The Cutline

Yahoo! News debuts new Tumblr recounting stories of the long-term unemployed

Joe Pompeo
The Cutline

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Tera Burbank and John Clark had been out of work over two years in February 2011. (AP/Julie Jacobson)

Media outlets have adopted a wide range of uses for the micro-blogging community Tumblr. As Tumblr's Mark Coatney told us back in April, more than 160 media organizations are now engaging their readers through Tumblr, which has about 67 million unique monthly visitors and 5.3 billion monthly page views. The blogging platform recently surpassed WordPress in user volume.

We've reported on some of these projects here on The Cutline, such as the New York Times' debut Tumblr offering.

So we'd be remiss if we didn't plug the new Tumblr our colleagues at Yahoo! News have created: "Down But Not Out: Stories from the long-term unemployed" as told to The Cutline's sister blog, The Lookout. It's a beautiful marriage of social media and long-form narrative story-telling, which features highlights from the deluge of comments and emails Lookout reporter Zack Roth has fielded. The first-person testimonials came in response to a crowd-sourcing appeal that Roth published recently, seeking out stories from people who have been out of work six months or longer.

We'll let Zack tell you about the results in his own words:

The thousands of anecdotes you sent us offer a heart-rending glimpse inside the reality of long-term joblessness during the Great Recession and its aftermath. They convey sadness, anxiety, anger, shame, and despair, but sometimes also humor, generosity, and a quintessentially American determination to roll with the punches. And they offer a portrait of out-of-work people who are smart, articulate, motivated, and resilient--a useful corrective to some of the negative stereotypes that too often shape perceptions of this huge group of Americans.

Here's but one excerpt, from Dan H. (varying degrees of anonymity were granted to respondents):

What can I say, I lost my job after uprooting the family and moving to Arizona from Washington, D.C. for a chance to buy an affordable home and set roots with the family. I was 37. I had never been out of work since I faked a copy of my birth certificate at 14 to get a job at McDonalds; they paid a dollar more an hour. With a 4 y.o., 18 month old and a 6 month old, my company fired me. New management had come in directly after I accepted the position. They proceeded to railroad all legacy sales persons. I had been a Telecommunications Technician for 15 years and was doing well with the transition from tech side to sales side. Desperate, I had used all our savings to move and tried diligently to find a job for 3 months, with a few interviews for high paying jobs. Arizona did provide unemployment insurance, 240 a week. My wife took a part time job at Target. We barely made it.

Of the roughly 1,000 emails and 6,000 blog comments Zack received, 58 of the most compelling submissions now live on "Down But Not Out," edited with the help of Yahoo! News copy-ace Phoebe Connelly. For now, the collection will remain static, and The Lookout will cross-publish one entry per week. But it's possible the Tumblr will be updated going forward: "We have enough stories that we could definitely keep updating for a long time," said Zack, adding: "We plan to do more stuff on the project as a whole."

In the meantime, we encourage you to head over to Down But Not Out and read/follow/like/enjoy.

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