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Media Escapism

You now things are tough in the news business when journalists form their own support group on Facebook.

From FishbowlLA [1]

We’ve just joined a Facebook group [2] called “Newspaper Escape Plan”. The group was started in August of 2008 and now has over 2,500 members, 39 topics on their discussion board, and 194 wall posts. The latest post is from us, asking how we can get one of their nifty buttons.

The group- and the buttons- were created by Martin Gee, a designer who was laid off from the San Jose Mercury News in June of last year and now works for Oregon Business Magazine in Portland.

He was kind enough to answer our questions when we tracked him down over ichat.

FBLA: What prompted you to start the Facebook group?

Gee: A specific event? I just got news that 3 people I knew and worked with at the Chicago Tribune got laid off. We all worked in features design. What killed me was that they’re all new moms. It just made me sick.

FBLA: Did you know a lot of people that were being laid off?

Gee: Oh yeah. Left and right.

FBLA: You left newspapers but you’re working for a magazine. Is it fair to assume you’re specifically worried about the newspaper industry? Do you have more hope for other forms of print media?

Gee: News and journalism can evolve but it’s held back with editors’ and owners’ hanging on to newsprint. Newsprint is just a medium. I’m definitely worried about the newspaper industry. I go back and forth sometimes. I want newspapers to do well and evolve. Somedays after reading Romenesko, I want them to die so something else can rise from the ashes. I do have hope for print.

FBLA: Is there a way our readers can get buttons?

Gee: I guess they can ask on the Facebook page.

FBLA: But they’d better ask real nice.

You may remember a powerful series of photos [3] by Gee that were circulating the blogosphere last Summer. They were entitled “Reduction in Force” and featured the dying newsroom of his then-employer, the San Jose Mercury News. Gee describes the photos on his website [4] as “a personal project that was blogged about without my knowledge or consent … 20,000 Flickr views later, I got laid off.”

Check out the picture of the button mentioned in the article on the Fishbowl link.  Gee could probably make some extra money by selling buttons and t-shirts with that image on them.