liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Defining Bittersweet

For some random reason, I decided to look at the Website of the first post-college daily newspaper I ever worked for and saw that a reporter I used to work with is retiring today.

To make it doubly bittersweet, he was in the line of reporters that "bumped" me from my job as a beat reporter during my first-ever experience with layoffs.

"Bumping" works like this:
  • Step 1:  Newspaper cuts job/beat, leaving reporter without a job
  • Step 2:  Reporter doesn't want to leave workplace, so he or she "bumps" a reporter with less seniority out of their job and takes over the existing beat
  • Step 3:  Bumped reporter doesn't want to leave workplace, so he or she "bumps" a reporter with even less seniority out of their job and takes over the existing beat
  • Step 4:  Wash-rinse-repeat until the reporter with the least bit of seniority finds themselves laid off, even though it wasn't their job that was eliminated in the first place, in a real-life, high-stakes version of musical chairs
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this used to be how newspapers laid off people. Much as it sucked for me — mostly because it seemed like I was perpetually low-person on the totem pole — it also made sense. The newspaper got to keep the institutional memory for the geographic area they were covering, and older reporters with kids/spouses/mortgages didn't find themselves job hunting for the next year or two.

It sucked, but it was fair, y'know?

Now, newspapers cut the most experienced so it can hire the kid that'll do the same job for one-third the cost that's right out of college with no experience as a reporter, let alone any institutional memory of the geographic area or the newspaper itself. Which is wht we're all in the mess we're in media-wise, and it sucks.

Anyway, said retiring reporter was, I believe, somewhere in the middle of the "bumping" chain that ended with me. So, he wasn't directly responsible for me being out of a job, but he was within six degrees of it.

In any case, that layoff was the first in a long line of getting laid off from jobs, especially newspaper jobs. It's practically the defining characteristic of being Generation X in the U.S. of A., isn't it?

Baby Boomers and older can count the number of employers on one hand and have fingers left over. Generation X and younger have lost count of the number of employers they've worked for due to layoffs, company closures, company buyouts, grabbing make-work jobs between full and meaningful employment, and so on.

The hell with that. I've lost track of the number of industries I've worked in.

Well, in any case, good luck to my former colleague as he sails into retirement.

As for me, in the end it turned out okay.

Granted, it took me a decade (or two) to get where I am, but where I ended up ain't so shabby and, I suspect, suits me better than being a real-life version of Hildy Johnson.

I mean, if it wasn't for that layoff all those many years ago, I would've never wound up in a scientific field. Nor would I have ever discovered that I'm actually good at science for someone with very little post-high school education in it. An oversight that I am now in the midst of correcting.

(Secret: Despite all that, I sometimes miss being a reporter the way some people miss having a limb.)

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