Ibiza: Why we’re here — and what’s next

Part of an occasional series about Ibiza and surrounding regions.

We arrived on this Mediterranean island one month ago today, long enough to look back on how we chose Ibiza as our summer ’08 home — and to look ahead at what’s next in my second journalism career. Following is a post, illustrated with photos showing a typical day in our new life here.

Our day: a recent Sunday
We start shortly after 10, when I check my iPhone (left) for e-mail sent to my blog. That photo on the cellphone screen is of me and my grandmother, Peggy, in 2003; she died four months later, at age 99. I think of her nearly every day.

Sparky and I talked for years about spending a summer in a climate warmer than San Francisco’s — in the gay-friendly beach community of Provincetown, Mass., where we first met, in 1999. Then, suddenly, a confluence of events forced our hand.

A big birthday, a friend’s death
I turned 50 last year (I’m now 51). Sparky retired early from his employer, spent a year developing a condo, then sold it successfully. A very close San Francisco friend was diagnosed with cancer, just as he started to pursue life-long dreams: Sam‘s eventual death, in January, left me fretting about further putting off our own plans. When USA Today offered me a buyout, the stars seemed perfectly aligned.

As on most days, Sparky and I start with coffee at home. Then, I usually head for Chill Cafe to do a couple hours of blogging. There are lots of other mobile workers there, all working on laptops. Next: brunch. We practically live at the Croissant-Show, a french cafe where later that day we had (above) croissants, many espressos, scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, bottled water and a sandwich. The bill: 19 euros, with tip; or about $30.

How Ibiza is different from home
During a vacation last summer, Provincetown seemed a bit dull, the weather unreliable, housing overpriced, as we planned our time away from San Francisco. We chose Ibiza. We’d been here together three times: in 2001, 2002, and then last summer. The island had been a stop on the global Hippy Highway, starting in the 1960s. Hippies spread word of its charms: Geographically beautiful and blessed with an exquisitely temperate climate, Ibiza is socially liberal and always full of entertaining surprises. It’s like San Francisco — but with better weather. Plus, 41 years later, it’s still the Summer of Love here.

So, on a return trip in October, Sparky hunted for a place to rent, eventually settling on a lovely three-bed, three-bath condominium in the Los Molinos neighborhood. We negotiated a good lease this past spring — and off we went, on May 31.

Above: Time for an early siesta, then a quick shopping trip for bottled water; new friends are visiting later in the afternoon. Sparky sleeps in a living room chair, magazines and sandals at his feet. Later, we go to the Hotel Cenit, for a view of where we live.

I shot this photo of our condo’s hilltop location from the hotel pool’s terrace. The tiny white sails of boats are barely visible, in the azure-blue Mediterranean.

Time for a new job
I’m having such an incredible time here that I’ve decided to extend my stay through October. Sparky may return to San Francisco in August, to deal with his real estate business, then possibly return here. We’ll likely travel to Brazil for the winter before returning to San Francisco. I’ll then begin job-hunting. (This means, of course, lots more time for Gannett Blog. Whoo-hoo, Tara Connell!)

I’m looking forward to returning to journalism, but only after I’ve had a full year off. This is my first summer-long vacation since 1985, so I want to enjoy it while I can. My goal is to learn how to produce short video documentaries — a skill I’ll need to get my next job. Video has lots of potential in public-service journalism as an adjunct to text, graphics and still photos. I’ll learn the only way I’ve ever learned how to use new technologies: By diving into the deep end and making lots of mistakes before (I hope) I master this new craft.

No matter what, however, I don’t see myself joining the payroll of another media company: Those jobs are now being replaced with contract work, and that’s just fine with me. I want to be a self-employed online journalist, in control of my own schedule. Technology has upended the entire media landscape. But it’s also liberating: With only my MacBook Pro, a high-speed Internet connection and my trusty iPhone, I can work anywhere on the planet.

Indeed, I’ve lately become more optimistic about the prospects for 21st century journalism. Certainly, the next five years are going to be very rough, as tens of thousands of journalists lose their jobs, flooding the labor market. But I’m willing to retrain, work hard and accept a big pay cut until what I expect will be an inevitable turnaround.

Our day comes to an end
At 4 p.m., I head into the quiet shopping district. It is Sunday, and that means almost everything is closed. I find a small bar, where I buy six bottles of bubbly water, taking it back to our condo. It’s still pretty warm, so I then head for our building’s pool. I’m the only one there when I take the following David Hockney-like photo.

Near midnight, I stop at the entrance to the old fortress in Dalt Vila, to take this final photo:

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

13 Responses to “Ibiza: Why we’re here — and what’s next”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Jim, It sounds like you’re taking control of your life and living it to the fullest. I’m happy you’ve had this opportunity to live your dream until you figure out what you want to do career wise. After discovering this blog about 2 months ago, I know that whatever you decide to do will be spectacular. The only reason I wish you’d get back to San Francisco is because it seems like whenever you go out of town, Gannett experiences major turmoil. Don’t know how much more I can take. Have a great time, thank you for sharing your experience in Ibiza, & make sure you savor every moment there to the fullest. Regards to Sparky!!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I am so jealous…please be thinking of all of us in McLean (and properties elsewhere), dealing with horrible traffic, crappy weather, and god-awful management from the top in this company while we struggle with the everyday real fear of losing our jobs – with no buy out, and a mortgage to make while making sure we can find an affordable health plan in case our children get sick

  3. Jim Hopkins Says:

    Thank you! I think of you all, always. I couldn’t completely abandon my friends still in the company — which is a big reason I keep blogging.

  4. rmichem Says:

    Its seem to me your have a second career. Why not a on-line newspaper, mag about the publishing business. You could make money, from ad sales( taking some away from Gannett).

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Since you have become so proficient with the blog, computer, iPhone, etc, you should work in the Digital Division. I am sure the Chief digital guy will appreciate your expertise. God only knows that you are probably more experienced than most of them.

    Have a relaxing few months!

  6. Jim Hopkins Says:

    Attention: Sparky-ologists. Yes, indeed, that is the first official time that Sparky (or, in this case, his foot) has been pictured on Gannett Blog. Wow! He exists!

  7. Mr. yesterday Says:

    There’s a book out there just waiting to be written about the rise and fall of the American newspaper business.

    You da man to write it Jimbo. Maybe even have the epilogue be hosted on an on-line site.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    My God you make Ibiza seem like heaven! I, too, I have an intense wanderlust and long for places that take us out of our element. I envy you this time. Life is short and travel opens our eyes and hearts to so much in the world. Thanks SO much for taking the time out of your wonderful vacation to keep us up to speed on what’s going on with Gannett. I left it long ago to go into journalism with a non profit and it’s fantastic! You are right about retraining – video is certainly the way to go, but consider, too, taking some courses in Web Design. I know consultants who are making upwards of six figures designing pages, incorporating video, flash, and the like. I’m taking some courses in Ajax and Dreamweaver this summer. Combined with your ability to string together words dude you would be unstoppable!

    Good luck and thanks for keeping us up to date!

  9. Shirley Says:

    Just reading about your search and the way you’re taking control of your life and future had an amazing effect on me. Caught up in my own stresses, taking a moment to consider what you are doing was like taking a tiny vacation.
    What a delight.

  10. John Reinan Says:

    I left the newspaper biz a year ago, after 20 years, and took a job with a PR/marketing firm here in Minneapolis (check out our agency blog: http://www.ideapeepshow.com).

    Jim was my editor at my first full-time reporting job, as a business writer at the late, great Arkansas Gazette. He was smart, witty and calm. I couldn’t have had a better mentor as I broke into the business.

    I admire Jim’s optimism about the future and his drive to re-invent himself. That’s what I’ve done, too, although I took a more conventional path to reinvention. I’ve had terrible ups and downs since leaving newspapers; the fall off the cliff was so fast and so unexpected. It was hard to deal with emotionally.

    For any of you thinking of leaving the business, my advice would be to allow yourself at least six months, maybe a year, to mourn the passing of your previous life. Maybe you can do it faster than I did, but I loved being a reporter and it about killed me to give it up.

    Now, however, I’m looking ahead, not back. If you are a reader of this blog, take your cues from Jim. He’s got the right attitude.

  11. Anonymous Says:


    Thank you so very much for sharing your personal experiences with us. Although you’re on vacation, it’s nice to know that you are willing to let us into your private world by sharing what you are doing and letting us see the beauty of the place you are in now. I am sure that many of us are quite jealous. Enjoy!!!!

  12. Anonymous Says:


    I’m sure I speak for dozens, if not hundreds, of Gannett employees who appreciate the countless hours you spent dedicated to this blog.

    I have worked for Gannett since 1977 at five different units in the newspaper division.

    And to be honest…you’re site has been more informative and brutally honest than the all of the bullshit corporate has spewed out all those years.

    It’s also a sad commentary as to the level of discontent amongst it’s 40,000+ employees.

    The future looks quite bleak….

  13. Jim Hopkins Says:

    John Reinan, you devil! What a kind note. Thanks!

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