Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Fact of the Matter

Nobody, I'm sure, that is sitting around trying to look busy while waiting to find out if DMN HR is going to call your name and give you a box, will want to read this right now. In fact, I'm actually encouraging you not to. Not for a week, at least. Take a few days to let what just happened digest. If you indeed got laid off, take a nice, long long weekend and enjoy things you probably didn't get to do much of while you worked your derriere off at the company that just let you go. If you are safe, well, lordy. Because it's the safe ones that are going to have some tougher decisions to make in the next few months and year. Do you stay at a job that may indeed do another round of insane layoffs where people who do very little keep their jobs, but very talented journalists are let go? Do you continue to stay in a medium that is amassing more and more casualties on a daily basis? Someone who commented on another blog - on a post about today being the RIF day for the DMN newsroom - was called a jerk for pointing out that it's time to grow up. Well, he's kinda right. Let me say right now, I adore writing. I loved reporting, and if the economy was more amenable, I'd still be in the trenches. But there comes a time when you just have to face facts. If you have a family to support and a mortgage and two car payments and college tuitions to save for, it may very well be in your best interest to ask yourself, "Am I a journalist, or am I a reporter at the Dallas Morning News?" If it's the former, you'll be fine. You'll find a way to keep being a journalist, whether it be helping a company craft its public persona, going back to school to teach future journalists, or any of the other jobs that are out there for people who are good with words. You may stay at the DMN knowing you're gambling on getting laid off at some point, or having to work heinous hours doing the work of three, but you'll be amassing options. If it's the latter, it's time for a gut check. While the two are not mutually exclusive, of course, if your entire identity is tied up in working at the Dallas Morning News, you're setting yourself up for a fall, my friend. Such a thing is conducive for sticking your head in the sand, only to have it yanked out one day by a middle manager with a list, who hands you a box so you can clean out your desk. You will be shocked. You will have no Plan B. You will wonder how this happened, while the people around you bite their tongues to keep from asking how you didn't see it coming. You will be shocked to find out that jobs for straight up journalists are hard to come by, unless you're willing to go back to journalism's roots and work at a small weekly. Don't get me wrong - in either scenario, getting laid off sucks. There's no feel-good story with an RIF. And while you may not have control over when it happens, you can have control over how well you are prepared for it. And that, folks, is being an adult about it.