Frumpfighter

Archive for the ‘layoffs’ Category

What a crazy year it has been in the world of journalism. Newspapers all across the country are struggling; some are even shutting down.

My world has not been immune to this disruption. A year ago, my husband, Jeff, was relieved of his duties as editor and publisher of the weekly newspaper we created in 2005. It was done for “business decisions” (read philosophical differences).

When Jeff and I were all but thrown out of the building last year, the duties of carrying on the day-to-day operation were handed to our friend, Tom Lundvall. In the beginning of the business, Tom was our computer wizard. Eventually, Jeff hired him as sports editor and general reporter. He learned everything from scratch and did a tremendous job.

This week Tom was let go due to economic conditions. Jeff and I appreciate everything he did for us and wish him and his family the best in the future.

Here’s a tribute Jeff wrote to his former co-worker and forever friend:

http://watchingwheels.wordpress.com/2009/03/13/tribute-to-a-friend-and-to-a-dream-that-has-passed/

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A year ago in March my husband and I once again had the rug pulled out from under us.  Thinking he was entering a meeting to discuss printing options, my husband, Jeff, was told by his business partners that they had voted him out as publisher of the newspaper he and I created in our spare bedroom in 2005.

Our income was instantly cut in half (there is no severance when you get voted off the island), our stuff in the office was boxed up and the locks were changed. More significantly, we felt we had been betrayed by Jeff’s hometown. Again.

When we moved back to Iowa from Kansas in 2004, we thought we were instantly going to have a happy, peaceful life. I got my job at The Gazette and Jeff was offered the head coaching job of his hometown wrestling team, a post his father held some 35 years earlier. Jeff was substitute teaching, planning on finishing his certification.

Somewhere along the line, Jeff had the idea to start a weekly newspaper to take on the daily he had once worked at which had been stripped of its quality after a large media holding company bought it shortly after we moved to Kansas in 1997. He wanted to bring back quality journalism to his hometown and knew just how to do it.

We secured funding through a business partner and were on our way with a used Mac and a camera. The first issue came out June 1, 2005, and by August, there were more than 2,000 paid subscribers. By all accounts, it was a success story. Except for the revenue. People loved to read it but were somewhat wary to advertise in it. By Christmas, our business partner got fed up and wanted out.

We, rather accidentally, found new partners to buy out his shares and felt relieved it would live to see another day. As the money troubles continued, we were still convinced we could make a go of it. To top off the stress, Jeff was asked to step down from his wrestling coaching job due to a few impatient parents, assistant coaches and relentless fans. 

While subscriptions were steadily increasing, the paper continued to struggle as ad revenues couldn’t keep up with the competing shopper.  Jeff was told he didn’t do enough and didn’t care enough. I was struggling at my job at The Gazette as well. Our son’s special needs took their toll and we quickly realized this wasn’t the dream life we had anticipated.

When Jeff was released from his duties at the paper and our opinions were rendered worthless, we were devastated and had enough.  First the wrestling job, now this. He decided to give up journalism for good and enrolled in a program to get his master’s degree in special education. Because our trip back home wasn’t what we expected, we made plans to move back to Kansas once he finished his degree. He was in contact with the school district down there and I was in contact with my former newspaper company. In May we took a trip to look at houses and continued to plan our move.

Then, in July, something happened to both of us. On the same night, I went to the “Moving Home” performance at Brucemore and he went to a regional softball game. I was touched by the program which documented the epic flood in Cedar Rapids and the determination of the community to recover. He was touched by his softball team’s determination, only to fall one game short of going to state.

When we both got home, we had the same thing on our minds. What if we try to make it work here? Would we really be happier moving our son away from his friends and family? We were disappointed and hurt by a few people here, not everyone. So that night in July we changed our mindset and decided to stay.

Jeff is now the swimming coach and loves it. We have no regrets about completely ending our involvement with our former paper, especially through the recession. And while things at The Gazette have been trying lately with layoffs and reorganization, I’m glad I stuck it out.

Nothing is life is ever guaranteed, but I’m pretty sure in a year we’ll still be here in Iowa and finally peaceful and happy.

The afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, is clearly etched in my mind. The country was under siege, everybody around me was working on a story about the terrorist attacks, and there I sat, writing a story and designing a page about an Italian restaurant in Atchison, Kan.

Insignificant or what? My boss and mentor, Pat Lowry, later tried to tell me that what I did that day was important because it gave us all a sense that life goes on, even under the direst of circumstances.

I again had that insignificant feeling today as I worked on the upcoming travel page for The Gazette while a coworker and friend was clearing out his desk a few feet away. I wanted to leave, go for a walk or something, but I felt I needed to stay. One, to do my job, and two, to show support for him.

My colleague was one of 13 fellow Gazette newsroom staffers who were laid off Tuesday as part of the continuing reorganization project, prompted by a combination of the changes in the newspaper industry, the devastating flood in Cedar Rapids last summer and the economic downturn that has left nobody unscathed.

The staff knew this day would come; we were made aware of it earlier this year. But it still didn’t make it any less shocking or difficult to absorb.

I have been through this before. My last three newspapers have gone through some kind of change during my tenure. In 2001, my husband and I were both on the chopping block of The Leavenworth (Kan.) Times. In 2003, a reorganization of sorts at the Atchison (Kan.) Globe saw the managing editor getting axed and me taking his place. Then, the next year at the Globe, my boss, Mr. Lowry, was shown the door. That was the final straw for me. I applied for one job and one job only at The Gazette in my homeland of Eastern Iowa.

Now, The Gazette is going through major changes and reorganization. I do believe changes are necessary to keep the business afloat. But I never like to see anybody lose their job and livelihood. I would say I have survivor’s guilt but I am not totally convinced yet that I am a survivor.

As disappointed as I am in The Gazette that good people have lost their jobs and now face an uncertain future, I still believe in journalism and The Gazette’s mission. We’ll see what the next few weeks bring…

Record-breaking cold temperatures. Restructuring of the organization where I work. Constant news of layoffs in the industry I’ve built my whole career around. Where’s the comfort?

I’ll admit my plan to dutifully watch what I eat and keep to a strict workout routine has gone by the wayside this week. Staying committed to an overhaul of the diet and life in general should be fairly simple. Then stress intervenes.  

At times like these, I’m almost thankful I’ve gone through my share of job insecurity, financial struggles and uncertainty – especially over the past eight years. Every time it seemed like nothing could get worse or better, a new opportunity presented itself.

When I lost my newspaper job in March 2001, I got a different one three months later – one that I loved and thrived in. In March 2002 when the doctor told me I was infertile, it turns out I was actually pregnant. Eight months later I became a mother. When there was upheaval at my job (the one I loved) in 2004, an opportunity opened up at The Gazette, allowing us to return home to eastern Iowa.

Now, there is upheaval once again in the workplace. But this time it is different. Scary, yes. Nobody can afford to be unemployed – especially with the job market so grim. But I see opportunity and forward-thinking in The Gazette’s plan. Will everybody who works there now make it through the restructuring? Probably not. Am I guaranteed a job? No, nobody is. But I do have a sense of resilience that will keep me going no matter what happens.

I am not going to be militant about counting every calorie and dragging myself to the gym every day. After all, it is 30 below zero and everything I learned in my career the past 15 years is changing. But I’m not just going to give up either. That’s how I became frumpy in the first place.


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