Another big media chop

I can, as readers know, relate to what Warren Bluhm writes:

When the news broke late last week that layoffs were imminent at the corporation that owns the venerable small-town paper where I worked for most of 14 years, I started to think about how logical it would be to lay me off. I suppose all of my co-workers had similar thoughts about themselves, but I just had a feeling.

I don’t take horoscopes seriously, but I do read mine because they often contain good advice. On Monday morning, I read it out loud to Red and we both laughed nervously:

“Changes at work are coming: This could be the luckiest turn of events that’s happened in months. To prepare yourself, bone up on your skills and make sure your client base is ample.”

If ever there was a moment when I went over to the dark side and embraced the idea that my fate is sealed by the position of stars light years away, that might have been that moment. Whether or not I “believed,” in any case, by golly, it was good advice.

And: A little after noon on Tuesday, I was given the word that I was part of the company’s latest round of cuts to contain costs.

It was a cordial conversation, and I was assured this was not a performance decision but an economic one yada yada yada, and they explained some nice going-away benefits, and off I went to let the folks who work with me know they were safe, and only I was leaving (at least in the newsroom; a trio of other, tremendous support people were also let go).

Now, my dear friends and colleagues have railed about how could the company do this, and I love them, but let’s note that the goal is to keep the doors open, and under this ownership the newspaper has endured for 12 long years since the previous owner decided he couldn’t make a go of it any longer. My fondest desire was always to grow the paper despite the odds, but in the absence of such growth, the alternative is to cut costs, and frankly I was the costliest cost in the room.

The paper survives to fight another day. My loyalty has always been to the 154 years of folks who toiled under the banner before me and with me, and not to the corporation that bought the brand, and perhaps that helped put me on the list. You know what? It doesn’t matter. The brand survives, and if anyone can save it from oblivion, it’s the incredible journalists and other people who still work in that building.

I am so proud to have been a part of that tradition and grateful for the high bar set by the people who walked those hallways before me. Anytime I started feeling my oats, all I had to do was remind myself, “Bluhm, you’re no Chan Harris,” or someone would come along to say it for me. I wouldn’t have tried as hard as I did without those noble ghosts chasing me.

Today is the first day of the next phase of my life, and oh, what an adventure it shall be.

It seems that the worst thing a media person can do these days is work for a publicly traded media company. I guess I was not specifically laid off, but when the company that owns your magazine decides to close the magazine, you are definitely surplus.

The Door County Advocate has for decades been the state’s largest weekly newspaper, with thousands of its subscribers living in Door County only during the summer. But at least, like me and my former Journal Communications colleagues, Warren has a lot of company with former Gannett Co. employees. (That sentence has a double meaning in that no one works for Journal Communications anymore, with the broadcast/print split and subsequent print sale to Gannett.)

Gannett’s next purchase, by the way, reportedly will be the thing called “Tronc,” the print arm of the former Tribune Co., which like Journal split off its broadcast (Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times) and broadcast (the WGNs) properties. Again, change is not necessarily progress.

 

 

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