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I am alive and still employed

To answer the questions I have received in my e-mail from blog readers (I am humbled even to know I have regular enough readers to notice my absence): Yes, I am alive, and yes, I am still employed (for now, more on this later).

My apologies for my month-long absence here. My MacBook hard drive gave out (about a month to the day after my two-year warranty was up, how convenient?). I decided to start an experiment rather than immediately fix or replace it. I wanted to test whether I could survive my high-tech lifestyle sans personal computer.

Surprisingly, the answer was, for the most part, yes. A BlackBerry is a handy tool, and I suspect I’d have had even more success this past month with an iPhone or G1. But alas, other than my blog and a dip in Twittering (both of which I make a point of not doing on my computer at work) I survived. Unfortunately, as anyone who knows me well knows, those are kind of key elements of my digital persona. So I’d hesitate to call my month a success. But there were a few lessons. The one to take away, for me at least, is while most mobile news sites lack the depth of news available on their traditional counterpart, I was able to get most of the news I would want quickly just on my phone. And when I’m just looking for the headlines, I actually prefer the stripped down mobile version of my own paper’s site.

SO… back to my second point above: I am still employed.

As many of you know I do work for a Gannett newspaper. And as most of those reading this likely know, we will be suffering that same 10 percent payroll cut as the rest of the company’s newspapers. And while our newsroom has been spared cuts during my 22-month tenure here, we’ve been told not to expect the same fortune this time.

I don’t know how I feel about even blogging about this, especially since who will be in that 10 percent is undecided still and I know my bosses read this. I haven’t really blogged about cuts in the past. But this is the first time I’ve felt even a hint of “what if it’s me?” Still, I realize part of my mission for this blog is to tell the story of what it’s like to be a 20-something breaking into this industry. Part of that for me, for kids at other papers in my chain and in journalism jobs elsewhere is the reality that everything we’ve worked for so far could be taken away in one conversation and for no good reason.

So I’m going to tell you how I feel about the cuts:

I’m not scared. I’m not unafraid because I think my job is safe. I’m unafraid because I know even if it’s not, I’ll rebound. The truth is, I’ve been prepared for this news since I started. I’ve always felt a job at a newspaper was a precarious situation, even if I prepared myself as best I could by loading up on skills beyond writing and reporting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past week. It would suck, certainly, to be fired (err laid off?) from my first job. But as I told the other reporters when we got the note from the publisher in our inbox, “The only surprising thing about the layoffs is it took as long as it did to come.” One of my questions to the Gannett recruiter I first interviewed with a few years ago was about layoffs, and he was blunt they were a possibility. Unlike some of my older counterparts, I knew the volatility of the industry I was entering. I knew what I was getting in to and that it would likely bring me heart break. But it was worth it to do something I love.

Mentally, I am prepared to at any time have a tap on my shoulder saying thanks for your hard work, get out of here. In this cut or others that may inevitably follow. I almost think I’d feel better if it were me cut not one of those old-timers who have made a home and a career here. I am 23; many people my age haven’t even graduated college yet, while I have two years experience. I also have Web skills many don’t and the willingness and ability to learn pretty much anything. Not to mention, I have networked reasonably well, so I’d probably stand a better chance of finding a journalism job than someone who has been here longer, although I don’t think I’d like to have to compete against the thousands of other people being let go. And finally, I don’t have roots in this town beyond my job and friendships I’ve made, and I don’t have a family or a mortgage to worry about. Even the bills I have to pay every month, I could manage on minimum wage if I moved back in with my parents, which is a lot less embarrassing at 23 than 43. For those reasons, I’d be a logical choice to cut. Of our reporters, I would be the least personally hurt by the business move. But unfortunately, these things aren’t logical.

I work hard and already feel I carry the weight of more than one reporter. I’m also pretty sure I’m their lowest paid or among their lowest paid reporters. I also have contributed in other areas of the business, including helping develop new or better existing products to reach our community. In short, I think I’m an asset not a drag.

So the truth is, it’d be Gannett’s loss not mine. In short: Mentally, I’m prepared to be posting a plea here in a month to help me find a job. I hope it doesn’t come to that. But if it does, don’t feel bad. One of the great things about me is I’m an optimist. I know things will work out just fine. And it would take a lot more than a layoff to kill my desire to do good journalism.

3 Responses to “I am alive and still employed”

  1. Ron Sylvester Says:

    I’ll be trying to send good karma your way.

    On blogging, I’ve found it comes in waves. You miss a few weeks, then you return and pick up and post quite a bit. I’ve also found that Twitter taken the place of the blog sometimes, at least for me. And those who really follow you know what you’re up to every day.

    And mobile is becoming the way to go. Get a bluetooth foldable keyboard, so you won’t wear out your thumbs.

    And remember to eat (inside joke)

  2. TeachJ Says:

    Don’t think I could make it for a month. I didn’t have a computer for seven days after Hurricane Ike and I thought I was going to go crazy. Wow! Hope you don’t get hit by the cuts.

    I enjoy reading your blog and keep you in mind whenever a young student of mine says they want to work in the media field. The jobs are few, the conditions hard and the pay lousy – but do it if you love it.

  3. Jim Hopkins Says:

    Terrific post! How come I didn’t know about your blog before now?