Newsletter 2023-02

For ASJA members in
Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington
February 2023

In This Issue

From the Prez, On the Hunt, M. Carolyn Miller,
ASJA PNW President
What ChatGPT and AI-based Writing Mean for Freelancers, Michelle V. Rafter
Medford’s Mail Tribune is Gone. What’s Next?, James Carberry
Drive Fundamentals, Bruce Miller
Member News and Announcements

Join Us At Our February Meeting!

Rosemary Keevil is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

ASJA PNW Monthly Meeting

Time: Wednesday, Feb 15, 2023: 01:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

To Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 818 0467 8870

Passcode: 635173

From the President

by M. Carolyn Miller

ASJA PNW Chapter President

On the Hunt

When I find a subject of interest to me, I immediately hunt out the story and ways to monetize it. (That’s why I like nonfiction writing.) Then, I pitch and write the article. Subjects include both those I’m intrigued with, such as virtual reality, or those I know, such as simulation design, that allow me to document and share my expertise.

But subjects can be, and often are, more personal. (“Research is me-search,” after all.) It’s like that now as I research and refine my own lifestyle in light of a recent diagnosis (Stage 1, Cervical Cancer, which they tell me is treatable).

As part of my research and to stock my freezer before treatments begin, I visited Marion Acres, a local farm and market west of Portland. I discovered the farm over five years ago, when they had only a meat counter. Today, they have a full market that sells nothing but local meats (mostly theirs), food and gift items.

They also have a full espresso and wine bar. You can sit outside to sip and watch the chickens peck and the cows moo against a pastoral backdrop. As one customer told them, “Every time I visit, I want to move in here.” So do I.

This visit, I talked with the wine guy. A strapping young man, recently retired from 33 years of teaching, he knew his wines. He explained how wines attain Resveratrol (good for health issues) and the role geography and weather play in that. His passion was contagious.

I left the market feeling full—with wine knowledge, with meat, with pickled beets and with the gift of a double rainbow as I got on the freeway.

“Let each man make his garden grow well and the world will be a beautiful place,” said Voltaire (and I paraphrase). At the heart of that cultivation, I suspect, is allowing one’s passion to flourish, be it for wine or writing.

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, spent her career designing narrative- and game-based learning. Today, she consults and writes about narrative in our lives and world, the inextricable link between the two, and the critical role of self-awareness in transforming both.

by Michelle V. Rafter

What ChatGPT and AI-based Writing Mean for Freelancers

Artificial intelligence-based chatbots are shaking up the media, and freelancers need to know what they are and how they’re being deployed in order to decide what to do about it.

Publishers are using chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT to generate the easiest, lowest-paid type of content writing: material driven by search engine optimization (SEO) that doesn’t require interviews or sophisticated research.

The Associated Press pioneered using AI-based bots more than a half dozen years ago to write formulaic public company quarterly earnings and sports reports, but always labeled them as such. More recently, Red Ventures caused an uproar when tech news sites Futurism and The Verge reported that the private equity-backed digital media company used ChatGPT to generate about 70 financial explainer stories for its CNET site over an approximately three-month period without publicly disclosing it (read the stories here and here).

In addition to CNET, Red Ventures owns such well-known online properties as ThePointsGuy, Bankrate,, ZDNet, Healthline, and Lonely Planet. Readers weren’t the only people outraged to learn the company was secretly experimenting with AI-written articles. According to current and former CNET editorial staff interviewed by The Verge, even they weren’t sure which stories were staff written and which were written by ChatGPT. Some maintained that other Red Venture media properties had published AI-based stories.

ChatGPT learned how to string words together by compiling a massive vocabulary database from information scraped from the internet. A separate investigation found that a Red Ventures subcontractor paid workers in Kenya less than $2 an hour to train the AI chatbot not to say or write sexist, racist or violent things by reviewing and labeling the content that the application found online. These low-paid workers were so traumatized from looking at the nastiest stuff imaginable for eight hours a day that the subcontractor ended its contract with OpenAI eight months earlier than planned.

What does this have to do with freelancers? A few things:

ChatGPT is already being promoted as a way to improve your writing or your writing business. My quick Google search turned up a number of classes and YouTube tutorials with names such as “Creative Ways of Leveraging ChatGPT to Sell Your Writing Online” (Golden Penguin), “ChatGPT is a Game-Changer. Here’s How to Use it in Your Writing.” (Contently) and “The ChatGPT AI Prompts This Freelance Writer Uses to Make Money (& Save Time)” (Elna Writes), to name a few. If you’re tempted to look into it, sessions like these can offer pointers for getting started.

However, if you’ve signed client contracts specifying that you personally write the work they cover and you want to use a bot to help, you should mention it to make sure that it’s within the contract scope, or in case you need to revise your agreement.

For me, ChatGPT in particular raises an ethical issue. If I operate my writing business by a self-imposed code of conduct, do I want to benefit from the output of those low-paid Kenyan workers? I’m torn. I use Facebook, and social media content moderation teams there and at other social channels receive relatively low pay to deal with the same objectionable content.

The other reason why freelancers should care: ChatGPT and other AI aren’t likely to disappear despite the dubious origins of some or how publications opt to deploy them. It’s why I’ve long counseled freelance writers to specialize in subjects or beats that take more effort, interviews, primary research, and more creativity versus less. Your work might end up in less mainstream publications, but it’ll also be harder to replace you with a machine.

An earlier generation of content mills, companies such as Associated Content, Helium, and Demand Media that paid freelancers next to nothing to crank out SEO-driven material, popped up during the last big recession, circa 2008 to 2011. That’s the same era when media staff jobs went away and desperate writers were willing to work for very little. Is it a coincidence that a new iteration of AI-generated content mills is appearing at the cusp of what economists predict could be another recession?

Read what other ASJA members are saying about ChatGPT in this post on the group’s Facebook page.

Michelle Rafter is a Portland business reporter and ghostwriter and long-time ASJA member.

by James Carberry

Medford’s Mail Tribune is Gone. What’s Next?

Medford’s Mail Tribune, one of the oldest newspapers in Oregon, shut down recently. It’s a nationwide trend. According to State of Local News 2022, a report produced by Penny Abernathy, visiting professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, “newspapers are continuing to vanish at a rapid rate.”

As old legacy newspapers have gone out of business, enterprising journalists and businesspeople have formed nonprofit organizations and started digital publications. In 2019, a former Oregonian reporter started a digital news site in Yachats in Lincoln County. In 2021, a group of citizens started a digital nonprofit publication, the Highway 58 Herald, that provides news coverage of the communities along the highway.

To be sure, newspapers are disappearing faster than digital news sites are replacing them, as Abernathy noted in her report.

And simply starting a digital news site doesn’t guarantee success. Like any business, a digital site has its risks. But it’s encouraging that some sites have staying power. They’ve continued to publish after a one- or two-year startup phase.

The nonprofit model is working in part because, well, it’s nonprofit. Where the traditional for-profit newspaper is expected to produce returns of 10%, 20% or more to investors, a nonprofit corporation doesn’t have the same pressure.

Of course, a nonprofit has to make enough money to cover its operating costs and fund future growth, and the new generation of digital publishers is learning how to do that, with strong support from fellow publishers, foundations that support journalism, and the journalism community. Publishers are trying different business models, usually a mix of digital advertising, subscriptions, memberships, donations, educational programs, workshops and other revenue-generating approaches. Organizations like LION publishers are providing education, training and financial support to publishers of digital news sites.

So what does all this mean to journalists? If I were a working journalist today, whether fresh out of school or at mid-career, I’d learn the business side of journalism. The best opportunities will open up for journalists who know both sides of publishing: journalism and business.

In his professional career, Jim Carberry was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, a Singapore-based newsletter correspondent, a corporate editor, a book author and the owner of a small business. He’s now retired and living in Barcelona, Spain, with his family. 


Editor’s note: As reported in a Seattle Times opinion piece, Salem-based EO Media, owner of The Bend Bulletin, East Oregonian (Pendleton), The Astorian and 15 other media properties, announced it will debut online and print editions of a Rogue Valley Tribune in February.

by Bruce Miller

Drive Fundamentals

The life of an IT (Information Technology) consultant can take various twists and turns. And nearly every day is a learning day on Google, researching a client’s problem. A recent investigation was for a client who wanted to increase the size of the hard drive in his desktop computer. This hard drive contained the operating system. The client – before he called me – had bought a 3.5″ mechanical (spin) hard drive. I arrived on scene with my disk duplicator device to help with the installation. We took the cover off the computer case to discover that there was no spin drive. Installation came to an immediate halt.

My client failed to do basic research to determine what he really needed, which was a M.2 solid state drive that attaches directly to the computer’s motherboard. Before you think of doing an upgrade, do adequate research – or have someone do it for you – before ordering parts.

That being said, here are drive fundamentals.

Traditional hard drives are mechanical and spin. Inside are metal platters and an arm extends over the platters to write and read digital data stored on the platters. These traditional drives commonly come in two sizes: 3.5″ for desktops and 2.5″ for laptops.

For many people, electronic storage without a spinning platter may have come in the form of an USB thumb drive. These drives contain electronic chips.

Electronic chip technology advanced so that electronic chips could replace the spin drives. This type of storage is known as an Solid State Drive (SSD). There are no platters or moving parts. This type of storage has been incorporated into the 2.5″ laptop drive size. You will not find a 3.5″ solid state drive. An SSD can replace a 3.5″ spin drive in a desktop.

All the traditional spin drive sizes – 3.5″ and 2.5″ – connect to the motherboard with cables for data and power. The most common kind of cable connection is SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment). Much older computers used the slower IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) cables.

Electronic storage has advanced past the traditional sizes (known as form factors) and there is another common type known as M.2. These are small circuit boards with electronic chips. These are designed to slip into a slot on the motherboard. With the cable eliminated, data transfer is faster than drives with cables.

The M.2 drives have variations in connection type and in size. The connection types are SATA (but without a cable) and NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express). NVMe drives are faster.

The M.2 drives come in diverse sizes. The most common variations are in the length, always expressed in mm (millimeters) and usually preceded with 22. So, an M.2 might have a form factor of 2280 (80 millimeters).

The M.2 drives also have what is known as a key, which is defined by the type of notches at the end of board that slips into the holder.

Replacing a computer’s spin drive that contains the operating system and programs with a SSD will significantly increase the speed of the computer and is a way to breathe new life into an older machine.

Just be sure you investigate first to determine what you need and what your options are before buying the next hard drive.

I buy only known brands of SSDs. Those brands are (pretty much in this order of preference): Samsung, Western Digital, SanDisk (owned by Western Digital), Crucial, and Kingston.

Bruce Miller lives in Seattle, writes about technology, does IT consulting, and is building his third multi-monitor work station at home.


2.5″ SSD:


Article with more detail:

Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus) buck, Gold Hill, SW Oregon © Maxine Cass

Member News

and Announcements

Minda Zetlin, Inc. columnist and author of Career Self-Care: Find Your Happiness, Success, and Fulfillment at Work, published last year, gave a talk on reaching your biggest career goals, on January 28th, at the Angel Arms, a beautiful, artist-created event space in a former church in Snohomish, Washington. A virtual talk on the same topic is set for January 31st for an expected audience of over 200 at MIT. Time management coach, Anna D. Kornick, wrote about Minda’s book and work strategies to supplement her recent podcast appearance. For Inc., Minda recommended nine of her favorite books to read in 2023.

L.M. Archer wrote about recent flooding in California vineyards and how heavy rainfall has helped reduce toxic soil salination caused by drought, for Wine Enthusiast Magazine. She wrote “California Gains Ground on the London International Vintners Exchange” for Wine Business Monthly , and has “Pushing the Envelope: Oregon Still White Wines From Red Grapes Find a Unique Niche” in the February, 2023 Wine Business Magazine print issue.

Michelle Rafter, the PNW chapter’s new Digital Liason to ASJA (National), reminds members that the active ASJA Facebook Group has taken the place of the old member forums.

Joanna Nesbit praises the coverage offered by the Cascadia Daily News, in Bellingham, Washington, an independent, locally-owned, online and print newspaper that has been publishing since January, 2022.


EDITOR: Maxine Cass
PROOFREADER: Catherine Kolonko


*All stories are copyright by their respective writers.
*All photographs and illustrations are copyright by their creative makers.
*All rights are reserved to each of them for their own material.