“As great newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and publishing houses dismember themselves around us, it would be marginally consoling if the pink slips were going to those who contributed so vigorously to their companies’ accelerating demise—the feckless zombies at the head of corporate bureaucracies who cared only about the next quarter’s numbers, never troubled to understand the DNA of the companies they took over, and installed swarms of “Business Affairs” drones to oversee and torment the people ‘under’ them.” — Tina Brown, The Daily Beast
Since Tina Brown said it better than I could, I decided to start off with her overview of what’s going on in media companies in the good ole USA. The Fourth Estate is ailing. And as it ails, democracy itself teeters on the edge of becoming something different. Good journalism has the power to keep those who rule in check. But, my task today is not to write about what’s going to happen if all the jobs in journalism go away. My task is to write about how losing one continues to affect my life — and the life of my family.
Here’s the back story. My husband, Julio, worked for Gannett for 34 years. As the newspaper industry began to wither in the last few years, we knew the writing was on the wall for him to be one of the ones to go. He had been there too long. He made too much money. In tough times, newspapers lose marketing — and he was the marketing director. Now mind you, “tough times” needs a definition here. Last week, the Gannett Blog (gannettblog.blogspot.com) listed the 2007 earnings for all of its newspapers. The little ole Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, Louisiana — with all of the uproar about how much it was losing money and how tough times were and how much I, along with many of my co-workers, worked untold hours beyond the 40 we were compensated to work — only had a 33 percent profit margin last year. Yes, that means they only made about $7.8 million dollars. Where did that money go? Well, I’ll put it this way — the pens they bought for reporters to use would barely write — I kid you not. So, my only conclusion is all that money left the state of Louisiana and went to line the golden halls of Gannett’s corporate offices. I worked there for a while back in the early 1990’s. The difference in the way even the peons at corporate have access to money and the way the local sites scrounge still blows my mind.
But anyway, Julio and I knew he would be among the first to go. We also knew in as chaotic an arena as this newspaper was being managed, we had to find another way to ensure that our family had benefits. I started looking for another job. In May, I found one and went to work for Barnes and Noble as their Community Relations Manager. It’s been a good fit and a good job. The benefits are great.
It’s amazing how much of our working lives are about “the benefits,” — health care. I watched this PBS special on health care around the world and how other countries manage it. The U.S. is the only country in which someone can actually lose their home because of their efforts to pay for health care. In my humble opinion — and no offense to my doctor friends — but something needs to change along those lines. We can’t live in “the greatest country in the world” with so many people living in constant fear that they’ll lose everything they’ve worked to build if someone in their family gets sick.
And I’ve given that a lot of thought in the last three or so years.
So, in September, just as we had expected, Julio was called into a meeting in the publisher’s office and “let go.” He received a good severance package because he had worked 34 years for the company. In fact, the short term is not a concern for us. It’s the long term that has me constantly thinking about new ways to make money — sort of while the getting is good. For example, I figured out a way to make unbelievably good homemade crackers. And my first thought was, “I could sell these.”