Letter to Romenesko: What should she tell sources?

A Romenesko reader writes:

I just got laid off from my first reporting job, and I have three weeks left at work. What’s the protocol for letting my regular sources know? A big part of my job is city council — should I stand before the council and let them know, or tell people individually? I’m not sure the newspaper wants me to publicize what dire straits it’s in, but I feel I should tell people I’ve built relationships with why I’m leaving this job.

What has other people’s experience been? I plan to keep applying and plugging away at whatever shred of a journalism career I can muster, so I want to leave on good terms.

Any suggestions for this reporter?



  1. K said:

    I would let them know individually that you won’t be a reporter anymore. If they ask why–do what you’ve always done and tell the truth.

  2. Ben said:

    I’d tell them individually, but try to wait a couple weeks unless the news starts leaking out before then (which it probably will). Once people know you’re leaving, your ability to do your job will be severely compromised (why talk to someone who’s leaving anyway?), and while you may not owe much loyalty to your paper at this point, there’s no point undermining your ability to do good stories in your final weeks.
    As for what you tell them, I think you can share as much or as little with your sources as you feel comfortable sharing. Certainly you don’t need to cover for your paper, but nor do you need to tell anyone personal details you’d rather keep to yourself.
    No matter what you do, hang in there, be proud of the work you’ve done, and good luck landing on your feet.

  3. Anna said:

    Do the story you’ve always been wanting to write but couldn’t because you didn’t want to burn your sources.

  4. ATT said:

    Tell them individually NOW! They likely already know the newspaper’s financial status and it will not hurt your chances of doing stories.
    Just because you’re leaving doesn’t mean a story will disappear. Use the lead time to ask about leads on other jobs. Many people know journalists are struggling and are more than willing to keep an eye out for other opportunities. If you’ve treated the source well, providing fair and balanced coverage, they might recommend you for other jobs in different areas.

  5. wubbly said:

    Yes: kiss their butts and get a job. About the only material benefit to being a crap newsie is the access you get to people in high places and the ability to do publicity favors for them. Everyone in the business now should eff the stupid virtuous journalist act management has used to screw them for their entire careers. If anyone of you has a shot to trade a story for a job, take it. Lord knows it has worked that way for a ton of folks in Atlanta.