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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2008-12-21

Second Half Kick-Off
Rod Mar is leaving the Seattle Times after almost two decades with the newspaper.

By Rod Mar

Photo by Robert Binder

Photo by Robert Binder

Rod Mar covers his last assignment for the Seattle Times- the Seahawks vs. Rams game in St. Louis on December 14, 2008.
December 15, 2008 was like many Mondays I'd spent at the Seattle Times.

A day earlier, I'd covered a Seahawks game on the road (this time in St. Louis), and like so many Mondays before, I was headed to the airport at some ungodly hour for the trip back home.

Only difference was this time, boarding that flight and flying home also meant it was my last day as a staff photographer at the Times.

After almost two decades of working at the newspaper, I had decided to take advantage of a buyout offer that had been presented just before Election Day.

Like most other newspapers around the country, the Times is struggling.

We all know the story by heart: Declining ad revenues, declining circulation, a poor economy, and the inability to monetize the Internet.

All signs are pointing to a continued decline for newspapers, including the Times. In fact, since the time I accepted the buyout, the Tribune Company has declared bankruptcy, Newsday has asked all its photographers to reapply for their jobs, and my own paper has "furloughed" some staffers (that is, forced its unaffiliated employees to take a week of unpaid leave) in an effort to save money.

Faced with changes to my job description (two months of editing, one month of production work for all shooters), the decision wasn't as tough as I thought it would be. It would mean the end of my "Best Seat in the House" blog. And while I am all for taking one for the team, the bottom line was that the future felt uncertain and I wanted to be in control of my own destiny.

To me, the signs were clear. It was time to pursue a new future.

As a former journalist friend remarked to me upon hearing my decision, "Bold move, but the ground is crumbling beneath you. You need to jump".

I had never thought about it that way, but he was right.

While the decision to leave was pretty easy, the leaving itself was not.

I have so many friends and mentors at the Times that I will miss so very much. Wonderful photojournalists such as Alan Berner and Steve Ringman and young up-and-comers like Erika Schultz -- all will assure the Times will continue its fine tradition of featuring strong photography.

So what is next? As I said in my final post in my newspaper blog, "the first half is over".

Using sports metaphors comes easily to me, and the metaphor of halftime seems so apt.

My "second half" will involve freelancing, speaking, teaching and golfing (poorly).

As I start my journey, it's amazing to me the basics that I need to take care of.

Cameras. Lenses. Laptop. Website. The list is long and right now seems endless. (*Note to self -- buy some compact flash cards. Oh, and get a business license. And insurance. And cases of Top Ramen to hold me over for the next few months.)

Photo by Robert Binder

Photo by Robert Binder

Rod Mar covers his last assignment for the Seattle Times- the Seahawks vs. Rams game in St. Louis on December 14, 2008.
One of the first things I did was establish a new blog at www.rodmarphoto.com. Thanks to a suggestion from my brilliant and beautiful wife Kari, I took a cue from my blog at the Times and named this one, "Beyond the Best Seat". Thanks to her design, the photos have big display and the layout is simple and clean.

In the blog, I will continue my goal of taking readers with me on my journeys. My successes at the Olympics in Beijing were due in great part to the fact that I kept that mantra in my mind every day -- by remembering that I was bringing readers with me, not just showing them pictures I could make, I felt my work found more depth that it has had in the past.

My goal is to update a couple of times a week -- a combination of assignments I'm shooting, challenges I'm facing as I try to figure out what to do next. I look forward to hearing from those of you kind enough to drop by.

Soon, a website. Meanwhile, lots of learning and leaning on my big-time freelance friends for advice. There are books to read, software to learn, and there is the entire enterprise of starting a business. While the buyout money gives me a start, it by no means covers all my expenses and times will be lean until I can get back on my feet.

And while I will miss the Times and the people who work there, I'm excited for my future.

On Monday, after landing in Seattle, I went home and gathered the rest of my gear that belonged to the Times. Then Kari and I went down to the office for my last time as an employee.

I turned in my equipment, handed over my credit card, keycard, parking pass, shook hands with my editor.

As we walked out the door, Kari asked, "So, does it feel weird?"

"A little," I replied. "But mostly it feels right."

With that, we headed across the street to the little bar on the corner and toasted the first half of my career.

Here's to the second half.


(Rod Mar's is now a freelance photographer based in Seattle, WA. His personal website can be found at: www.rodmarphoto.com; You can also view his work on his SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/rod.)

Related Links:
Rod's member page

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