'GMA' connects with job fairs
NEW YORK - People began lining up at midnight, five hours before the doors opened, when ABC's "Good Morning America" sponsored a job fair last month in Chicago.
It spoke not only about the troubled economy but to public response to the morning show's effort to help viewers looking for work. Stunned by the turnout, "Good Morning America" scheduled another job fair yesterday near Miami.
"We have every intention of serving the audience as well as we can under the circumstances," said Jim Murphy, executive producer of ABC's morning show. "What matters more to the American people than about what is going on with their economic life and their economic future?"
The job fairs were organized by Tory Johnson, the show's workplace contributor and founder and CEO of Women for Hire, which does job recruitment drives and offers advice to women seeking work.
Johnson has been filing reports for "GMA" for four years, telling stories about women balancing work and family, returning to the workforce after raising children or building businesses online. With the economy souring, "Good Morning America" is turning to her more often.
Now she's addressing questions about job security, coping with layoffs, and finding work through the Internet.
Johnson can relate to some of what her viewers are experiencing. She worked in public relations at NBC News in the early 1990s, and was swept out of her job as part of a housecleaning in the wake of an embarrassing scandal in which "Dateline NBC" rigged a truck crash for a story.
"I was very young - 22 years old - and I thought my career had crumbled before it had even started," she said.
She eventually found other public relations work, but tired of the field and saw an opportunity to build a company that helped women seeking work. Besides getting up to 80 companies to meet with job seekers at her "GMA" fairs, experts are on hand to help people sharpen their resumes. There have already been some successes; Aramark Uniform Services hired nine people who turned out to the Chicago job fair.
Johnson instructs women who have never used the Internet to hunt for jobs, but also stresses the need for personal contact and networking. She and "Good Morning America" are helping people set up job-hunting clubs, modeled after book clubs, where job seekers get together to share experiences.
Her reports are almost exclusively about women, since more than two-thirds of the morning show's viewers after the first half hour are women.
"Hiring has not come to a halt," she said. "It's important to sift through the headlines . . . and realize that opportunities still exist."