Wednesday, July 1, 2009

'These jobs are going, and they ain't coming back..'

When I lived in New York previously, from 2000 through 2002, I worked at the Financial Times' New York office on 6th Avenue, so today I went to play at 57th Street station, the nearest station to the Pearson building.

It was, I admit, a somewhat strange clash of cultures feeling: carrying a guitar case past the place I worked for a couple of years to my new 'place of business'.

When I wrapped up playing I even went for a quick sentimental pint round the corner at Connolly's, which had been one of our haunts in its previous incarnation across the street before it was demolished for the expansion of MoMA. It's not the same.

57th is a good platform to play at, acoustically and in terms of passenger traffic, except that there wasn't any money in it at the end of today's session. But I'll go back there to play: the gap between trains is as long as I've experienced at any of the Manhattan stations and it actually has - dare I say it, about any station - an intimate feel. I got to play some quieter, slower songs that I don't normally include.

Today's Songlist:

Mexico - James Taylor
Here Comes The Sun - Beatles
Desire - Ryan Adams
May You Never - John Martyn
Alison - Elvis Costello
Into The Mystic - Van Morrison
Lucky Town - Bruce Springsteen
Good Riddance - Green Day
Roxanne - The Police
Moondance - Van Morrison
Times Like These - Foo Fighters
Trapped - Jimmy Cliff
Already Home - Marc Cohn
Rosalita - Bruce Springsteen


I was also thinking about the FT today after a former colleague told me that the paper has created a new job called "Main News Integrator" whose responsibilities will be to "pursue the integration of the FT's news editing operations for web and print".

My colleagues and I at were pretty much doing that ten years ago. But I guess it's different now when it's - finally - the web rather than the print edition that's in the ascendant.

Jeff Jarvis Tweeted today from the Aspen Ideas Festival that Andrew Sullivan thinks journalism "has become too much about journalists." Wasn't it always, to an extent? Now we just have better and faster ways to be in each other's faces, or in-boxes.

So it was good to hear that my former boss at the FT was talking here about the importance of giving readers what they want (or at least finding out what, if anything, they're prepared to pay for).

I see where Sullivan's coming from, though. We used to be more about the "of the" that attached to our name - I was always proud to introduce myself by saying "I'm Steve McGookin of the Financial Times", but I never lost sight of the fact that contacts or PR firms were only really interested in the part after "of the".

But now it's all about us as individual brands. Even if we're fortunate enough to operate under the auspices of a benevolent parent company, we still need to develop our own identity, our own audience and - like it or not - our own unique selling point, whether or not we even know what it is yet.

Meanwhile, amid the continued jobs gloom here's a good read from a few days ago on the challenges of freelancing.


After seeing the pan flute player on the platform the other day, I knew it wouldn't be long before I saw another, and sure enough at the Union Square mezzanine today, a pan flute player and a guitarist from Raices - 'the sound of the Andes' - were playing. I've no idea if there are more of them at home, but their backing tape sounded like a pretty full band.


Even though it's been around for a while, Christopher Janney's minimalist musical sculpture, REACH on the 34th Street platform, still manages to entice people to raise their hands to break the light beams and activate the sound generator, which creates almost jungle-like noises on both parts of the platform.

One of the sounds it created reminded me of something, but I couldn't quite place it. Then it came to me - it was the beginning of Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' (still one of the most groundbreaking of music videos in a genre where that description is often overused).

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