You got laid off – now what?

2 Jun

I can tell there was another round of layoffs at one of my old newsrooms: I’ve had a flurry of LinkedIn invites from former colleagues.

There’s been the usual grumbling about the heartless bastards at corporate, at how these cuts will only further diminish our Noble Religious Calling, etc. – but the reality is these cuts are only going to continue in traditional media.

The financial numbers are awful: Print ad revenue at publicly reporting companies keeps going down, down, down.  Revenue is off by half since the 2006 peak, and has dropped for 20 straight quarters.

And it’s not the economy, stupid (sorry, Carville). Digital ad revenues at most shops continue to grow and the overall interactive ad economy grew by an astounding 23 percent in Q1 vs. the same period in 2010. Does anyone need more proof that the long-predicted seismic shift in ad-spending patterns has happened? Does anyone really think the financial picture will automagically improve? Buehler?

So: what should my newly unemployed friends do?

My erstwhile colleague Mark Potts offered sage advice in this neatly packaged 2009 blog post: 10 Tips for Suddenly Unemployed Journalists.  Some of my former colleagues must have already read it: The LinkedIn tip is No. 5.

I would add only a couple additional thoughts:

1) Start on all of Mark’s tips now – before the Reaper comes.

2) Keep backup files of everything – beat notes, your story ideas and especially your Rolodex. I know too many people whose employers locked their access to their email accounts the moment the layoffs took effect, and who suddenly lost years of carefully organized contact information. (My bosses were kind enough to extract it from Outlook for me. As a printout. Um, thanks.)

3) Get digital. Now. To paraphrase a delicious job-interview story,* there are two kinds of journalists these days: digital ones, and unemployed ones. Start a Tumblr blog, follow Andy Carvin to see  how Twitter can be used as a reporting tool, join ONA – just get in the damn pool.

The future of new is being invented right now, and plenty of traditional journalists are part of it.

But most of them aren’t at their traditional organizations anymore.

 

*OK, so that’s far from the most-elegant line I’ve ever written. But it gives me an excuse to tell a great story.

Years ago, just before the Great Collapse, a hot-shot job candidate was interviewing with the interactive corporate staff at the place I worked. She was an articulate, high energy MBA from a seriously good business school, and she totally nailed every interview. The team wanted to hire her quite desperately.

So in one of the final meetings in the process, our uber-boss makes an effort to impress her. He looks across the table, and intones in his most sophisticated and leaderly air: “You know, we’re in the process of turning this place into a digital media company.”

The candidate, who by that time had clearly and correctly decided that we were doomed, snapped back: “That’s good – because in about five years, there are going to be only two kinds of media companies: Digital ones, and dead ones.”

One Response to “You got laid off – now what?”

  1. Allyn July 6, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    Could not have been said better. i I have now “shared” … digitally of course.

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