Critical Mass

“In My Jammies,” Chris Watson on Life after the Santa Cruz Sentinel


NBCC member Chris Watson sends this dispatch from Santa Cruz, California:

For over 30 years, I reviewed books, interviewed authors and submitted my Sunday book columns to the features editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, a small, 150-year-old daily newspaper in California. For most of those years, life was good; there was a steady, happy glow to it.

But, as I found out June 30th, that glow was only the reflected light of a dying paradigm.

Like so many newsies of late, particularly those who once had a cozy nest on the book page, I learned first-hand that flux is the norm. That lesson came in the form of being laid-off rather abruptly. Almost as abruptly, however, I was given the opportunity to continue writing my columns—that’s two columns each Sunday—albeit with less column-inch space and merely on a contract basis.

Quite to my surprise, I’m not crying and stamping my foot as much as I thought I would: I still get to read and write about new books, people still respond to my words and I have lots of time to work on other projects.

It’s true, there’s no 24-hour sys admin, employee assistance program or benefits package (other than the constant supply of Little Debbie baked goods in the cupboard), but neither am I shocked to find myself in this position. Despite all the moaning and gnashing of teeth by my colleagues in the news biz, the economic realities of the 21st century have been staring us in the face for a long time. If we so far avoided getting hit by the flak from a tech-transfigured economy, it was only a temporary deferment. Whether kicking and screaming or in orderly fashion, each generation is superceded by the next. It’s evolution, baby.

I look forward to what awaits me around the bend. There will be more flux, of course, but also a steady trickle of tech advances improving long-distance communication and widening the pool of potential readers, of whom I am very fond.

Got any writing jobs? Contact me.
Chris Watson

Read Chris Watson in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.