Sunday, May 13, 2007

I am retiring

It was a nice run, but the end is here.

For the benefit of anyone who doesn’t know, I have been a newspaper reporter for more than a decade. I do more than just reporting at my current job, but that’s irrelevant right now.

My good friend D Cup is interested to know exactly what I do and what prestigious organization I work for. As I mentioned previously...I’m not going to name names, as I’ll get myself in trouble. On Friday night I knew I’d blog about my wonderful corporation, prior to D Cup’s inquiry about said organization. You’ll soon see why the Fonz remains nameless for now.

I work for money grubbing scum. That’s the bottom line, (which is all the honchos care about.)

After receiving a journalism degree in the early 1990s I went to work for a small, rural Wisconsin community newspaper. Barely a year later I was moving to a small daily newspaper in a relatively desolate area. It was a great experience and this week I will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of my departure from said publication. (Wow, where did the time go?)

When I arrived at my suburban weekly newspaper chain here in the Twin Cities I was still naive. I foolishly thought that community newspapers existed for the purpose of providing a public service. Over the years I have learned that they’re simply another vehicle for investors to make money, often with little concern for the community service their newspapers provide. The bastards that run my company have proven that repeatedly.

Friday was merely the latest episode in a long list of profit-driven decisions made for the benefit of rich white men. (No, I’m not one of them.)

In my years with this prestigious suburban weekly conglomerate I have witnessed many decisions that have devalued the news product. The latest was yet another reminder that I have passed the point of diminishing returns with this company. That day occurred more than two years ago. Shame on me for not finding a way to better my situation since that day.

It was announced in January that the company was being sold, again. That’s not a shock. The company was last sold in December 2004. I was excited by that news, for about two seconds. I quickly learned that the honchos running the company, honchos I had little respect for, weren’t leaving, as typically happens when the company is sold. The honchos were hired under the previous regime but put together their own investment group to buy the company. That decision ensured they’d remain honchos under the new ownership, which was banking upon them to further the penny pinching they had become known for.

While I hadn’t been around for decades, a former manager had been around long enough to share an important word of wisdom prior to December 2004. She noted that our company would eventually be purchased by investors who determined they could squeeze more lemonade out of the same lemons said lemonade was being squeezed. She didn’t use that analogy, but she couldn’t have been more right.

Her salary was dumped the day of the ownership change in December 2004. A figurehead was appointed, unwillingly I am sure, to replace her. Already under a money grubbing regime for a couple of years, things sucked. Shockingly things went from bad to worse following the ownership change of December 2004.

This past January it was announced we were changing ownership, barely two years after the honchos orchestrated the December 2004 buyout. The big news that day was that we were bought by an investment group that was going to turn us into a public stock. Wow, we could own stock in our own company, how cool!

We were thanked by the honchos for all our hard work. We were thanked for turning the company into a cash cow that was desired by an investment group that pooled money for the simple purpose of buying any private company it could get its hands upon and turning its employees into their whores. OK, not exactly in those words...but we were told nothing would change around the mother ship because of this transaction. (Conveniently we were never told that in appreciation for all of our bleeding during the past two years we’d receive any kind of financial appreciation, either. Shocking, I know.)

Those bastards lied. They told us in January that nothing would change. I assumed that meant for better or worse. I’m an idiot.

Not long after the announcement that the six-month transition from private investment to publicly traded stock would be taking place we were told nobody would get a pay raise of any type until at least June.

D Cup is right, I’m a poor S.O.B., so 3 percent of nothing is not much, but I have yet to receive that annual bump in pay from a company that would laugh at me for suggesting my salary deserves some sort of cost-of-living increase every few years. It was at that point I knew I had to do something else, journalistic or otherwise.

Shame on my candy ass for not forcing that to happen already. On Friday we were told that our staff of about 35 writers, managers, photographers and sports reporters would be reduced by three positions. No reason was given for it, but it was obvious why...the honchos have a truckload of incentive to drive the IPO (I’m sure that’s stylistically incorrect, D Cup, but I don’t have a style book handy.) up as high as possible. They all get paid extra boatloads of cash for doing so, hence they’ll sever my left and right arm to make sure they get paid. Suddenly I feel like a postal employee.

Have I been looking for other jobs in a field of under-valued professionals? Sure, but they’re not that easy to come by, I have learned, and I’m no longer interested in living at the poverty level. I am blessed in many ways, I know that, but it’s time to stop caring about the service I provide to a community that has no idea how hard it is for me to make ends meet, a challenge that increases exponentially each year. When being a trained monkey with regular hours pays thousands more than I’m making, I’ll gladly give up the satisfaction of a compliment from the local police chief for a job well done for the satisfaction of writing a rent check with enough cash to spare for a lavish weekend in Stinktown. You think I’m kidding?

So, am I done with writing? No. But I may take a hard left or right sometime soon, because I’m not interested in moving about the country or going back to school to be worthy of consideration from a respectable daily newspaper that will pay me a living wage, or the prestigious Associated Press. It is time for Fonzie to get paid, even if he can’t pour his heart and soul into his next profession.

To quote a hard rock band I don’t like, “You know it’s sad but true.”

So yes, I am anonymous, but chances are anyone who knows me will be able to identify me by this blog. I knew I’d end up blogging about how much I hate my employer, hence I opted to disassociate my name with Fonzie’s blog. But I never thought this day would come so soon.

Perhaps when I change lanes and start a new career path I can be more candid about who I am and why I hate my employer. For now I’ll stick to the anonymity. (Sorry, D Cup.) If I’m ever in Stinktown, something I hope will occur during the Brewers’ 2007 division championship season, I’ll let D Cup know. Perhaps I can look him up and spill said beans privately.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Fonz. What a bunch of bastards. Hope you're not one of the three that gets let go.

Arthur Fonzarelli said...

My first anonymous comment, I am flattered.

I haven't promoted my blog to anyone yet...the only person I've reached out to is D Crease, but that obviously reaches his extended circle of readers/friends, most of whom do not comment on his blogs nearly as often as I do, which I find hilarious.

No, I didn't lose my job, but when I first heard they were cutting three people, deep down a part of me hoped I was on that list, because the severence pay and a lot of free time on my hands would have helped launch my fresh, new and exciting career that much quicker.

Dinesh Ramde said...

Hey, Fonz, sorry to hear that (yes, I'm as lame about reading other people's blogs regularly as I am about freshening my own).

But I have to say you're a talented writer -- you write with elegance, with passion, and you do seem to care about your community. I'd hate to see you stop doing something you love just because of money, although I understand the realities of life.

You're not asking for advice so feel free to ignore this, but what I've always thought I'd do if I got fired for being too opinionated on my blog, is take my writing elsewhere, to some other cause I'm equally passionate about.

Maybe there's a politician whose ideals you support, who could always use communications people with an intimate knowledge of how reporting works.

Maybe there's a community or political organization that needs your pen to plead its case.

Maybe there's a corporation whose products and philosophies you believe in that could offer you a decent salary as well as fulfillment.

Whatever happens, don't lose the idealism that brought you into journalism in the first place.

And who knows, maybe there'll be an opening in the AP's Minnesota bureau one of these days...