In a 30-year journalism career that ended with an eight-year stint at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, staff writer Sam Fulwood III crafted the kind of columns and long-form profiles that made his subjects and personalities spring to life on the page.
There was only one problem: When Fulwood took a buyout from the paper last November, he knew print journalism was in its death throes. And so, he began tackling the vocational question of "what next?"--even as his daughter Amanda prepared to enter the job market as a graduating senior at the University of Virginia.
"Give or take a couple of weeks, I stopped working about the time she was entering her senior year of college," said the elder Fulwood, 52. "And like most seniors, Amanda started to be less focused on college, and more focused on what job she would have. My daughter and I are very close, and we'd talk all the time on careers and life and stuff like that."
That talk led to a unique and tender joint chronicle on The Root, a daily online web magazine aimed at an African-American audience (and created by a partnership between the Washington Post and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.). There, father and daughter took turns writing about their forays into the job market, and what they've learned from watching each other. Amanda and Dad both posted their columns in the early morning hours of May 14, a mere six minutes apart.
"We're not in competition trying to one-up each other; it's just trying to write and talk about these things as we experience them," Sam stressed. His daughter (who declined an interview) writes about her struggles with remarkable candor: "Now as I graduate from the University of Virginia with a supposedly highly valued degree in foreign affairs, the only emotion I feel is shame. I spent the last four years of my life investing, networking and striving for perfection so I could earn my degree and take the world by storm. Instead, I am moving back home and asking my parents to support me just a little longer, because-like many of my fellow graduates this year-I haven't been able to land a job."
The idea for the companion columns came after Sam Fulwood (a freelancer at The Root since its inception more than a year ago) had a chat with outgoing managing editor Lynette Clemetson. "She was the one who connected the dots: 'Hey, you're looking for work and Amanda's looking for work. What's that like?' That's where the story came from," Sam said.
As for father Sam, he feels an equal measure of downcast emotion, though on a different swath of the vocational roller coaster. "The most difficult thing for me to say is this: All I ever wanted to be is a newspaper reporter, and It's clear I am not going to be a newspaper reporter anymore. That's the sad part. And my daughter is figuring out what she wants to be."
Recession Diaries: Unemployed father-daughter team explore the job market on either end