Remembering My First… -

Shel Israel inContext

Remembering My First…

it-seems-to-shelThis is my third blog and the first one written under my name.

My first blog was called It Seems to Me. I started it in 2003, so that I could land a job with a newspaper or magazine. It didn’t turn out that way.

The story started more than 20 years earlier, when I was an editor for a suburban Boston newspaper and was dating a woman who ditched me. She said that I was lots of fun, but our relationship was starting to get serious, and she had no intention of getting deeply involved with a writer.

She didn’t like driving around in a crapmobile like the one I was driving. She didn’t like living in a rat-holes like the one I was living in she most certainly didn’t want to get involved with someone who could earn half of what she was making, which showed he overestimated what I was making at the time.

She left me. I kept writing: I kept loving to write. But this woman had planted a residual seed of discontent. It grew slowly, and I kept writing, but eventually I came to hate the vow of poverty required of most editorial job holders.

I had no idea that for traditional journalists those years would be remembered as the good old days: I moved on, finding myself in the late 1970s driving a taxi in Mill Valley, California while freelancing now and then for publications that were then popular and are now dead.

I started looking in the Classified Ads of the San Francisco Chronicle in 1979. That was where you found jobs in the Bay Area back in the day. Craig had not yet started his List. He was still in New Jersey hanging out in libraries. LinkedIn was not yet linked and job applications were sent by paper mail.

In the Chronicle ads, I got all the way up to the letter “P” in the listings when I found my new gig. I applied for and was hired on the spot to become an account executive for a little public relations firm working for a guy who Herb Caen, the most popular local columnist of the day called, Art ‘Boom Boom’ Blum.

I was good at PR. At the time media relations was the most valuable part of PR and I was good at it because I knew how editors thought. I had been one. I secretly yearned to be one again, but not enough to renew a poverty vow.

I soon left Blum, and eventually found myself to Regis McKenna Inc. It was a legendary place where a great many people with great talent worked. It was connected to the centers of power in Silicon Valley.

Eventually, I started my own agency, SIPR, which still exists today. I did well in many ways. Got the kind of car and home that the woman who planted seeds of doubt would have embraced.

I realized that my new career had many wonderful aspects, but I continued to increase in unhappiness. I didn’t want to teach people how to pitch editors, I wanted to be an editor. I started to eat and drink more and exercise less. I realized I had started to talk more and listen less. I became more competitive than I had previously been.

In early 2001, I sold my PR agency to a team of my employees and returned to writing. I co-started an email newsletter called Conferenza, and became immediately happier—and poorer. Conferenza got my partner Gary Bolles and me into all the right events: but it paid very few bills.

I realized I needed a real job and started going around to different publications and talking to editors who knew me as a PR guy. I showed them clips of stories I had written when I was a reporter.

A friendly editor looked at my clip book, handed it back and said: “Shel, all these clips are about people who are dead, forgotten or both.”

He suggested I start my own blog and that I use it to write about more current events that I would want to cover as a reporter.”

That suggestion became ItSeemstoMe and I blogged about Silicon Valley and business and startups and disruption. But mostly I blogged about blogging and helped to coin a phrase that became pretty popular: social media.

At some point, one of my 1,239 job applications got me a phone call, but just before I hopped into my car to have an interview, I got another call. The guy who was about to interview me had been laid off.

It was at that moment that I realized that I had become part of something that was bigger than I had imagined. Media was being disrupted by social media. Reporters were no just those of us who had been trained to report. Reporters would be everyone, who would see and hear things that interested either. Media companies would not just be publishing companies, but all companies posting content.

That would take me to writing books and have the unreal and exhilarating thrill of getting to speak all over the world. It got me to my second blog, called Global Neighbourhoods. I’ll tell you more about both of these in my next post.

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