Today we ran a story about the layoffs (on Page 7B, the new front for the Business section now encased in the State & Local section, below the fold. No note in the A1 rail.) It reads, in part, "Among those departing are several staffers and columnists who have become the faces of [the newspaper]* for many readers." So I am in there. As a result my day was punctuated with email and phone calls from people who had read the story and were startled to see me go. Many understood why. Most were sad anyway. Almost all were curious about where I was going. (So am I.)
Often, as the face of the newspaper, we don't hear too many good things. Email tends to bring out the worst in people, as they don't imagine a real audience. Most of them probably wouldn't talk to their mothers that way!
I heard good things far more often than I heard bad. It was a big perk of my job as crafts columnist, in particular. As books editor, I also heard many good things, with the occasional it's-not-rocket-science! feedback when we had some lamebrain error. It's rigorous business, putting your words out there for folks to scrutinize. They expect it to be right, and when it's not, it throws everything else into question. I get that. And, frankly, I'll miss putting my words out there. I'll miss seeing everybody else's words.
Some very talented people remain at the paper -- including my husband -- but their job will be harder than ever. Even with a shrinking news hole, it is incredibly difficult to put out good quality information on a fine day. And there are no more fine days. There are incredibly difficult days ahead, where the infrastructure of the many "faceless" people who make the paper happen -- editors of all types and designers -- is a skeleton frame barely holding up the operation. The morale is phenomenally low. Too low even for the gallows humor for which journalists are famous. It is sad beyond words to see this industry crumbling.
*I avoid naming the newspaper not out of coyness or evasiveness -- it is easy enough to figure out where I work (for just another six days -- seven if you count the Sunday evening I'll have to go in still). That is the brilliance that is Google. But our story is echoed across the nation. We are in a particularly bad situation because our parent company made stupendously bad decisions. But every mid- to large paper in the country is going through this (smaller papers are, curiously, doing OK -- fodder for discussion here). I don't want to blunt the impact by drawing focus on a single newspaper. My story is the story of many.