I got laid off last Tuesday.
One of the well-dressed shiny-toothed businessmen (they actually call this one “Chiclets” because of his teeth) who governs our company announced they had decided it would make more business sense to close our local news and daily print operations, and go for a weekly political magazine.
I’m not sure it actually makes more business sense. Our paper was a pet project to begin with, and I think it still is. I think the owner just decided he could influence the country more with a national political magazine. I get that. It’s his paper. He can do what he wants with it.
But it’s sad for journalism, and it’s sad for democracy. It’s sad that the city that still reelects a man who was caught doing crack while mayor will only have one daily print publication — and that will be behind a paywall.
But putting aside my wailings and mournings for my paper, I thought it might be interesting if I shared what exactly getting laid off is like. So here goes.
On Monday, every employee in our office got an email: “Staff meeting… Your attendance is required.”
Typically our staff meetings go something like this: “Write more blog posts” or “We’re all making videos now.” I thought it would be one of those, but my fellow reporters smelled something fishy, mostly because they realized some people’s emails said the meeting was in the newsroom, and others’ said the meeting was in the conference room. Two groups.
I still figured it was going to be something unimportant, until I went to the gym that night. (The gym is a recent thing… wedding pictures and all that, you know.) There I got a text from a friend who used to work at my paper: “Are you alright?” Well yes, of course I’m all right. I’m huffing and puffing on this stupid treadmill and I HATE RUNNING, but of course I’m alright. Why? “I’m hearing all these rumors that they’re axing local. Everyone is freaking out.”
I remained unconvinced until I got further information: a fellow reporter on maternity leave was also coming in tomorrow. Then I guessed.
But I still didn’t know, and I tried to remain calm, praying that I would trust God and thinking that if I got fired that day I could go work at Hank’s Oyster Bar.
The next day the tension in the office was palpable. No one could work. Everyone sat around talking about what was going to happen.
Finally the shiny-toothed executive came. He told us the paper was closing, but that we had work until mid-June, when we would publish our last issue. Several people cried. Everyone was grim, somber.
Two human resources employees told us to line up and give our last names as they handed us manila envelopes — our severance packages.
The political reporters, who had been kept for the new magazine, came back from their other meeting, I think feeling guilty they were still employed.
87 people lost their jobs that day. All my editors, most of my fellow reporters, and many more people who put together the print version of the paper in our Virginia offices.
My heart breaks for them.
But you know what? I’m not really angry, and I’m not really worried. After four years in college wrestling with God’s providence, facing mystery after mystery and coming away with only tears and a pile of questions for my religion professor, I’ve finally reconciled with his sovereignty. I see how he’s answered prayer in this — Homère was asking God that I would be able to leave my job before our wedding, for reasons I won’t share here. Also the timing is impeccable — exactly two weeks before our wedding will be my last day of work, if I don’t find something else before then. And I know that somehow, through the decisions of men, and the seeming whims of the world, God is working out an achingly beautiful, unforeseeable master plan. That’s something to remember on this quiet day between Good Friday and Easter.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28