More than a dozen years ago, I moved to Phoenix to work at a start-up weekly entertainment section called Get Out. Despite the name, no, it wasn’t a gay magazine — it was created by the East Valley Tribune as an alternative/competitor to the Phoenix New Times.
It began in a tiny office on Mill Avenue — I think it now houses an architecture firm — with an editor, two page designers, an editorial assistant and four or five writers. In its heyday, our section had about a dozen staffers.
The entire paper has 14 editorial positions today, after the latest round of layoffs. I remain hopeful that they can do magic with what they have, much like we were able to do in the early days of the G.O. — before we were focus-grouped to death, when we could still run quirky last-minute items like the Clip N Save Novel, which featured one hastily written chapter per week, without wondering if DeeAnn Daniel of Gilbert would read it. (“What is in today’s Tribune for DeeAnn Daniel of Gilbert?” the signs read around our building. Soccer moms were going to save us back then.)
Over the past two years the Tribune’s editorial staff plummeted from 145 to 14. It was nowhere near that bad when I left, but while I didn’t see the scope of the decimation ahead, I knew I couldn’t foresee a happy future. “I love what I do,” I told my interviewer (who is now my manager’s manager). “But I can no longer love doing it there.” I was lucky — I jumped, I wasn’t pushed. And more importantly for me, I knew where I was jumping to.
I didn’t know exactly what I was in for. Moving from one specific media (and dabbling in blogging) to a content marketing company that creates everything from magazines to iPhone apps involved a bit of a learning curve: “Provide raving service, what?” Eighteen months later, I’m still learning.
And that, more than anything else, is my message to my fellow former Tribbers. You will find something else, you will learn something else, you will excel at something else. Maybe it’s another newspaper, like my friends Bob Satnan, now at the Sedalia Democrat, or Chris Coppola, now at the Arizona Republic. Maybe it’s a specialized publication, like the Arizona Capitol Times, where my friend Bill Bertolino now works. Maybe it’s P.R., or design work. (Julia Zolondz just created labels for an ice cream store!)
But maybe it’s the opportunity to try something completely different. I have the utmost respect for those who might use this as an opportunity to try something new. My friend Jess Harter, for example, will debut his Phoenix dining blog, PhxAte, which goes live on Wednesday — just two days after his layoff. (And he said he was going to take a month off and do nothing. Pshaw!) I urge all Phoenix readers to read his blog regularly — and click the links to prove it! — like crazy.
I was scared as hell 18 months ago after more than a decade at the same paper; I can’t imagine what it’s like to be falling without a safety net. But to those laid off today, please know that great things lie in store for you. I won’t lie and say they’ll fall into your lap, but they’ll be there for the taking with enough effort (and, dare I say, luck).
I know, because I found one of them. I’ve got my fingers crossed for you.