Thursday, August 1, 2013

Major Transition: I'm No Longer A Reporter At the Burlington Free Press

The inevitable happened today.

I was laid off from my job as a reporter at the Burlington Free Press in Burlington, Vermont.

I say it was inevitable because the newspaper industry is struggling, and newspapers have been shedding jobs for years.

This is only the latest round of industry layoffs. At last check, at least 170 people had lost their jobs this week at Gannett, the owner of the Burlington Free Press and numerous other papers and media outlets.

From what I understand, I was among 13 people to lose their jobs at the Free Press. I guess it was my turn to face the axe.

Of course, I should have been preparing for this, saving more money than I have been, updating my resume more than I have, but you always hope against hope it doesn't happen to you. Subconsciously, probably, I didn't do more to prepare because I didn't want to jinx the gig.

Which makes no sense, of course, but brains are funny things. Brains like mine are an endless well of odd thoughts and superstitions. Even if I am rational most of the time. Go figure.

I'll be OK, of course. I'm still sorting things out today, so I haven't really formulated a real plan. This just happened a few hours ago, for Chrissakes!

It was a weird moment when Executive Editor Michael Townsend  brought me into an office and let me know what was going on.  Yes, I was the one being let go, but I didn't envy Townsend. He's had to lay off people before, and I know how much he hates to do that.  I hope today was the last time he'll have to break such news to his employees.

A human resources specialist from Rochester, N.Y. was in there to go over how to apply for unemployment, deal with disentangling myself from Gannett and move on.  

The HR lady -- she told me her name, but I was a bit distracted by the situation and it didn't register -- was polite in an efficient sort of way. You could tell she's done this many times before. Which is in itself sad. I wonder if having to do that to people getting laid off makes her sad. I kind of felt bad for her.

As for myself, I knew immediately the worst thing I could do is get all emotional.   It's funny, when a minor bad thing happens to me, like I stub my toe or spill my Diet Coke, I have to contain a certain amount of frustration.

When a bigger bad thing happens, like when I got run over by a semi-truck, or our dog Bailey died, or when I got laid off from the Free Press today, I stayed calm and collected.

Of course, getting laid off from the Free Press might not necessarily be a bad thing, at least not a bad thing like getting run over by a semi or having a beloved dog die.

Unlike the other two scenarios, there's plenty I can do about the situation. Look for another job, of course. I'm faced with a clean slate, which is simultaneously scary and thrilling.

I know there's not a  zillion jobs out there and employers won't necessarily be beating down  my door to hire me.  But, having been a journalist for so long means I certainly know how to communicate, which for almost any job is half the battle.

I can also sit back and think about what other interests I have besides journalism. Is there something else that has been bubbling in the back of my weird brain, waiting to come out as a vocation? Now's the time to consider it.

The only thing I'm truly upset about is the effect my layoff has on other people. My husband Jeff is already talking about cutting back on things. I can tell he's worried about it, though he says his main worry is my well being.

I believe him, of course, but I do want to fix things so he doesn't feel like he has to worry. Why should my situation drag him down?

I worry about Barb, the wonderful lady that takes care of our Jackson the Cocker Spaniel.  We'll have to bring Jackson less often there, to save money for now.

So, I'll spend the next several days figuring things out. Luckily, I'm resilient enough so that I'm not angry, depressed, or overwhelmingly scared. Those negative emotions are understandable, but they paralyze you, get in the way of moving on, and prevent one from continuing life's journey.

Life's journey is too much fun to abandon, so believe me, I'm staying in the game more so than ever before.

I'll land squarely on my feet. I just don't know where yet. Wherever I do land, it will be surprising and cool and different and refreshing.

I feel it in my bones.


  1. Blogging is good therapy! Best of luck.

  2. Good luck, Matt. Eva Sollberger shared this blog post on her Facebook page, which is how I heard. Keep hustling and you'll get back on your feet.