A reporter for a large news organization asked me to post this:
I’m looking for a reporter, editor or photog who may be spending their last days/months in their newsroom — or at least has the anxiety many journalists have these days about the future. I want to profile them as things unfold — a “day in the life” approach, spending time as they work and in off-hours too. What first comes to mind is that veteran cop reporter with decades of service who can’t bear the thought of doing anything else. But it doesn’t have to be a cop reporter or someone older. The key is passion. They live and breathe this crazy work of ours.
I’d want to know what the business did for them? What are the stories of their reporting adventures they tell when it’s time to have a beer with colleagues? What’s the future hold for them and their families?
I posted the note on my Facebook wall last week and got numerous comments from friends and followers. They ranged from “I’d love to read the piece once it’s finished,” to “It’s one thing to cover the car crash after it happened, but I’d like to think that we still have the ethics not to hover over the dying body and watch it bleed to death.” I also received a few emails about the reporter’s query; here’s one:
Too late, Jim. After 17 years as a staff photographer, I was laid off via phone call on August 1st while on vacation. A lousy phone call. Does it get any more classless than that? Ok, what the Chicago Sun Times did to their photo staff gets a really special prize. Still, I thought/hoped my work would speak for me. No explanation other than the standard corporate spiel was given: “Due to reduction in staff, your job has been impacted by that… Here’s the HR rep.”
And that was that. It leaves you reeling and your head swirling with unanswered questions with no answers.
I wasn’t the last hired, I’m not the oldest, I hadn’t been there the longest, I didn’t have the highest salary. I have no dependents costing the company extra money. I won awards (was even nominated for a Pulitzer), mentored students and interns, worked well with co-workers and do have tremendous ties to this community./CONTINUES
And although I don’t fit the criteria the reporter is seeking, please tell him for me that for the past few years to ‘that’ phone call I received, work was pretty much a living hell as I witnessed the destruction of a pretty darn good newspaper by people who didn’t want to be there, resented being there, had no ties to the community and didn’t want any.
When ‘it’ happens, it hurts, angers and stuns. I’m not sure what the reporter is going for with his story. But will it be any different from any other painful story? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
It’s truly is a hellish thing to be my age (55) and not have a steady income. Tell him that the myriad of paperwork involved in one’s “separation” is daunting, frustrating and seemingly endless. Tell him how frightening it is to be my age and not have health care. I know there are hundreds rowing this same boat with me… or, worse. Jim, mention those same things and apply it to job hunting, especially in this economy, in a market saturated with those same rowers stroking against a strong current. You try not to despair.
Amy Miller writes:
I know many excellent reporters and photographers being laid off, and while it makes for sad, depressing copy, as a reporter, what I really want to read is a thorough, in-depth analysis of the decisions a company such as Gannett has made since the advent of the Internet, especially continued raises to the top brass while continuing to slash resources at local newspapers almost to the point of nonfunctionality. Just ask anyone about Gannett’s ill-fated “Real Life Real News” strategy around 2004, when it blamed declining readership on too much hard news. It’s time to hold these news companies accountable for the regrettable and self-interested business decisions that have helped dismantle the news business and not just lay all the blame on Internet and Craigslist. While the Internet and smartphones are certainly the most disruptive factors at play, they cannot and are not the only reasons for the decline of the news business. Let’s chronicle the real tragedy: the news business itself.
Meanwhile…. Detroit Metro Times veteran Curt Guyette writes on Facebook:
After 18 years on the job, I was fired from the Metro Times on Friday. Earlier in the week we’d been told that the paper was being put up for sale, and that the information was being put on the Times-Shamrock website as we spoke, but that staff were prohibited from talking to any media about it, because the company wanted to “control” the message.
I ignored the order, and was “terminated” for “gross insubordination” and “breach of company trust.” No dispute about the insubordination; as for the breach of trust, that cuts both ways. Not sure what the future holds, but after reflecting on the situation for a few days I can say that I am relieved to be gone. The MT, for me anyway, had become a soul-killing place, and I’m happy that I’m no longer there. And now a new chapter in my life begins. Life is good.
He added this to his Facebook wall:
One thing needs to be made absolutely clear: I’ve got no gripe with the MT for firing me. My anger/resentment/disappointment/profound sorrow is reserved for what this paper I’ve been so proud of the past 18 years has become. Would I have liked to have gone out differently? Definitely. But am I sad to be gone? Not an iota. Like I said to one of my former workpals just after I got the boot, “At least there was no electroshock or forced lobotomy.” Life is good. And its going to get even better. So don’t anyone say they feel sorry for me, or that they’re sad. This is a life-changing event, that’s for sure. But just as certain is the fact that the road ahead leads to a better place.
Send me an email if you want to get in touch with the reporter who’s looking to do a Day in the Life of a Doomed Journalist. I’ll pass it on to him.