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Recession Ready? Interview with Grant Miller

Editor’s Note: In a series of articles entitled “Recession Ready?”, The Urban Country is interviewing people around the world who are affected by the recession to understand how different people are coping. For a complete list of interviews, choose the “Recession Interview” category on the right navigation.

grantmiller Grant Miller is a Chicago-based writer; he’s been freelance since 2001. You can get a taste of his priceless fall-off-your-chair humour at his blog: The Urban Country interviewed Mr. Miller about how the economy has affected his life and career:

What is your job title and role?

I am a writer. I began freelancing in 2001 primarily for newspapers in the Chicago suburbs and briefly doing game summaries for Prior to that, I was a full-time, honest to goodness newspaper reporter. I’ve written professionally in some capacity since I was 18.

What changes have you noticed in the last year as a result of the shrinking economy?

Although I’m technically a freelancer – meaning I can write for anyone in any medium –  newspapers are and probably always will be my first love. Sadly, the industry was on it’s deathbed before the recession really took hold. Many – perhaps all – of my friends in the industry have left for marketing or public relations jobs. Many that stuck around were laid off. I still know a few in the business, but they’ve all got their eyes on the disappearing horizon, too.

Has globalization had an effect on your business?

Not that I’ve seen, but perhaps I’m not looking.

What I’ve seen is the Googlization of news. People don’t turn to any one paper like they used to – they turn to Google news or Yahoo news. Newspapers were slow, lethargic really, to address online news gathering. I take that back, they weren’t slow, but the Internet was just blindingly fast. National issues will continue to be covered well via online mediums. But local news – is lost. And really, that’s the stuff that affects people most. Sure people want to know what their Federal leaders are up to, but they also wanna know what their neighbor is doing.

What measures have you taken in order to stay afloat in the current economy?

Personally, I enrolled in a bartending class last summer. I bartended in college and knew it’s a way to make good, quick money if the need arose. Plus drinking is recession proof. Luckily, I haven’t had to show my mad skillz just yet.

Additionally, I’m watching the markets almost hourly and holding my breath. We made some financial adjustments over the past couple years in anticipation of a downturn, but still it’s nerve racking.

The saddest story, however is a paper I used to work with a lot moved out of their office building last summer. The paper built the complex in the late 1980s and had a fairly dramatic perch above my suburban idyll. To see it empty now is a shock. The paper took up home in a mini-mall a couple miles away and shipped out their printing services elsewhere.

How are your peers handling the uncertainty with their jobs and their future?

Mostly by trying to forget about it, actually. Everyone’s nervous. When I see old co-workers or friends, we tend to discuss happier subjects.

What types of changes have you seen in your peers/friends lifestyle since the sky started falling?

Two minor things and I’m not sure what they mean:

A few years ago, some friends and I would spend a weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. It doesn’t sound interesting, I know, but we’d simply get out of the house for a few days and usually spend the weekend watching basketball and drinking in college or townie bars. We did it for three or four years in a row. We stopped last year. But maybe that’s because we were lazy in planning.

In a similar vein, some friends and I would take in a White Sox game every summer. But instead of sitting in the bleachers, we’d pay top-dollar for the VIP club behind home plate. For a baseball nut like me, the VIP club is Heaven on Earth. Gourmet food, open bar, comfy seats right on top of the game, Sox legends mingling with us commoners. It’s great. I sent out an e-mail a couple weeks ago trying to drum up interest again. But the general response was “Let’s get the cheap seats this year.”

If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you do to pass the time?

I’d buy, buy, buy. I’ve read a lot of Warren Buffet and Peter Lynch and respect their ideas on investing. The gist I’ve taken away is to buy when other investors are fearful and sell when they’re confident. It’s worked for me, so far. There’s a ton of great deals out there at the moment. But everyone is scared, understandably. Who knows – maybe this recession is just the beginning? Maybe it will lead to a depression, riots in Europe, mass starvation and World War III.

Stranger things have happened. Hopefully, history won’t repeat itself.

Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for more exclusive interviews on The Urban Country.

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