Also, Jon Ralston, the most prominent and significant brand associated with Greenspun Media Group, finally wrote some thoughts on the carnage four days -- and an email from me baffling over why he hadn't said anything -- later. Knowing that Ralston would be instantly all over Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick if Sherm had fired three dozen people and then wrote a column pretending that this "consolidation" would produce a better product and waxing on about "hope," what Jon did write was intriguing and worth sharing.
This was at the bottom of the Friday edition of his daily e-mail newsletter, the Ralston Flash:
I have been tardy in not commenting on the layoffs at Greenspun Media this week. I am almost glad I let a blizzard of events in my own extreme-entropy-filled life get in the way because I have been able to soak in the various takes, most of them uninformed, from the outside.
Amid all the handwringing are two realities: The company’s financial constriction and the brutally sad loss of 40 jobs.
I have no clue of the parent company’s balance sheet but I am sure it is no different than most of the major companies in Southern Nevada – that is, hurting. So I am sure the Greenspuns felt they had to do something to stanch the bleeding, no matter how painful, just as gaming goliaths and development behemoths have. But it just feels different to people in the business when this happens to others in the business, especially those of us still with jobs. We feel guilt mixed with sympathy and overall, a sense of loss, both tangible and intangible.
There were some great, talented people let go this week and I hope they find jobs, even though employment in journalism is more and more dicey. These are dark days for those of us who prize the profession, as we have seen newspapers and TV stations cut and gut their staffs, and I wonder if the quality can be maintained.
I have seen and heard criticism of how this was handled at Greenpsun Central. [sic] So be it. But is there a good way to handle such a cataclysm? I don’t think anything could have softened the blow for those laid off this week. As for the observation that this is the dismantling of an organization that just won a Pulitzer, that the Sun grabbed the prize and then disbanded the team, let’s wait awhile. A new business and journalism model is in its nascent stages, so let’s see how it plays out. I’m hopeful that this is not, as some ominously foretell, the beginning of the end, but rather a new beginning.
One more valedictory: I wanted to say a word of thanks and well wishes to Mike Kelley, the Sun managing editor who presided over that Pulitzer and is now leaving the organization to spend more time with his grandchildren. Kelley arguably created something even greater and more monstrous than a Pulitzer, something called “Face to Face with Jon Ralston.” It was his vision that gave me the chance to do what has become the most enjoyable part of my journalistic career. For that, I shall be eternally grateful. He is a real newsman and I wish him all the best.
I'll ignore all the "those dastardly outsiders don't know the real story" crap because it's what some people say about many of Jon's commentaries, too, so I know he doesn't mean it. And I'll say that it's too bad Jon didn't pay homage to his own dismissed editor, Pat Teague, since Pat probably would've prevented Jon from misspelling the name of his own employer.
Nah, I'll move right on to the part where Jon asks: "But is there a good way to handle such a cataclysm?"
In fact, there is! I read a very interesting piece about this very topic recently! The headline was "Workplace transparency helps ease pain of employee layoffs." The piece opens with these four words: "Talk to us. Please." The idea is that layoffs are a little less stinging when both those who leave and those who remain have a clue what the circumstance of the company is. Also -- and this isn't in that story but kinda is a teaspoon of common sense -- it does nobody favors to have their former boss try to cast their unemployment as a cause for anyone to feel affirmed or upbeat. And I can't tell you the number of emails I've received from the fired thanking me to keeping that list. Being acknowledged for your service, it seems, also makes the pain a little more palatable.
Oh, that story I just referenced? Ahh, right. It was in IN Business Las Vegas. It was probably edited by Jeff Simpson, now the former editor of the GMG publication which also carries a weekly column by Jon Ralston.
It ran on Nov. 27. Four days before the Sun's Black Tuesday.