An Update on the “Filak Furlough Tour 2023-24”

This was essentially my reaction after posting an offer to teach people’s classes during my furloughs, minus the part where one of my furloughed colleagues stabbed a man in the heart with a trident.

Here’s a story that might explain what we’re looking at for the Filak Furlough Tour:

When Zoe was in Girl Scouts, we had to sell Girl Scout cookies and unlike previous generations of kids who were told to go door to door, this one was told, “Give your parents the sheet and tell them to take it to work.” I think this was because a) the parents were better at putting the squeeze on people and b) the Girl Scouts were fearful a kid would ring the wrong bell and be abducted or something and that never looks good on the news.

At that point, I was still advising the newsroom here at UWO, so I took the sheet down there, feeling guilty that I was essentially asking students to subsidize my kid’s cookie fund. So, I told them all, “Look, I have this sheet. You don’t have to buy anything. No pressure. No guilt. To make this more reasonable, for every box you folks buy, I’ll match it with one I’ll buy for the newsroom so you can eat up on production nights.”

What I failed to realize was a) college kids do actually have money and b) Girl Scout cookies are apparently laced with an addictive chemical that makes college kids buy like there’s no tomorrow.

Long story short, I ended up buying more than 120 boxes of cookies for the newsroom that year because my parents taught me to live up to my promises. (SIDE NOTE: Zoe still didn’t end up with the most sales, as the parents in her troop that year would make “Dance Moms” seem mellow and well-adjusted by comparison.)

This leads us to the “Filak Furlough 2023-24 Tour “update.

When I posted the offer to find a way to fill my 11 days helping you all out, I figured a couple people might be like, “Yeah, cute, but we’re good” or maybe one or two would ask for a Zoom call and I’d be scraping around for a month or so to fill the time slots.

The 11 slots filled in less than 8 hours. I then found out that I could divide my furlough days into half days, so I cut the ones in half where someone just wanted me to Zoom in and such, as opposed to come out and see their class. That filled up as well. I’m currently at about 23 schools that have locked in for this, along with several others that have asked me to let them know if I can slide them in for something or if someone drops out.

I’ll be traveling to Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, with other potential road trips possible. I’m also doing Zoom classes on crime coverage, sports journalism and why journalism matters, for sure. I’m also going to be on a panel with some really smart people talking about race, journalism and issues of DEI.

(In addition, I was offered opportunities to write for a journalism newsletter, blog for a lumber company and do a paid radio gig in Appleton. This doesn’t include the very nice offer from my chair, who asked if we could do kind of a “American Pickers-style” documentary together where he followed me around while I found and refinished furniture. Also my mom offered to pay me to come home and do tech support on her computer for a week. I’m coming home soon, mom, and you don’t have to pay me anything to fix the computer. Just make some shrimp salad…)

The point is, I’m thrilled as hell that people wanted to work with me on this. It feels good to be wanted and it’s a hell of a lot better than sitting around on a forced day off. I’m in the process  of making dates and times work, so keep an eye on your email.

Also, if you still want to participate in this, I’ll make it work. Just shoot me a message through the contact page and tell me what you want and such. Even if I do it on my own non-furloughed time, I don’t care. I’d love to help out and work with you and your kids.

(And to make this clear, this is all freebie. I had a couple people ask what my fee would be. The answer is nothing. All you really need to do is find out where the nearest supply of Diet Coke is to wherever I’ll be speaking if I’m visiting your campus.)

That said, I’m going to live up to my word and everyone involved is getting a blog post, a book and a bat. It just might take a tad longer to get the bats done than I had originally planned, but it’s gonna happen. Again, my parents raised me right: You live up to the promises you make.

Which leads me to the last point…

I NEED YOUR HELP: I kind of joking said that if I sold out all the dates, I’m making T-shirts for this furlough tour. After I wrote that, I had at least a dozen people reaching out, including my kid, asking, “How can I buy a T-shirt if you pull this off?”

Well, I sold it out. And I suck at art and design, as this look back at my last attempt at art will clearly illustrate. So, I need anyone out there with any kind of skill set or interest or ability to put stuff together in a way that other people would want to wear it to design the front of the shirt.

You can come up with whatever name you want for the tour, as long as it’s got Filak and Furlough in there and isn’t R-rated. Also, don’t violate copyright by stealing a meme or something. Nothing  says, “I’m a trustworthy journalism person” like violating basic tenets of media law.

The back will be the list of the places, schools and dates, so I’ve got that covered.

You can send that to me through the contact page as well, or through my gmail account (vffilak). If I pick yours, I’ll buy you one of the shirts and credit your work.

Thank you all so much and I’ll keep you all posted.

Vince (a.k.a. The Doctor of Paper)

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