Halifax Media tells new employees to sign non-compete agreement | JIMROMENESKO.COM

So you’re scraping by on the money the NYT has been paying you — enough to live reasonably well, not enough to save a whole heck of a lot.

Then your paper gets sold. You hold your breath and find out you still have a job.

Then this …

Halifax Media tells new employees to sign non-compete agreement | JIMROMENESKO.COM

So when you leave a smallish newspaper to go elsewhere, you must first spend two years living off … nothing.

Unfortunately, that means something very simple: Tell your colleagues not to work for one of these papers. The only entities offering a deal worse than this have red capes and pitchforks.

Most popular stories of the year (among those I wrote)

After some year-end number-crunching, here’s what people read — and what they overlooked:

Top stories:

1. U.S. women rout New Zealand to reach quarterfinals. Not surprising in the sense that it’s Olympic women’s soccer, which accounts for most of these. Surprising in the sense that this was their least interesting game, and I covered it by TV and phone.

2. Weight lifted with U.S. soccer victory, gold. The biggest event I covered, and in re-reading it, I’m still happy with the story.

3. Liddell KO gives Evans shot at UFC light heavyweight title. We started covering MMA in earnest this year, and it paid off. This was the first UFC card I attended, and it was worth it.

4. UFC has fight on its hands against Elite XC. Funny to read that headline in retrospect, but this was a breakthrough story — my first cover story and, as far as I know, our first MMA cover story. A headache to write — try summing up a sport’s history and its current political/business in-fighting in one piece that isn’t a 10-page magazine spread — but worth the effort.

5. USA secures rematch with Brazil for gold. Not my favorite bit of writing this year, with a lead that seems a little disjointed upon re-reading it months later, but this was a vital game in Beijing.

6. Words heat up for colossal Shamrock-Slice showdown. Quotable guys, to say the least.

7. In year 1, Beckham on target for MLS.  Should’ve been higher. Exclusive interview with one of the world’s very biggest celebrities.

8. Russian Emelianenko brings big reputation to the States. Another exclusive with a big name, though not quite as big as Beckham. In Beckham’s case, I was literally alone with him — in Fedor’s case, we were talking by phone via translator.

9. Kai scores winner in extra time; U.S. women advance. Another big game in China, another one I covered by TV and phone.

10. UFC champion Couture has been MMA’s elder statesman. Another good exclusive interview, but I really didn’t have the time or space to do much with it.

13. Tiny Iceland on verge of handball glory, sans Bjork. Skipped a couple of routine MMA stories to dig up my best-read non-soccer story from China. Interesting numbers you can see here — no comments, 42 “recommends.” That’s unheard-of.

Here are the ones that, in my humble opinion, deserved a bit more interest.

American men’s soccer team settles for 2-2 draw with Netherlands. One of the best games I’ve ever seen.

Striking career for Fire’s Brian McBride. Cover story overshadowed by the World Series. There are some back stories behind this story that I won’t get into. They have nothing to do with Brian or the Fire, both of whom couldn’t have been more gracious.

Revenge not on Jackson’s mind in third bout vs. Silva. Must have been an early Christmas lull on the site, because this is an interesting guy.

Gold medalists return home as new pro league. Maybe the headline should’ve read, “Hey! More about Hope Solo!”

From bar fights to Vegas lights, Torres has striking career. One of the most exciting guys in MMA, and a great interview, too.

Last shot sinks American again. Just read it. Amazing turn of events, and the story turned out well. My story, that is — I’m not saying I wanted to see Matt Emmons miss. I actually remember gasping when I saw the score pop up.

U.S. women get team sabre bronze; Ukraine is upset winner. Emotional day in Beijing. Also one of the more interesting interview settings for me — Becca Ward was leaving Beijing the next day to go to freshman orientation at Duke, something I know a bit about it. I jokingly asked her why she’d do that, and she responded with a fantastic quote.

Crooning Crew fans band together in show of support. “Columbus ’til I die, Columbus ’til I die …”

American falters on badminton’s big stage. How often do you get a glimpse inside one of the biggest sports in Asia? IN Asia.

No Olympics in 2009, but I hope to get a few more interesting stories out of it.

Season’s end

Rough count of the past year: 45 stories, 39 of them about MLS. Quite an increase from 25 over the two preceding years (not counting Olympic Athlete of the Week, which was a quick roundup that has since been folded into the blog).

It’s not as if I won’t know what to do with myself now that it’s over. I’ve got plenty of projects lined up for the next few months. Some of them could be affected by the present uncertainty, some won’t.

There’s something melancholy about the end of a season, particularly if you’re one of the last people to leave the stadium. It wasn’t like the end of the Salt Lake Olympics, where the crews taking down the media center were so efficient that I was scared to step away from my “desk” (table) for even a minute, lest it be stripped like a car parked in a bad neighborhood. In this case, we all settled for listening to the revved-up leaf blowers that clean the stadium. RFK’s main soccer pressbox, unlike the boxes in newer NFL stadia, is not enclosed.

For almost eight months, I’ve been in a routine. Call Monday. Interviews Tuesday. Write Tuesday night and Wednesday. Gauge reaction Thursday. Watch Thursday night game. Then on Saturday, with the kids in bed, flip around to see more games and think of a story for next week.

So now it’s over. I’m relatively pleased with the tens of thousands of words I wrote. I’m going to miss my Tuesday conversations with Landon Donovan or Fernando Clavijo or whoever was willing to chat for the weekly story, though I have roughly 17-18 hours of archived conversations in case I want to hear that awful voice I have while I’m formulating questions. There’s no guarantee it’ll happen again next year.

But on the bright side, I’m looking forward to a leisurely lunch tomorrow.

Wonder if there’s a European game on …