Friday, September 26, 2008

Layoff Blues

I just got really scared.

I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot outside my job with the car running and Raphael Saadiq playing on the stereo and I feel like I’m about to hyperventilate.

I just left one coworker in my office while she was printing out her resume to potentially shop around at a job fair this weekend. My boss skipped out early. She was laid off yesterday and has been mentally checked out since. The guy in our office who got laid off kept plugging away at stories today, just like always, except that his flow was constantly interrupted with phone calls he’d take in the hallway. My guess is job offers and financial matters.

This is what it feels like to be in a dying industry, I suppose.

At first, I was angry. Angry that all 30 of our cuts had to be borne by the news department. Angry at management for refusing to acknowledge the value we add. That without us, the paper will be nothing but a multi-page advertisement. But they don’t listen to me.

In two weeks, my job will change. They told us that the bureau system as we know it will be gone as of Oct. 10. I turn 25 two days later and return to work that Monday to a newsroom full of uncertainty and trepidation. Happy Birthday to me.

I was talking to a photographer when the first layoffs were announced. He asked me if I’d been shopping my resume around. I had, I told him, but there was a problem. The places I’d been shopping it to were having hiring freezes or worse – the people I’d been cultivating relationships with for years had taken buyouts. He told me I’d be fine. I told him I have no marketable skills. He laughed and tried to reassure me that I did.

I don’t.

I’m a newspaper reporter in a world that increasingly is telling us that they don’t want to read newspapers. I’m a newspaper reporter in a business where management feels it’s more prudent to cut news staff than advertising or production. I’m an average news reporter in an economy where I’m competing for the few available jobs with people much more experienced and way more talented than I.

Thank God that for now, at least, I’m safe. I know that when the next round of layoffs comes, I’ll be in the class that gets cut. And I have no idea where I’d go. What do you do when the industry you fell in love with as a kid doesn’t want you anymore?

I have some management experience, filling in as bureau chief when my boss was out. Maybe I can manage a coffee shop. I call in updates and write breaking news for the blog sometimes. Maybe I can be a telemarketer. I have years of practice taking things that people say and do and rehashing them for a new audience. Maybe I can be a history teacher.

I was talking to one of my old competitors the other day. She left the local paper and went to go work for the local theatre company in the marketing department. She gave me comp tickets to a show the other night. Says she loves her job. Maybe she has the right idea.

What scared me most as I packed up my things and walked to my car, what has me writing this blog on my laptop in my Cavalier, is that it’s not so much that I can’t do anything else. It’s that I don’t want to. But I’m coming to realize increasingly that wanting something doesn’t make it so.

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Posted by T Dot at 6:33 PM | link

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(*does 'patty cake' game from the Color Purple with Talia)

Oh, I feel the same way. Only, I don't have a full time, staff gig yet.

I love the honesty that you wrote with in that post.

Posted by Blogger Aaron Morrison @ 7:05 PM, September 26, 2008 #

It's good that you're really real with the whole situation. Hold on and be strong and hustle your a** off.

I, on the other hand, will not go down with a sinking ship. But you showed your perseverence a long time ago. I think you will be ok.

Posted by Blogger Vdizzle @ 10:20 PM, September 26, 2008 #

That was deep. I feel you on that one. It's hard to know most days if I could truly do anything else and love it as much as journalism. I've made some moves to position me to have other opportunities if the axe comes for me, but I don't envy your position. Stay strong!

Posted by Blogger Dakarai I. Aarons @ 2:52 AM, October 01, 2008 #

T.B. Don't belittle your ability. You're far better than an average reporter!

I'm slightly optimisitc. I think this industry will turn around. Not soon. But eventually.

Unfortunately right now we work for a newspaper whose leadership doesn't have the balls to ride out the storm.

Posted by Anonymous A colleague @ 2:05 PM, October 18, 2008 #
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