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In an attempt to overcome this dire situation, Connie Guglielmo, a Bay Area journalist, came up with a novel concept: a Web site, dubbed 8goodpeople.com, that's modeled on a reality show -- except the eight primary cast members aren't wannabe stars marooned on a South Pacific island, or locked in a hotel with nothing to do other than copulate with each other, but unemployed scribes who only want to go back to work. "Instead of pitching our resumés over the wall, we're putting them on the wall," Guglielmo notes. "We want to use our talent to chronicle something that's happening in the economy -- and hopefully, as part of that, to say to potential employers, 'Look at what a talented group of people is out there.'"
Colorado's Dan Luzadder, 54, is Exhibit A. To say the least, his background is impressive. He shared a general reporting Pulitzer Prize in 1983 as a contributor to the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel editorial staff's coverage of local flooding the previous year, and he is a member of the Scripps Howard Journalism Hall of Fame, thanks in part to his work at the Scripps-owned Rocky Mountain News. He left the Rocky in 2000, after a decade in the trenches, to take a position at Interactive Week, a high-tech mag whose high salaries lured numerous Denver journos ("Show Them the Money," November 16, 2000).
All was well until 2001, when, following a business downturn turned catastrophic by 9/11, Interactive Week closed up shop, leaving Luzadder in the lurch. Since then, he's picked up freelance assignments from the likes of the Denver Post, the Dallas Morning News and the New York Daily News, for which he covered many of the Kobe Bryant-related shenanigans in Eagle County, and he brings home a few bucks by teaching journalism classes at Metro State College. Yet a regular engagement has remained elusive -- so when Guglielmo approached him about 8goodpeople.com, he eagerly came aboard. Luzadder's participation in the site, which features personal essays about the unemployment experience, hasn't resulted in any job offers to date, but it's reinforced to him how many folks out there share his plight.
"This touches a real nerve," he says. "A lot of people on the site can write compellingly about what it's been like for them, so we've all gotten e-mail from people who are also struggling with out-of-work issues. There are a helluva lot of unemployed people out there, and the economy is having tremendous ramifications on everyone." Indeed, plenty of Web surfers in various fields have written in with essays of their own, and Guglielmo has posted a sampling of them in a new section labeled "Other Good People."
The reach of 8goodpeople.com was extended by press accounts; it's been mentioned or profiled in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News and numerous Web sites. As of last week, more than 12,000 people from 37 countries had stopped by to read about the contestants -- and while no one has landed that elusive job, signs are positive. According to Guglielmo, five of the eight are currently talking to employers about full-time work, four have gotten freelance assignments that came to them as a result of the site, and one person turned down a public-relations position "because she wanted to continue to pursue her journalism career."
In keeping with the reality-show theme, 8goodpeople.com was originally scheduled for a twelve-week run. Three-quarters of that time has elapsed, and everyone involved will have to decide soon if they want to stick around for a second season. Guglielmo says that, at present, most are leaning toward renewal. "I'm a realist," she notes, "but I'd love it for the eight of us, and for as many people in the country as possible, to have a Frank Capra ending."
Luzadder wouldn't object to that, either, especially given the sacrifices that have already been made, and those that could become necessary in the future. His wife, an accountant, had been working part-time prior to Interactive Week's collapse; she's now back to full-time, with Dan doing the Mr. Mom routine for their two kids, ages four and nine, between freelance assignments. He's been in Colorado since 1990, "and we love it here, we'd love to stay -- but the job opportunities are limited. We waffled about going elsewhere in the country, because we didn't want to disrupt everyone, but we're probably at the point where we're going to have to be more aggressive about it and possibly have to leave Colorado."
Not if a bargain hunter comes to the rescue. As he puts it, "I know where you can get a national columnist -- cheap."