WHEN long established broadsheet journalist Colin Randall was made redundant after almost 30 years at the Daily Telegraph, he was cast out into the turbulent waters of freelancing.
He had already established himself as one of the leading bloggers on the Daily Telegraph's growing number of in-house blogs, so he decided to set up a collection of his own sites in the hope that his audience would follow him across the web, as well as provide commissioning editors with an insight into his work.
I helped Colin get the sites up and running on TypePad, but he has now taken them forward to establish a growing audience on each and started writing for a number of publications, both online and in print.
Here he writes about his experience of the past few months:
Until last August, I was the "best Paris correspondent we've ever had" which, right or wrong as the judgement may have been, was pleasing enough to hear after 29 years on the Daily Telegraph, the last two and a bit in France.
Then there was a change of boss and, a month later, I was out on my ear. For someone who had been a salaried employee all his adult life, save for a couple of months of voluntary between-jobs madness as a teenager, the abrupt end to a career came as something of a bombshell.
Eight months on, I have made the same discovery as so many others who experience comparable events. There is life after employment.
It was not easy to have to contemplate reinventing myself as a freelance, especially at a time when online media outlets were presenting such a challenge to newspapers, the medium with which journalists of my generation are more familiar.
But then, I had reason to feel positive.
Will Lewis, who became editor of the Telegraph shortly after my sacking, had been in charge of the paper's move to state-of-the-art, all-things-techie offices in Victoria. And he, too, had been praising me. Visiting staff groups were told that I was as a classic example of an older print reporter who, to quote the Guardian quoting him, "had adapted with flair to the digital world and created a very popular blog about France".
So the first thing I did was to privatise that blog. With the paper's blessing, I wrote a valedictory posting, which was deliberately free of rancour, and directed my readers to Salut!.
It felt a little self-indulgent at the time. Rick Waghorn, who had launched his own successful site reporting on Norwich City after doing the same job for the local paper, suggested that I was one of those print journalists who could also make a go of it online,
But I was sceptical. Despite a burst of goodwill from those who followed me to my new blog, and a respectable number of hits, I doubted that the venture would ever provide a living. I thought the same when launching a second site, Salut! Sunderland, devoted to my own football club of choice, and then a third, Salut! Live, on another passion, folk music.
But was I right to be so pessimistic? Amid all this blogging, I have managed to build up a portfolio of mainstream freelance work, contributing in different ways to six national newspapers, a couple of radio stations, a publishing house and the news and features website The First Post.
When I started writing pieces for the Guardian's Comment is Free pages, Shane Richmond, who has done such admirable work building up the Telegraph's online activities, was kind enough to ask if this made me "the first person ever to blog for more than one newspaper".
My point is that while personal sites may be a long way off being money spinners for most of those people, professional journalists or otherwise, who create them, they are excellent shop windows or floating CVs.
Any commissioning editor or broadcast producer can look at my work at leisure, and decide whether I am any good. They can also get a fair idea of the subjects that interest me or, more important, those on which I have something interesting to say. I would like to believe much of the work that has come my way owes a little to whatever reputation I have in journalism; I know some of it arises directly or indirectly from my efforts online.
The sites attract comment elsewhere, and this keeps me in some people's minds as an active journalist – though I could certainly do without those media organisations, some of them very well endowed, that occasionally think I might be willing to work for them for nothing. A piece for Sunderland AFC's matchday programme – even though they were too mean to print a link to my blog – is one thing, CNN another.
It is far better, of course, not to get fired in the first place. It would be a lie to say I was earning anything like the Fleet Street salary I lost. But I am professionally content and about as busy as I want to be, putting bread and – this being the south of France - rosé wine on the table.