A few weeks ago, I wrote about Patrick Stevens, a college sports reporter who was laid off by the Washington Times. I thought it was important to attach a name and voice to the endless stories of newspaper layoffs.
Unfortunately, there was a round of layoffs recently at the Newark Star-Ledger. Jeff Bradley learned he no longer was the paper’s baseball/Yankees writer.
Bradley wrote about the experience on his blog. This is his story.
He talks of getting the phone call in the morning.
Fast forward 27 years to last Wednesday morning around 9 a.m. My home phone rings and the caller ID says “Newark.” On the other end of the line is my boss, Kevin Whitmer, the editor of the Star-Ledger. I don’t want to misquote Kevin here, but he said something like, “This is not the type of phone call I enjoy making…you need to come to Human Resources tonight at 5:45 and there’s a story on NJ.com that will shed some light…”
“I’m losing my job?” I asked.
“Legally, I’m not allowed to tell you anything more,” Kevin said. “Read NJ.com.”
And then, I addressed my boss in a way I’d never address a boss. “See ya later, brother,” I said.
I read the NJ.com story about 34 layoffs at the Star-Ledger, including 18 in the newsroom.
I texted my wife, a schoolteacher and typed, “I just got laid off.”
Bradley wrote about having to take over the Yankees beat in August:
The Ledger’s financial issues were very public at that point, so I knew what was going to happen, and it did. I was told “another writer is not walking through the door” and so I was no longer a columnist, I was the Yankee beat writer.
I was not happy. I have two teenage sons who like having a dad to make them breakfast in the morning. I have a wife who works full-time.
When I was the columnist, I’d often walk through the door after 2 a.m. after covering a game in the Bronx or Flushing. But at least I’d be home. A baseball beat writer spends about 150-170 nights per year in a hotel room between the months of February and October.
Had the Ledger been looking for a Yankee beat writer when I was on my way out at ESPN The Magazine, I would not have even filled out an application. I wouldn’t have done that to my family.
But now, I knew I had no choice but to accept the job-switch because the alternative was to be unemployed. So I went on the beat and, really, the rest is a blur.
As I walked into the streets of Newark, packet in hand, I did not feel any anger or sadness. I’m not sure what I felt, probably because I’d never felt unemployment before.
I realize I’m not alone. So many friends from my past have reached out and told me how they handled unemployment. By taking on projects around the house. By committing to a crazy workout routine. By cooking dinner for the family every night.
I’ve also heard from some talented (and I don’t just throw that word around) writers who are also looking for work. It’s so humbling. These are hard times in the only business I’ve ever known.
It’s too early to say what I’m going to do. It’s only been a week.
Today, if someone were to say, “How about Thursday?” I don’t know what I’d do.
Tough, tough business.