Steve's Blog: Job fair makes reporter thankful he's employed

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - I'm feeling a lot more thankful about my job this week.

Don't get me wrong, I've always appreciated my position at WLOX, but I've probably taken it for granted at times.

These tight economic times reminded me this week that I shouldn't do that.

The occasion that sparked that reminder was my coverage of a WLOX-sponsored job fair at the Marriott Hotel in Gulfport.

During our morning news meeting, we talked about the fact that the event would probably be pretty crowded because of the ailing economy and high unemployment rate. We collectively decided it was certainly worthy of a news story.

Boy, was it ever.

The last time I saw a line of people that long was back in college when throngs had camped out all night outside the SIU arena to be first in line for Bob Dylan tickets.

Now I'm dating myself, but that's the truth.

The job fair was held in a fairly large conference room at the Gulfport hotel and it was wall to wall people.

The line stretched from outside the conference room, down an adjoining hallway, through the lobby and outside the front door.

A longtime hotel employee told me he'd never seen such a large crowd for a single event at that facility.

You could call it a commentary on the economy.

That's my best description after making my way through the crowd and having the opportunity to hear people's stories.

I met a single mother from Gulfport who's been searching for a job since May. I could sense the frustration in her voice when I asked her about the ongoing struggle to find work.

She said the enormous crowd of people looking for jobs was a real testimony to the state of the economy here in South Mississippi.

I talked to another man who had worked construction, but was no longer employed. He was looking for something that better fit his degree and skill level. He told me, he too, was having a difficult time finding something suitable.

I talked to another young woman who was returning to the job market after serving a stint with the volunteer group, Americorps. I wished her well and admired her for giving up a commitment of her life for such a worthy organization.

Times are certainly tough, but it wasn't all gloom and doom.

I found folks truly motivated and encouraged by the opportunity to share their resumes and network with potential employers.

People with a strong work ethic will do whatever it takes to feed their families and make ends meet.

I'm blessed to have a gainfully employed wife who has worked in the accounting field for nearly 30 years. She's been the primary bread winner more than once, and has experienced how difficult it can sometimes be in the media job market.

Although I've been fortunate to work for WLOX for nearly 18 years now, I was in radio news for 12 years before that. Over the course of those 12 years, I worked for six different radio stations in four different markets from Illinois to Florida to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Speaking to these people looking for a job reminded me of a time several years back in Jacksonville, Florida. My wife had recently given birth to our now 21-year-old daughter, and I lost my job at the radio station just a few weeks later.

I was fortunate to be able to play "Mr. Mom" for awhile (I have much respect for stay at home moms or dads) but soon found myself job hunting again.

After an unsuccessful search in the media markets, I wound up taking a job selling cars at the local Ford dealership.

Sometimes you have to suck up your pride and do whatever it takes to bring home a paycheck.

After a couple rather miserable months of selling cars, I was fortunate to land the news director's job at K-99 in Biloxi. I actually followed in the footsteps of Doug Walker, who was moving to the TV station. A few years later, I followed Doug here.

And this week, thanks to some determined job seekers, I'm more thankful than ever that I can go to work every day as a TV reporter at WLOX.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.