Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Enough Already!

Ann Marie Lipinski, who has been editor of the Chicago Tribune since 2001, is leaving the venerated rag in two days. Reading about her departure following several staff and production cuts and before another 14% cut, I couldn't help but think of my own "downsizing" experiences in the 1990s. When I first went to work for a local chapter of a world-renowned humanitarian organization in 1982, there was a staff of more than 300 with four satellite offices in under-served neighborhoods. Volunteer leadership wielded considerable authority over paid staff and it actually worked. We were all in it "for the cause." As older staff retired and younger, more highly paid staff came on board, the ethos of service to humanity became secondary. The bottom line took priority as the C.E.O. now was being paid a six-figure salary, several times more than department managers. Programs and services that spent money to aid the community were cut because they didn't make money for the chapter. Being a survivor of downsizing is often worse than being a victim. We missed our former colleagues and worried about how they would make ends meet. The psychological battering lasts well beyond the financial sting.
With each rumored downsizing, there seemed to be a synchronous twisting of stomachs among the staff. We never knew who would be next. I survived four downsizings before my time came. Eight of us were called into a meeting with the C.E.O. who announced what was happening. Oddly, everyone else remained clench-jawed and shed no tears. I found out later that their manager had told them in advance what was coming. Mine didn't have the courage to do that, so I embarrassed myself and nearly stroked-out in front of everyone. Personally, it hurt knowing that I'd given my all for 14 years to guide hundreds of volunteers in helping thousands. Suddenly, all of that meant nothing. On my way out that evening, the C.E.O. had the temerity to slap me on the arm and, grinning, say "it wasn't personal."
Ms. Lipinski has my condolences and best wishes. She says she is not quitting in protest. I believe that and think she is leaving to preserve her physical and mental health. Wise choice. Godspeed to everyone at the Trib! It would be tragic to see another newspaper bite the dust.


nutmeg96 said...

Times are changing at newspapers. A friend of mine just got laid off after 13 years at another large newspaper -- and he didn't even get a decent severance package. It's all about the money now.

dcpeg said...

Welcome back from the beach! Hope you had a relaxing time.

You're so right -- the bottom line takes priority these days. Sad because good people get the shaft and the public loses the benefit of their service. I'd be lost without my daily newspaper! Hope it never comes to that, but I'm not holding my breath.