Thursday, August 4, 2011

Join the club (unedited)

I have two less co-workers today. Their life is better off because of it, even if that's hard to believe tonight when they go to bed.

My toxic weekly newspaper conglomerate tried to make its editorial staff feel better in January, announcing we would ramp up staffing after years of bleeding it to death. Some of that bleeding was unavoidable thanks to the slow death of the newspaper industry as we knew it. Plenty of that bleeding was self-inflicted.

We will never be as healthy as we were when I was hired more than a decade ago, but for the first time in years we were filling seats that had deliberately been left vacant. That grand announcement was made in January. Here's how we arrived at August 2011 in approximate chronological order:

• Our reorganization and seat filling meant that the trio responsible for layout of many weekly newspapers would be systematically eliminated. (I'm not sure any of us realized that at the time.) Saying there was a method to the madness is a bit generous, but we have managed to phase out the trio. The first to go was a design guru who had been with the company longer than I had. He has the luxury of not having to worry about his income as much as I do, so he could afford to walk away. He was given a management job for my group of papers, a job he didn't want, as it meant more responsibility, more office time and likely more hours in a given week than he typically worked. He quickly departed after being "promoted," opting for a part-time job closer to home. Like I said, he could afford it, his wife is a medical professional.

• The kid was hired as my new manager. He was about 7 or 8 years old when my co-worker Phil started his job with one of our newspaper holdings.

• The second member of the layout trio was booted less than three months ago. They decided that it was time to eliminate his job, but offered him the opportunity to go from full-time designer to a writing position that likely would have had him doing some layout work each week. He's another guy who has the luxury of not working full time, so he opted to stay at home with his kids while his wife brings home the bacon rather than take a job that was less accommodating to his childcare needs.

• A small staff, comprised of a few full-time employees and a few part-time employees, assembles a variety of papers relatively independent of the group I am a part of. They were told, rather insultingly, that their papers were in trouble, and that they'd have to work harder to keep their papers afloat. They were given a new weekly responsibility without the benefit of additional resources, as far as I can tell.

• One of the three full-time members of the aforementioned newspaper group took a job with Patch, the hyper-local online scam that is paying journalists more than advertising revenue can cover. She left less than two months ago.

• Last week one of the managers for my group walked away from his job, opting to go to work for his wife. (Marriage has never looked so good to me.)

• Today it was announced that we wouldn't be filling the two seats that have been vacated during the past two months. We were also told that two people were being kicked to the curb. One, the last remaining member of the design trio, wasn't a surprise. I knew it was only a matter of time before she was phased out, too. We also lost Phil, who has toiled for his small, fledgling group of papers longer than I have been with the company. His group was absorbed by our evil conglomerate several years ago, a conglomerate that punishes loyalty.

So it's 2010 all over again. We hired several people to fill vacant seats in 2011, and now we're just about back to where we started at the beginning of the year. The difference is that we have lost experienced, talented people and replaced them with young upstarts that mean well, but don't have the background and experience to give our organization the limited credibility it once had. It's a sad, sad world, and it pains me to be a part of it.

In the past I have been angry. Today I am despondent.

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