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JewishJournal.com

February 28, 2008

‘This is the end, beautiful friend ...’

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/this_is_the_end_beautiful_friend__/

You know when a friend dies and you are so paralyzed by grief that you can’t mourn their loss in words? That was how I felt yesterday afternoon when I got an e-mail about the staff cuts visiting my former paper tomorrow.

* 22 jobs will be eliminated Friday, bringing us to 100 total in the newsroom.
* the layoff package will be the same as the voluntary buyout package last year.
* anyone who wants to voluntarily step forward and take a buyout (same terms) has until noon Thursday to let ron or melissa know.
* those affected include both PT and FT; both guild and non-guild
* ron will stay.
* ron will notify those affected on friday.
* those who take voluntary buyouts will affect the list of those on friday.
* if you have jobshare suggestion, etc., let him know.
* industry and us are screwed, but i still believe in what we’re doing and have some hope.
* will help with references etc.
* accrued vacation will be paid out too. exempt worker max is four weeks.
* this is the least of the worst options - dean saved ten reporting jobs
* it’s gonna be tough to look good workers in the eye and tell them we have no room for you anymore.
* decide for self whether it’s fun, worthwhile, worth saying in, or moving on.
* can’t sugarcoat things, can’t say there won’t be more cuts or that any paper will survive.

At Bible study last night, the fate of my former colleagues was my main prayer request. We journalists have long known these were bad times to be in the business; it’s been that way since I started four years ago. And that was one of the reasons I left the LA Daily News for The Jewish Journal.

But I don’t think anyone could have expected the cuts to be this stark and this severe. How could they? A nearly 20 percent reduction overnight. Employees given less than 12 hours to decide whether they should take a buyout or risk being laid off anyway. Others knowing that by staying they are costing a friend their job.

I know Ron Kaye, the editor, fought hard to save jobs, and fortunately he didn’t lose his in the process. He was so stricken yesterday, I was told he started crying during the staff meeting. Brent Hopkins’, the shop steward and eternal optimist who for seven years has fought the good fight, laments what comes next:

This is the worst day I’ve ever seen here at the paper and I’m sure Friday will be even worse. There is nothing I can say that will make it OK or even make it make sense. These are disastrous cuts that will seriously hamper our ability to produce the paper and Web content at the level our readers expect. It risks erasing all the great leaps forward we’ve made online and in print.

The next few months will be intensely painful, both for the people who lose their jobs and those who stay behind. As I’ve said to many of you, the real losers are the people who rely on this newspaper—they won’t be able to find the information they need anymore. Their events won’t get covered. Their sense of community will get a little shakier. Once the dedicated journalists who’ve made this place what it is leave, their expertise will never be replaced. Maybe people won’t notice it right away, but in a year, maybe two, maybe more, they’ll realize there’s a gaping hole left behind that can never be filled in.

This is particularly heartbreaking to me because you guys have given this place everything and asked for little in return. You’ve sacrificed yourselves for love of the craft and love of the community and the work you’ve done is amazing. The paper’s thinner and our coverage isn’t as expansive as it once was, but the stories, photos, layouts, headlines—everything—has been fantastic. I’m so proud to see the work you do on a daily basis and honored to be a part of it. I’m heartsick to see such a great operation so callously dismantled.

This is not the end of the Daily News and the people who stay behind will continue to put out as good a paper as they possibly can every day, but it will be very hard. Then again, it’s never been easy and the crazy folks who make this place so vibrant and alive will never let this company’s mismanagement snuff them out. You’ll continue to give more than the beancounters deserve and keep coming back before because y’all are the most wonderful, talented, bad-ass journalists around. Somehow, the spirit will survive, as it always does.

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