Archive for the ‘LayoffStories’ Category

Layoff stories: ‘Well, they decided to keep you’

December 5, 2008

Part of an occasional series of personal accounts by readers. This was written by a recently hired employee who survived the layoff.

It’s Tuesday afternoon. The oppressive weight of the empty desks to my left and right permeates my thoughts. My eyes blur in and out of focus as I stare at the slow and steady blinking of my cursor at the abrupt termination of a partially written sentence. Like a metronome, or maybe the pendulum of some unseen grandfather clock ticking towards deadline, that blink is perhaps the only constant I know in our newsroom.

My editor’s voice cuts through the haze of my swirling thoughts. “We have to do your evaluation.”

I follow her to a glass-walled office and sit with my back to the newsroom. Somewhere behind me are the empty desks, toppled Rolodexes and blank computer screens. I don’t want to look at them, but they fill my mind.

My editor slides a manila folder across the table — my three month evaluation.

I knew it was coming. I’d planned out questions to ask and suggestions to make and crafted feedback carefully to be as constructive as possible, but those thoughts were gone. Replacing them were images of cardboard boxes and empty desks scattered with business cards.

“Well, they decided to keep you.”

I looked at the words printed in bold letters in front of me. Something about feature writing and databases and initiative. I think about one of the Life editors I saw crying in the parking lot when I got to work that morning, and the empty desks to my left and right.

On the right was the business editor who liked my photos and once told me how she could hear my voice when she read my feature stories. On the left was the Neighbors editor who would chat about philosophy with me when we both worked late, and gave me tongue-in-cheek advice about how to succeed as a journalist. I’ll never forget them.

I sign and date on a line at the bottom of my evaluation. I think of my friends who also signed on the line that day.

“This means you qualify for health insurance now,” my editor tells me.

I wonder for how long.

A look in someone’s eyes. A cardboard box on an empty desk. A final conversation. Please share your layoff story in two or three paragraphs. Post replies in the comments section, below. Or e-mail via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: Another Cube, by San Jose Mercury News designer Martin Gee. It’s from his Reduction In Force page on Flickr — photos of the Silicon Valley paper’s newsroom after endless rounds of layoffs]

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Hattiesburg: We now have an equally sad answer

December 5, 2008

In the layoff run-up, I read several comments posing a desperate-sounding question: Does anyone know anything about Hattiesburg? That’s Mississippi’s small Hattiesburg American, of course, in what I called “S.O.S. signals” in this episode of Gannett Blog TV.

So, all this week, I watched Hattiesburg. Yet, even though I expected bad news, it was still shocking to see: The American is shutting down its presses in February, and moving production to The Clarion-Ledger, 100 miles north in Jackson. The switch wipes out 38 jobs — more than 20% of the paper’s workforce. The American is joining a growing number of papers that are economizing, by junking their presses.

Layoff stories: A sleepless night, then ‘tears of joy’

December 4, 2008

Part of an occasional series of personal accounts by readers.

I was tipped off Monday night that I would be dumped after seven successful years with the company. I’m young, underpaid and have always produced. That night I slept in 10-minute bursts, with constant dreams that my wife was getting ready for work and I wasn’t.

But the forewarning enabled me to be numb through the meeting with HR on Tuesday. The few who were staying seemed more broken up than those of us going. As soon as the HR lady finished wielding her axe, I hit the ground running scrounging for jobs. I remained stone-faced until I got to the car and saw a bunch of reporters’ notebooks strewn in the back seat. That set me off a bit realizing my career as a reporter — the only thing I’ve done for more than a decade — was likely over.

By the time I finished the half-hour drive home, I had calls and messages indicating my prospects for employment were surprisingly good. The tears of sadness became tears of joy later in the afternoon with all the calls of support I received — especially from those who I’ve hammered in my stories over the years. It made me feel good that they thought I was tough but fair.

I’m sad for the newspaper industry, sad that I’ll no longer be part of whatever that future includes and more sad for those left behind who have to try to carry on. I’m going to be fine — just in a different career. On Monday I was covering a political story, 24 hours later I was looking to switch teams. What a strange week.

A look in someone’s eyes. A cardboard box on an empty desk. A final conversation. Please share your layoff story in two or three paragraphs. Post replies in the comments section, below. Or e-mail via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Photo: Amazon]

Layoff stories: ‘I am a newspaperman. Well, I was’

December 3, 2008

Part of an occasional series of personal accounts by readers. This was posted by an Indianapolis Star reporter earlier today.

I walked in the door home a few minutes ago, kissed my wife, and since I don’t know what else to do but be a journalist, I’ll report:

The bosses at the Indy Star are handling it fairly well, compared to some other shops. No bum’s rush out the door or anything. Handshakes, pleasantries, all that. Take your time gathering your things.

The first few minutes after you get back from HR on the 6th floor are interesting. Everyone can see the gray folder in your hand, and some people start avoiding eye contact. Most, though, soon approach and offer their condolences. Not a few hugs are exchanged. Our theater and classical music writer, an absolute workhorse who gave me a very classy goodbye, soon got the call himself. He had to take a minute and down some caffeine before going up.

My last act as an employee was to call an author I’d scheduled an interview with next week to cancel. I’d been pursuing that source for the better part of a year, dropping off materials for her to read and calling every few weeks to convince her to sit down. My persistence paid off and I was finally going to nail the interview, but now it’ll never happen. She reminded me not to forget to return the two books she’d loaned me to read.

Like most people in the Star newsroom, I’d preemptively packed up a bunch of stuff. All I really had left was a bunch of clip files and archives of the entertainment section, of which I was the editor for nearly two years.

‘I am not ready’
Newspapers are surprisingly heavy, especially when you’re carrying them to your car on your last walk out of the building. It’s funny; we think of newspapers as being so insubstantial, so temporary in their usefulness, soon to be discarded for the next batch. It’s only when you gather them up together that their corporeal heft is plain. I look at what I wrote over the past year, and it’s at least two novels worth of words.

A writer? I never considered myself as such. I am a newspaperman. Well, I was. I don’t know what I am now. In this market, I know what my chances are of landing another newspaper gig. I have to face that this is probably the end of my journalism career — it goes without saying that I am not ready.

But there are hundreds of us today, thousands. My story is not special. But I still wanted to tell it, because that’s what I do. Did.

A look in someone’s eyes. A cardboard box on an empty desk. A final conversation. Please share your layoff story in two or three paragraphs. Post replies in the comments section, below. Or e-mail via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: today’s front page, Newseum]

Layoff stories: ‘He didn’t know either one of us’

December 3, 2008

Part of an occasional series. At a medium-sized Gannett newspaper, a senior manager entered the newsroom, and whispered quietly to a junior manager in plain view of other people nearby.

Then the senior manager asked me to make the long march to a distant office where he and the head of HR told me my job had been eliminated. I found out later why he stopped to whisper to the junior manager before coming to my desk: He had to ask her which one I was. I worked there two years and I was sitting next to another employee who has worked there more than 10 years, and he didn’t know either one of us.

A look in someone’s eyes. A cardboard box on an empty desk. A final conversation. Please share your layoff story in two or three paragraphs. Post replies in the comments section, below. Or e-mail via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Layoff stories: ‘She was the only one close to tears’

December 3, 2008

First in an occasional series of personal accounts.

I sat across from Executive Editor and heard words: restructuring, position, sorry, future. I said nothing. I listened to HR woman painfully recite her lines and all I could think was: her day is as bad as ours. She was the only one close to tears. I walked back to my desk to get my things and gave my colleagues a sad smile. I said nothing. I started forwarding emails to my editor, tying up loose ends and then I thought: just say nothing.

A look in someone’s eyes. A cardboard box on an empty desk. A final conversation. Please share your layoff story in two or three paragraphs. Post replies in the comments section, below. Or e-mail via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.