This week has just been awful at my newspaper, at newspapers owned by the parent company across the country. People leaving in tears; lives uprooted.
The names of the laid-off were announced right before the annual holiday party. Presents with the names of the freshly unemployed sat in the middle of the conference table surrounded by the saddest group of people you've ever seen eating pie. It's so bleak; it was downright Dickensian.
Since the mandatory staff reduction was announced about a month ago, well-meaning friends have been telling me that I'll be fine, that they would be "crazy" to let me go. I've so appreciated the supported, but this week, SO. MANY. talented, well-connected people who were writing about really important things (including the economic downturn, for Heaven's sake) were let go. It was swift and terrible, lacking in rhyme and reason, and it's very real to me now that it doesn't matter that I'm damn good at what I do, or that I'm incredibly flexible about my schedule, or that I'm committed enough to work Christmas Eve AND Christmas day AND New Year's Eve, or that I'm bilingual and smart and underpaid.
I'm not stupid. I'm saving up for the gear and computer upgrades I would need if I have to strike out on my own. I'm doing everything that needs to be done so I can hit the ground running if that day comes.
It's also clear to me that this work that I do is more important than ever. There is so much news to cover, so many stories to tell, people who need to be seen and heard and read about. There is more work to do, and less people to do it. So I will be out there, busting my ass, making meaningful pictures, informing the public, and I will do it until they pry the camera out my cold, unemployed hands and replace it with a cardboard box of my personal possessions.