Monday, April 28, 2014

I Lost My Job, and Other Irritations

I won't go in detail about the day, or the time. I was simply doing what I usually do on a Thursday morning. I did a round of social media (tweets and Facebook posts), and turned my attention to producing the electronic newsletter for the YourHub sections of The Denver Post. It was going to be an easy job. I already had every story link, headline, URL link for photos and wording for blurbs saved on a Notepad++ page, ready to paste into a template.

The job was easy. I was nearly done moving links to template when Kevin Dale, one of the powers in The Denver Post newsroom, called to me and asked if I could stop by his office for a chat. That was no problem, and I wasn't anticipating dire news. My job status had been jerked around quite a bit lately, and I expected that this might contain one more jerk on the chain.

Well, it did, but Kevin could have slammed my face into the wall and had less impact: Sorry to tell you, Chris, but we have to eliminate your job. When does this take effect? Immediately, he said. There was general chit-chat, and I shook Kevin's hand, and I walked back to my desk. I continued to take care of publishing the newsletter, and I sent out a couple of notes to notify fellow employees that I was out of the newspaper game, effective immediately. I triggered the newsletter, which went out to approximately 45,000 subscribers, at exactly 9:30 a.m. The newsletter was mistake-free, I believe, but I must confess that my final copy editing was a bit of a blur.

So what does one take away from one's desk when one is dismissed immediately? I have been a staff manager long enough to know the value of the directive, "document, document, document." I took the piles of notepad paper that had every electronic newsletter priority list I had done in the past 20 months. I took lists of EVERY social media posting I did for YourHub and/or Denver Post Online, and the exact time I posted. I took stacks of notes I prepared before each general staff meeting I led in those 20 months, listing major topics I discussed. I also took a folder on the one major personnel matter I had at YourHub, complete with all emails, lists of meeting dates, etc. If anyone wants to know what I did, why I did it and when I did it, I have facts and figures at my fingertips.

I also grabbed my coffee cup, and all the loose photos I kept on my desk in what I referred to as "my family shrine." They are photos of my wife Deb, my children, my grandchildren, and assorted nieces and nephews. I also grabbed the words to a song called "All That Remains" I had taped to the wall of my cubicle. It had been taped to the wall of whatever cubicle I called home at The Post for more than eight years. The song is by The Lost Dogs, and I suggest you do a Google search to find out why I put these lyrics there, and why the title above the lyrics reads: A Song for Deb.

I needed to drop off my work badge with Kevin Dale in the "leaving The Post" routine. He was in the 9:30 a.m. meeting of all the newsroom mucky-mucks. I simply walked into the big conference room, placed my work badge on the table, gave Kevin a soft punch in the shoulder, and said, "Thanks, dude."

I walked out with my backpack and my athletic bag slung over my shoulder. I didn't say a word. I walked to the elevators, punched the down button and left.

And that's how a journalism career that spanned several decades ended.

The ending was like journalism itself. No big emotional flurries like you see in movies. Just one man doing what he had to do, doing it as well as he could, and then walking away, feeling good that he could depart with his head held high and his integrity intact. A fellow coworker gave me a nice work evaluation when he learned I was RIF'd: Sorry to lose you, Chris. You've been a real pro. (Damn, those are good words to read.)

I will end this in the way old-school reporters ended their copy, because I am old-school all the way, and damned proud of it. Goodbye, journalism. It's been a helluva ride.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Fighter Still Remains

It's been awhile since I posted an entry. There have been several difficult weeks. I won't go into detail, but I will try to explain.

The movie Cinderella Man keeps showing up. The first time was when I got home from a work shift that went until the middle of the night, and I was able watch the final 15 minutes or so. I love the gritty, sentimental story of a man who took life's hard punches and kept coming back. It doesn't matter to me whether he won or not. The point is that he kept battling.

I was channel surfing this morning, and what was on? You guessed it. This time I watched the movie almost from the beginning, and there were so many scenes that weren't just good theater but life lessons that felt like a personal conversation. Sometimes life is tough. It hits you hard, and sometimes it kicks you directly in the crotch. But the point isn't that you've been kicked in the crotch, but what you do after that. James J. Braddock got back into the ring. He kept fighting. He never became one of the great boxing champions of all time, but he continued on with his character and integrity intact.

That is the definition of a champion.

Why this sudden reappearance of Cinderella Man in my life? Happenstance? A message that needs to be regarded? I don't know. I only know that the point is what I do after watching the movie twice.

I have dreams. I have goals, but there is a lot of clutter in parts of my life right now. It is time to clear out the clutter and move on. You see, those ideas of character and integrity are shining pillars to me. They are my anchors, along with family and faith. My God, family is such a blessing, a treasure. There also are all types of faith, and I reach to pull in as many of them as I can. It is a rich pursuit.

There is a companion piece to Cinderella Man. As I watched the movie, the lyrics to The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel kept coming to mind. I especially love the final verse:

 In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains.

Yes, it's a lot like that.