Gannett “Resets” and the Vermont Way

They did it again.

I read about the latest layoffs at Gannett last night while I was cooking dinner. I had a glass of wine and then I coughed up this really vitriolic post about how I was going to warn the undergraduates I work with to boycott their papers and never, ever go to work for Gannett. I used the words “disgusting,” and “cheating” and I think “corrupt.”

But I deleted the post after about a half hour. It felt like ranting, like shaking my tiny fists at people who weren’t listening to me anyway.

You have to admit I’ve got a point though. Newspapers have been dying for a long time, and all the publicly held, ridiculously huge media corporations are doing this sort of thing every couple of months. But Gannett seems to have a special penchant for doing it in a particularly nasty way. They make everyone reapply for the jobs they already have.

Just out of journalism school and you got your cops reporter job six months ago? Gannett says: Reapply for the position you bought a $60,000 master’s degree to get and moved states to take in the first place, and we’ll see what happens.

Been trudging in every day for the last 30 years to work as features editor, working through hurricanes and holidays and nights and weekends to put out a well-done entertainment tab? Gannett says: Reapply and we’ll see. Maybe you’ll get lucky and you’ll get reassigned to a cops reporter job in the next county so we can let that newly hired 22 year-old go back to where he came from. At least you’ll get to hang onto your health insurance.

At one point a good 80 percent of all my friends in four states worked as journalists. This fall most of the last of them have lost their jobs. These are career writers and editors with stellar credentials who have given decades to the work because they believe in it and they’re good at it. And the handful of my friends who have managed to hold onto their jobs are stressed and freaked out, surviving the latest rounds of layoffs only to wonder when the next rounds are coming. All of them have been treated unkindly, inhumanely.

This is what I really meant to say on Facebook: I’d been sitting up here in Vermont feeling sorry for myself because I haven’t been able to land anything full-time since I got here two years ago. I tend to kvetch to whoever will listen about how mediocre and expensive my family’s health insurance is these days. Things like that.

But that all pales next to the fact that I’ve found friends and fun work that I love here in this state with hardly any fulltime jobs. I’m trying to learn what people tell me is the Vermont way: Cobble together part-time gigs; leave yourself a little time to keep your creative projects going if you can. Also: quit complaining about insurance.

All the work I’ve found has been through caring friends who’ve taken time to help me find what I need when I need it, who then check in from time to time to offer support and friendship and make sure it’s all going okay.

It’s a different model than I’m used to and I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it all yet; just about everybody I know here is better at it than I am. But it beats the hell out of giving all my waking hours to a corporation I can never trust to treat me or my friends with anything like kindness.

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