will turn out to be a mashup of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “30 Rock.”  If this is true, I’ll work for a TV show or station and live in Minneapolis or New York (or maybe in the middle: Cleveland?) and still be single at 35 or so.  I’ll probably have Liz Lemon’s passion for food and Mary Richards’ work ethic.  Only time will tell, but I won’t complain if I somehow end up like Liz and Mary.

Third: This New York Times article should have been on the front page of every newspaper in the country, if you want my opinion.  It described a reporter’s findings of what New Yorkers read while they ride on the subway.   Of course, most people wouldn’t have cared, and it’s not really that important, but if you like big cities and/or books and/or people watching, give it a go.  I was fascinated.  If you read it, let me know your thoughts; what would you read?

Fourth: Speaking of New York, the US Open tennis tournament is happening right now.  I know college football opened its season this weekend, but you should take the rest of the week to watch some tennis: 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin is kicking some major butt.

Melanie Oudin

She has beaten 4-seed Elena Dementieva, 29-seed Maria Sharapova, and 9-seed Nadia Petrova en route to the quarterfinals.  Oudin is from Georgia, and she seems to be extremely motivated, well-spoken and gracious.  She plays again on Wednesday, and I’ll be watching; the future of American tennis is looking bright.  Do you think a sparkling new player like Oudin might make the sport more relevant in America today?  Aside from Venus, Serena, and Andy Roddick, we haven’t got much.   I’m hoping Oudin’s amazing US Open performance signals a changing of the guard in American tennis.

If any more pressing news items appear today, I’ll be sure to let you know about them.  Until then, I’m off to deal with this weird feeling that comes knowing the rest of my family is at at work or school while I still enjoy summer.