PI is feeling, not just reporting on, the housing crunch
The newspaper industry is a demanding profession.The public demands so much from us and many times fail to see the limitations and challenges we face.The hardest thing about this profession is there are no days off. We need someone to work every single day. Writing stories, putting the newspaper together, or getting the call late at night for the breaking news story, the demands on the newsroom are heavy. While other departments head home when the clock strikes 5 p.m. on Friday, the newsroom remains alive, albeit a small staff on the weekends.For months, the Post Independent has reported about housing woes facing the valley and the problems employers have enticing people to come to the area.Now, the Post Independent has become part of that story.By the end of the week we will have a total of four openings in our newsroom. There’s also several openings in our advertising department.Having four openings in a 24-7 business is brutal, to say the least.I have to admit, there’s a bit of an overwhelming “What the hell are we going to do?” feeling. The news doesn’t stop, the job doesn’t slow down and the demand never decreases.The term perfect storm has been used when the issue of housing and employees arise.The problem is familiar to so many in the region. Candidates – experienced and inexperienced – see the high rental prices and say, “No thanks.” It’s also a big reason why people like former staff writer April Clark decided to leave the area.I’ve always found the Catch 22 of this valley frustrating. This is a beautiful place to live with so many things to do in the great outdoors – but there’s a catch: no money left over after the rent or mortgage is paid. No money for skiing and snowboarding, no money for going out, no money to do much except buy a little food.I see it a lot at this newspaper. I’m sure other businesses see it too. Staff members scrounging money together daily and counting the days until payday.Yes, that’s life, but the question is what’s the quality of life here in this region?All work and no play is an irritating life.Hopefully, you’ve picked up on my frustration. There’s a tremendous snowball effect with our employment dilemma. Our readers are very demanding. So when we can’t be everywhere and cover everything, then they complain and ridicule the newspaper. When we’re short-staffed the quality drops; when we’re short-staffed, the demand on the remaining staffers is steep.Then the quality of life question starts to have multiple layers. Everyone’s quality of life is impacted because there’s more time on the job and less time enjoying this amazing area.Of course, there’s always the company’s zero overtime mandate that never helps ease the workload.Oh, it’s so much fun to be on salary sometimes.The housing/employment dilemma has really hit the Post Independent hard this time. And I don’t see it going away.Most younger journalists take one look at the area’s home prices and realize their future will be short in this valley.In case you are wondering, journalism is not a high-paid profession. We do it because we love it, but, like everyone, we need to make ends meet.And we need to have a life away from work.Many employers in the region, including some neighboring newspapers, offer affordable housing. That’s a solution, but for us not having that solution is a big problem. It’s actually more affordable to live in Aspen than Garfield County for some employees.We’ve lost prospective employees to the Aspen market because of the housing issue.I will continue to keep my sniffer to the grindstone hoping to get our job openings filled soon. It’s not like we have a choice – the job is what it is, and it’s 24-7.For the most part, we accept the challenges and the criticisms of this profession, and take pride in the times when we do a good job.Right now, we’re just treading water, wondering what the future holds. Wondering who will take the jobs we have, while prospective employees wonder how they will be able to stretch a paycheck to the limit.As for so many employers in the valley, there is a perfect storm brewing, and that means doing more than just handing people a job and an umbrella.For us, I don’t have any answers. I’m just the weatherman.Dale Shrull is managing editor of the Post Independent.
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