An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter.org.
There are countless stories of sports journalists trying to survive during these challenging economic times. Few, though, have gone literally as far as Steve Elling.
Elling thought he had a dream job in 2012. He was given a wide range of latitude in covering as many as 20 golf tournaments per year for CBSSports.com. He received a glowing job review earlier in the year.
Then a few months later, just days before he was set to depart to cover the British Open, Elling was told that his job had been eliminated.
“I was 50-years-old covering a niche sport,” Elling said. “I wasn’t looking at a ton of options.”
Only one true option materialized for him, but it hardly could be called a dream job. In December, 2012, Elling left his wife and then 8-year-old son to take a job as a sports reporter for The National, the state-run newspaper in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. He executed his plan of staying two years before returning back to his home in Orlando last December.
“I wasn’t going to let my son have his third straight Christmas without me,” Elling said.
Elling got the job through a former Los Angeles Times colleague who now worked in the Mideast. He says it purely was an economical decision. Since there are no taxes in the UAE, Elling figures he earned the equivalent of more than $100,000 per year in terms of his overall take-home pay. It was more than he could make in the U.S., and enough to help him pay off his debts.
“I ran into Ernie Els at a [Mideast golf] tournament,” Elling said. “He said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘I’m here for the appearance fee.’ He knew exactly what I was talking about. It was all about the money.”