Monthly Archives: December 2008

Silver Lining

While I still remain pessimistic and depressed about the recent layoffs, I can’t dwell on it, since I survived.

I was just given the dream schedule I originally would have had to wait for at least several months. My hours resemble normal business hours, which makes life easier and I have more responsibilities—so I guess I’m a little more important.

However, I know my new found importance is due to the layoffs. It’s hard to feel like I deserved this when I am only benefiting from the loss of others. I know it wasn’t my fault and the work has to go on but it seems a little hollow.

How am I supposed to feel like I deserve a congratulations when it might have not happened if newspapers weren’t struggling.

Either way, I know I shouldn’t let anything get stop me from doing what I am passionate about and that’s writing. I’m happy for the change and can only hope that it keeps coming my way.

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Contradictory News

Rupert Murdoch, media mogul, called those who feel the Internet is the death of the newspaper “misguided cynics who are too busy writing their own obituary to be excited by the opportunity.” Funny, well put.

But how far off are those cynics? It’s easy for someone like Murdoch to sit high upon his billions looking down on lowly reporters making less than $30,000 who don’t have the resources or time to come up with a new way to profit from news.

Even CEO’s of newspapers, who have the time, money and resources are failing to come up with ideas—and in the meantime, their employees, those lower on the totem poll suffer!  And, now this is just a guess, I’m pretty sure newspaper exec’s are still making a pretty penny.

So if the optimist, Rupert Murdoch, has any ideas, by all means, can we hear them? Because I, for one, do not want to go through another round of layoffs; I fear I will not be as lucky again.

Update in the Newsroom

So apparently the half of my job that has been moved to advertising will remain there and I will not be dragged down with it. I did have some holiday shifts that are still up in the air, but hey, at this point as long as I’m not a hybrid newsroom/advertiser I’m fine with what little kinks need to be worked out to make the transition smoother.

Needless to say I had to work this past weekend and unlike the newsroom, there are absolutely NO people there on the weekends. It was a little eerie, I had to turn on all the lights (took me a while to find them) and I was hearing footsteps and freaking out every now and then.

It wasn’t bad as the first day, during the week when everyone in advertising were around and I had “helpers.” I didn’t have to deal with their incompetence, just my own, which is manageable.

A Journalist Drowning In Ads

As I have explained, half of my duties have changed departments. I don’t want to be too specific, but on the weekends I had a whole different job other than my main job of writing for entertainment. I was still writing on the weekends, it required someone with knowledge of AP Style and a less creative writer’s mind.

However, my weekend job has been moved to advertising. The woman who does this during the week has been permanently moved to advertising. She has the next few days off so I am covering her shift. The corporate company that owns my newspaper felt it necessary to cut out the end of the assembly line. I used to turn in my work to copy editors. Now that is considered unnecessary. Bad move. Corrections have to be run more often and that takes up costly space.

Anyway, about my first day in advertising. (If you are in advertising, please do not take offense, this was just my experience in my specific office, I am not trying to stereotype or offend.)

The advertising and classifieds department is on a whole different floor. When I walked in, I was stunned immediately.

There are four times as many people working in the same amount of space as the newsroom. Too say the least, it was a bit crowded. Every desk was half or a quarter the size of the desks in the newsroom. Almost every single person had on a headset and was talking rather loudly (to be heard over the others) and typing fast and nonchalantly. I asked a question to a random stranger with a headset and got a blank stare then a response of, “Pitbull puppies ready in time for Christmas?” I asked what that meant and stood there for longer than I want to admit before I realized he was looking right through me, as if I wasn’t there.

Several minutes later I find the desk/cattle trough that is now my new location. The woman sitting there was apparently waiting for me. She hands me some papers and attempts to explain how to do the work. I looked at her and feigned interest for what seemed like forever before I could get the word in that I already knew how to do this.

She told me there were two others that are being trained right now, they have some of the workload and walked away.

I tried to organize my desk, pile papers together and figure out what the hell was going on in the middle of this noisy and rude environment.

I worked for about an hour before I decided to find my “helpers”. I wish I hadn’t. These helpers are designed to work in advertising, where you leave everything the way the consumer wants it. Not so, in my work. Corrections for grammatical errors and more needs to be done.

I peeked over the shoulder of one of my helpers and couldn’t hide my gasp. They were actually making my job harder. I would have to go through their work as well as double-check mine at the end of the day (since there were no copy editors anymore.)

One of them turned around at the sound of my gasp and I smiled. I asked them politely enough to finish the one they were working on and give the rest to me. They looked relieved and obviously had other work to do. They turned back around without another look at me for the rest of the day. The day got worse, with the combination of another paper’s work now done at my desk.

Then it got better. My co-worker, another writer from the newsroom came down to help. We were out of there 2 hours after the deadline, attempting to straighten out all the kinks.

No one in advertising knew what they were doing. To be fair, this was sprung on them as much as it was us, with little time to prepare. But what a God-awful day. I can only hope Saturday will be less eventful.

Not Out Of The Woods Yet

So, it turns out that my job was more affected by the recent layoffs than I had originally thought. I knew, of course, that the work load was going to increase, with less staff and the same amount of work—it seemed obvious. But the corporate company cut more at my specific paper than anywhere else in my state, since it is the biggest one among them. They also decided to combine classifieds and advertising with papers across the state (owned by the same company) so it is all at one location, my location. But advertising? I’m in the newsroom…shouldn’t bother me right?

Wrong.

Certain positions and aspects that were previously done in the newsroom, by journalists, because they follow AP style, have copy editors etc., etc. have now been moved to the dreaded advertising department. Don’t get me wrong, if advertising is what you want to do, more power to you. It just isn’t my cup of tea.

Half of my position’s duties have been moved to advertising, they say temporarily, until they can hire and have me train people to take my position. Does anyone see something wrong with this picture? You laid people off so you can hire more in a different department? Riiiight.

Needless to say my first day in advertising was hell on earth.

An All-Out Layoff Massacre

The newsroom is a rather bleak place this week. Layoffs have been announced, but no one knows if the list has been completed yet. It is rumored that there are a few more days to announce the final few, so no one can exhale yet.

Having never experienced such drastic and immediate changes at work before, I have to say, I don’t think it’s something I can get used to. There were tears, hugs, angry faces, looks of confusion and boxes of things people had at their desks for what seemed like forever.

The newspaper I work for is owned by one of the three large corporate newspaper companies. I want the company to remain anonymous because I do love my job.

I wonder how the corporations chose who to layoff. I wonder if they just gave the same email out that everyone in my office got, explaining that there would be a 10% cut and the managing editors’ would have to meet their layoff quota. Were the managing editors’ really handed the reigns and told to cut people they feel are the least necessary? Or were they told to cut specific people.

Because from what I have seen and heard, the editors’ seemed very unaware of most of the changes until the very day they had to bring people in. And I know for a fact that one person would not have gotten laid off if it was up to his/her managing editor. The position ordered to be eliminated could only have come from a distant land (like corporate headquarters) that had absolutely no idea how it would affect the efficiency here at the ground level.

I know this is never a good time for any company, corporate or small. There isn’t an easy way to tell anyone who’s done nothing wrong to hit the bricks. But there has to be a better way to let people go. Calling them in like cattle while everyone around knows what’s happening is probably one of the worst ways to do it, other than announcing it over the intercom.

Low Morale in the Newsroom

About 2 months ago an email was sent out to everyone working in my office. It explained there would be a 10% involuntary staff reduction effective between Monday, Dec. 1 and Wednesday, Dec. 3 2008. So, as you can imagine, the morale in the newsroom is irregularly low. Meanwhile, new (and expensive) technology upgrades are being added to our facility.

One can’t help but wonder how news corporations prioritize their budgets, let alone time construction of costly upgrades in the face of large layoffs.

People who judge the media so harshly, forget that they are people too, facing hard economic times, losing jobs, worrying about money and life, much like everyone else, only they’ve been facing these problems before the economic crisis. The economy has little or nothing to do with the extinction newspapers are grappling with.