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At Princeton’s Fourth of July fireworks last night, I got into a discussion with a friend who is concerned about his son who works as a journalist for a small N.J. newspaper. I referred him to a “tell it like it is” story in Search Engine Watch by Kevin Heisler under the foreboding headline “Newspapers Bleed Red Ink: Death by Internet.” I particularly liked this article because Heisler quotes experts in the Internet/media business, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, The N.Y. Times, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Heisler’s recommendation: “If you’re a journalist, consider quitting and becoming a SEO specialist. The search industry is filled with former journalists who’ve seen the light. The alternative is death by Internet.” He makes a convincing case quoting industry problems as well as the big shots mentioned above. The problem is that it’s just not that easy. People don’t easily up and quit their jobs anymore than they will move from one part of the country to another to find work. Nevertheless, there are a lot more educational institutions teaching journalism than search engine optimization, and most of us hope there is some miraculous change that will occur that will make our career decisions look smart. The reality is that many of us live by inertia, unable to make a change until we are forced to do so.

Earlier this week, I heard a CNBC interview with the real estate magnate and now media mogul Sam Zell, who owns Tribune Co. He said focus groups the Tribune ran eight years ago told company executives what people wanted in newspapers and online services and “we ignored them. Now our goal is simply producing a newspaper that people will pay for.” As a result, jobs will be eliminated throughout every Tribune property. Those unfortunates will be scrambling to find new positions, and few of them will end up in traditional journalism.

“If I can just put on my sneakers,” Jessica Bookstaff, chairman of Associated Cities, told me last week then I can get my exercise. But it all starts with the sneakers. Associated Cities is hosting next week’s GeoDomain Expo, which starts Thursday, July 10, in Chicago. We were talking about what it takes to get some exercise, but it applies equally to a career. The Kelsey Group is working in association with Associated Cities to produce this event and I will be speaking on Friday. It will be a valuable event, and I would recommend you consider attending.

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