Thursday, February 28, 2008

'This is the end, beautiful friend ...'

You know when a friend dies and you are so paralyzed by grief that you can't mourn their loss in words? That was how I felt yesterday afternoon when I got an e-mail about the staff cuts visiting my former paper tomorrow.
* 22 jobs will be eliminated Friday, bringing us to 100 total in the newsroom.
* the layoff package will be the same as the voluntary buyout package last year.
* anyone who wants to voluntarily step forward and take a buyout (same terms) has until noon Thursday to let ron or melissa know.
* those affected include both PT and FT; both guild and non-guild
* ron will stay.
* ron will notify those affected on friday.
* those who take voluntary buyouts will affect the list of those on friday.
* if you have jobshare suggestion, etc., let him know.
* industry and us are screwed, but i still believe in what we're doing and have some hope.
* will help with references etc.
* accrued vacation will be paid out too. exempt worker max is four weeks.
* this is the least of the worst options - dean saved ten reporting jobs
* it's gonna be tough to look good workers in the eye and tell them we have no room for you anymore.
* decide for self whether it's fun, worthwhile, worth saying in, or moving on.
* can't sugarcoat things, can't say there won't be more cuts or that any paper will survive.
At Bible study last night, the fate of my former colleagues was my main prayer request. We journalists have long known these were bad times to be in the business; it's been that way since I started four years ago. And that was one of the reasons I left the LA Daily News for The Jewish Journal.

But I don't think anyone could have expected the cuts to be this stark and this severe. How could they? A nearly 20 percent reduction overnight. Employees given less than 12 hours to decide whether they should take a buyout or risk being laid off anyway. Others knowing that by staying they are costing a friend their job.

I know Ron Kaye, the editor, fought hard to save jobs, and fortunately he didn't lose his in the process. He was so stricken yesterday, I was told he started crying during the staff meeting. Brent Hopkins', the shop steward and eternal optimist who for seven years has fought the good fight, laments what comes next:
This is the worst day I've ever seen here at the paper and I'm sure Friday will be even worse. There is nothing I can say that will make it OK or even make it make sense. These are disastrous cuts that will seriously hamper our ability to produce the paper and Web content at the level our readers expect. It risks erasing all the great leaps forward we've made online and in print.

The next few months will be intensely painful, both for the people who lose their jobs and those who stay behind. As I've said to many of you, the real losers are the people who rely on this newspaper-- they won't be able to find the information they need anymore. Their events won't get covered. Their sense of community will get a little shakier. Once the dedicated journalists who've made this place what it is leave, their expertise will never be replaced. Maybe people won't notice it right away, but in a year, maybe two, maybe more, they'll realize there's a gaping hole left behind that can never be filled in.

This is particularly heartbreaking to me because you guys have given this place everything and asked for little in return. You've sacrificed yourselves for love of the craft and love of the community and the work you've done is amazing. The paper's thinner and our coverage isn't as expansive as it once was, but the stories, photos, layouts, headlines-- everything-- has been fantastic. I'm so proud to see the work you do on a daily basis and honored to be a part of it. I'm heartsick to see such a great operation so callously dismantled.

This is not the end of the Daily News and the people who stay behind will continue to put out as good a paper as they possibly can every day, but it will be very hard. Then again, it's never been easy and the crazy folks who make this place so vibrant and alive will never let this company's mismanagement snuff them out. You'll continue to give more than the beancounters deserve and keep coming back before because y'all are the most wonderful, talented, bad-ass journalists around. Somehow, the spirit will survive, as it always does.


Liberal Jew said...

With due respect to those on the chopping block at the Daily News, this is not the same as the death of a friend, nor the horrific terrorist attack depicted in the cover you use as illustration.

I am a big fan and have your blog in my Google reader. While this may be a personal post, this is not a wise use of your platform. We are going to see major lay-offs across the board in the coming months, especially in the print media.

The economy is in the can, the country is at war, millions - with far fewer options than educated journalist - are without work, schools are without books, the ice caps are melting and really none of that is equivalent to death or mass murder.

Thank you for your time. -polj

Brad A. Greenberg said...

Thanks for the comment, Pissed Off Liberal Jew.

We are approaching terrible times for many Americans as the economy sputters, and I didn't mean to imply that the layoffs were as serious as the death of a friend. Only that what has happened to the Daily News is catastrophic and the news hit me with similar force.

As for that cover image, it was the first one I could find and, not to trivialize the Spain bombings, I thought the headline was spot on.

Anonymous said...

"I am a big fan and have your blog in my Google reader. While this may be a personal post, this is not a wise use of your platform. We are going to see major lay-offs across the board in the coming months, especially in the print media."

All the more reason for Brad to blog about it, sir. I work at the Daily News, and to say that the grief is palatable is an understatement.

I've lost a parent. I know what grief feels like, and this isn't too far from it. People who get into this business aren't doing it for the money, they are doing it, mostly, for the love of it. If you don't think that watching your career/industry die isn't hard ... well ... guess again. Watching your colleagues, some of whom you know better than members of your own family, walk out the door ... yeah, that's heartwrenching, too.

More than that, it's hard knowing that the great institution of journalism is slowing being eaten away and if it weren't for bloggers like Brad, I would have little or no faith in it. The public will miss newspapers when they're gone and there's no fourth estate minding the store.

Is this subject appropriate fodder for The God Blog? Yeah. Love thy neighbor, and all that. Understand what they are going through and be compassionate.

Liberal Jew said...


I haven't lost a parent, but my industry is also slowly but surely dying off...take a look at The Pew Study that was published this week. I get it.

I only ask for perspective; you know what the Fourth Estate does for a living. We all have to keep each other honest, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty.