The rumors had been circulating for a few weeks.
Corporate had ordered massive company-wide layoffs. We had no idea how many people at our newspaper in Binghamton were going to lose their jobs, but we knew that job losses were coming. D-Day was in late December, 2008. I was scheduled to work a night shift, 4 p.m.-12 a.m. I knew that I wouldn't know anything until I got into the office. I spent the afternoon refreshing SportsJournalists.com and Gannett Blog, seeing the numbers stack up from across the company. I heard from people working the day shift about how people were losing their jobs in our newsroom, how our sister papers in Ithaca and Elmira were getting decimated. I incredulously read that Scott Pitoniak - the great columnist in Rochester, one of the most decent and good people in our business - lost his job.
At that time, my first round of grad school applications were in the mail. But school wouldn't start for about 9 months. I did not know if I would arrive at work at 4 p.m. and go home unemployed a half hour later. I spent the day on the couch, watching Bourne movies, trying to keep my mind off things.
I got to work at 4 p.m. I saw my editor, saw the paper's executive editor, and neither said anything to me outside of hello. I was safe. I still had a job. About the same time, my friend and co-worker Bobby came in. He was just out of school and a good young reporter, who treated his Section 4 Field Hockey beat the way Pete Thamel treats college hoops. Great guy, even for being a Jets fan.
As soon as he sat down, the executive editor came over. Asked him to come back with him.
As Bobby walked away, I turned to Kevin, the slot guy. We both muttered, "Shit ..."
About 15 minutes later, Bobby walked slowly back to his desk, holding a folder. The guys in the sports department, we all convened around his desk, huddling around him, circling the wagons. He was OK, but out of a job.
Just like that.
I saw too many things like that happen in the last few years I worked in newspapers. I saw the company demand all of us to take furloughs. Some people in the office were able to take their five days at a time (we called it a fur-cation). I had to space them out, one day every two weeks, so the loss of pay wouldn't destroy us financially.
I saw good people, good reporters, good editors, lose their jobs. I saw a clerk/page designer - a Marine veteran who had served in Afghanistan who had a baby on the way - get laid off one afternoon. I saw institutional knowledge, journalistic skill reduced to lines on a spreadsheet for no reason other than satisfy the dividend demands of faceless investors.
And today, I saw that the CEO of the company I used to work for, Craig Dubow, had earned $9.4 million last year. He also earned a $1.8 million BONUS for laying my friends off - because those layoffs helped cut the company's cost.
This man is being rewarded for ruining newspapers across the country. This man had the opportunity to help guide the newspaper industry out of the jumbled mess and into the future. He has done nothing about this, and yet he was rewarded ... for cutting costs.
He was rewarded for laying off my friends Bobby and Jay. He was rewarded for laying off a veteran with a baby on the way, for running a bright, talented young reporter out of the business.
There is only one way to describe people who would do this:
Arrogant, selfish bastards.