Today was a frightening day.
I don’t really have a blog for ranting, I feel like the trivial matters I tend to daily aren’t really the type of fodder meant for Tumblr, but I don’t really feel like posting something like this on Facebook, and my wordpress just never took off. I promise I will post a funny picture after this bullshit entry.
My job is never really hard. It can be challenging at times, but the tasks at hand are never challenging themselves, it’s moreso how many things can go wrong in a night that affect how I go about my business. Here, let me explain what I do:
(at this moment I hope you’ve been reminded of the boat explanation scene from The Life Aquatic, because it just popped in my head)
I design pages for a newspaper, in the Sports department specifically. I’m a Copy Editor, but my official title is Sports Clerk as I tend to answer phones and do a little writing aside from designing, something the other copy editors don’t really take the time to do. My quota each night varies, but it usually includes formatting content and laying out one particular page consistently, the Agate/Scoreboard page (statistics), and whatever else is needed. Sometimes it’s another similar page with stats, sometimes it’s a normal inside page with stories and graphics, and sometimes there just aren’t enough pages for a full night so I focus on my one and dick around for the remainder of my shift.
My job isn’t difficult, but it isn’t exactly boring either. With all my content ready to edit, I could do my job in about an hour easy. The only reason I’m given eight hour shifts is because with Sports, stories and results tend to trickle in throughout the night. So while I can set up a page’s layout early on, events during the evening can change, stories can change and games may go longer than expected, meaning I need the ability to shift content and trash a layout at the drop of a hat, if necessary. It sounds sort of hectic, but really it isn’t. Once you do this sort of thing for a couple years it becomes fairly old hat. While some nights may live up to how film and television have portrayed working at a newspaper, most evenings are fairly low key, consisting of two or three guys in front of a screen all night watching ESPN, making trips to the break room, and surfing the internet.
Tonight was a different story however. Newspapers are dying, they have been for years, but suddenly the industry has gone into cardiac arrest and, while we may make it out okay, there’s definitely going to be some long term effects. The latest change in my department is a page count cut, something that some would think to be a good thing as it’s less work, but let me assure you that is not the case.
Nearly two months ago my friend Mike, who helped me get the job at the newspaper and who I’ve known for years, was laid off along with a few other employees. Four months or so before THAT, 18 or so employees were laid off. A year before that, even more employees had been laid off. We’re coming to that time again very soon, and I don’t know if I’ll dodge this time. Four pages isn’t a sigh of relief, it’s a death sentence, it’s something incurable, and this past evening was the first night we had to suffer the symptoms of this terminal illness.
I was called into the editor’s office, and given a heads up that it’d be our first four page night, out of nowhere. We had heard before, but didn’t think it would come about so quickly. Since we weren’t expecting this change, to fit content, we had to rework two of our regular pages to squeeze in everything needed for the next day’s issue. Those two pages, of course, were mine. Suffice to say, upon getting to work, I didn’t manage to take a breather until 8:30. I started at 4:30.
By deadline I had managed to release my pages without too much issue, but it was a tiring night, an evening I hadn’t experienced in a long while, since my first few months learning the tricks of the trade. All night, there was this cloud hanging over our department, and despite our evening’s success, I don’t imagine it’ll be gone by tomorrow, or next week.
Funny thing tho, before we started work my editor called me in for my performance review. I received a glowing evaluation, but there was something tinging his words, the things he asked, what my long term plans were, if I wanted to do anything else, etc. Frightening questions, add to that the fact that, coming back in the building from my short break late in the evening, my badge wouldn’t open the gate and front door…well fuck, admittedly my heart skipped a few beats.
I’m scared. I’ve been nonchalant about the idea of being laid off, claiming I’d enjoy it and 8 months of unemployment would be a vacation, but now that the changes are in my grill, it’s scary. I don’t know how I’d react, fuck, I don’t even know if I’ll be back in the office come Friday. Will my card work? Four pages doesn’t need as many editors as we have.
It was a stressful day, there isn’t enough gin in this town.
There was this girl in the 5th grade that everyone called Beaver, because she had buck teeth and was from a really, really poor family. I joined in the hazing at the time. I wish I could apologize.
I don’t even remember her name.