Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bloodbath

I didn't need a reminder that the economy was fucked -- I've got friends who have been laid off over the past month, other friends with a degree from a World Class University that can't find decent work, if they can find anything at all. But I got a reminder this week anyway.

The past three weeks have been hell on me. Covering the Madison Halloween Celebration, the election and subsequent pandemonium, the sixteen-hour city budget sessions and the more streamlined county process, it's all been really exciting, and my brain hurts from having learned so much.

But adjusting my sleep schedule by eight hours on a bi-weekly basis has left me with a permanent case of jet lag, the approximate jet lag of travelling from Paris to Chicago, and I haven't even left the Dane County area. So when I got the call to get into work three hours earlier than I'd been assigned yesterday for a staffing meeting, I was a little too punchy to fully comprehend what was happening around me.

It's sinking in now.

Midwest Family Broadcasting announced a big staffing shake-down yesterday, a good chunk of it on our radio station. Of course, "it's the economy, stupid," and these kinds of layoffs have been particularly prevalent across all the media in the past year, but that does nothing to prevent the shell-shock and survivor's guilt that follow a bloodbath like this.

I'm going to take the departure of two of our news staff, Tim Morrissey and Erik Greenfield, pretty hard. I know the standard broadcasting procedure for dealing with layoffs on air is to omit any mention of the departed personalities and pretend like they never existed for at least a year, at which point it becomes acceptable to occasionally mention them nostalgically. But this is my space, and it's grounded in the reality of my life and what these guys meant to me.

When I joined MWF, Erik was the first person in the building I connected with. We're both relatively young for broadcasters, and we both got our starts at small-town radio stations in Wisconsin. We're also both capable of carrying on a conversation composed entirely of quotations from "The Simpsons," which generally left the other newsies utterly lost when they tried to join in our conversations.

I even look up to Erik quite a bit. He's got an amazing steel trap of a mind, and can spout off trivia like names and statistics as if he's reading them off Google, which is what most of us do.

And then there's Morrissey, who's been in broadcasting since the days when it entailed standing at the top of a tall hill and yelling. He's logged decades with MWF alone, and has worked in cities all over the country.

As the penultimate grizzled veteran news anchor, it would have been easy for Tim to kick back, enjoy his bountiful vacation time, log his hours in what we all assumed was a secure gig and let the rest of the station tear itself to pieces around him. But Tim was a mentor to everyone in that news room, to me in particular. He told me very early on he was "going to take a serious interest" in bettering me as a broadcaster, and he wasn't kidding.

Guidance, suggestions, verbal (and deserved) slaps upside the head, wry realism... Morrissey is good for all of that, and I know few people who are as adept at delivering a kernel of truth picked from a heap of bullshit as Tim Morrissey. If this is indeed the career I'll be spending my life at, he had a hand in shaping it, and if not, it was a pleasure to work with him anyway.

Both Erik and Tim are friends that I respect the hell out of, and I have no idea what I'm doing still in the news room while they've been cut loose. It boggles the mind. Another broadcasting veteran told me this morning, "You're the future of this operation."

Okay. Now what the fuck does that mean? They could have canned me and I would have been moved into a storage unit with a backpack on my shoulder and a ticket to Europe in my hand inside a week. Morrissey's got retirement to think of. E's got a house payment.

These are tough damn times.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanx, Dusty - you're one of the best and brightest young people I've ever worked with. You're going places, my man....

/tjm

Amelie Lillith said...

The reality of the economy is hitting us all upside the head, whether we are watching people get laid off, or the ones that are. I watch as my friends nervously search for work as their coworkers are slowly liquidated, and I wonder if I should look too. But I, like you, Dusty, would just move out and move in with friends, my parents, or something like that. My 401k totaled about 500 dollars before the economy slid even further downward...so it doesn't worry me as much as some.

It's when they start letting the good ones go that I have to wonder: why are we mourning the loss of the America we love...when it has been gone for a long time.

toni morrissey said...

Your nice words about Tim mean more than you can know. And you certainly have him pegged: He's wise, insightful, entertaining and grumpy. i love him dearly. Best to you, Dusty!

Toni Morrissey