Scary times at The Salt Lake Tribune. On Tuesday, I was summoned to the office from my Herriman lair for another reminder regarding the instability of life.
Paul Huntsman, owner of The Tribune (and currently of myself), gave us the news. Short version: Revenue and print subscriptions are falling off faster than expected. The industry is changing. Drastic measures will be needed in the next couple of weeks.
We’re newspaper people. We’re accustomed to gloom and doom. We had already heard this stuff from previous bosses, but this was the new and improved version.
Yeah, it was grim. But it was also comforting to have an owner with the personal fortitude to give us the news directly to our faces. It was so different from the hell we’d lived in for years while owned by a bunch of feces-eating hedge fund hyenas.
When finished, Paul took questions. That was refreshing. Everyone had the expected concerns. Were our jobs at risk? Were there other ways we could cut back? What could we all do to make the paper more appealing to readers?
I wrote a small note to Paul, offering to round up some outside friends and throw Pat, Dan, Steve, Bob, Mike and George from the roof — an annual savings of at least, I don’t know, 500 bucks?
It could be more. I’m no accountant. A potential assassin, possibly. An emotional vandal, definitely. But accountant? No.
Paul graciously thanked me for the extreme offer and said he was looking into some gentler (read: legal) alternatives. But if my plan became necessary, he wouldn’t hesitate to get back to me.
Having done what I could, I drove home.
Am I worried? A little. Newspapers — where I’ve invested the past 28 years of my life — face dark times even with our ever-growing digital imprint. But I try not to stress over things that are out of my control. Stuff like taxes and aging and death.
When I got home, my wife asked, “Are you fired?” It’s always the first thing she wants to know after counting my arms and legs and looking for signs of blood.
I told her the truth. I said I didn’t know yet. Maybe. Paul’s a businessman. Good business practices — so I’ve heard — usually require getting rid of liabilities. I’ve been one of those my entire life.
I’ve been fired/laid off four times in my six-plus decades on Earth. That’s just professionally. It’s more like 18 if you count church jobs/callings. And let’s not even get into demotions.
The point is that life changes. Within the next 28 years — by which time I hope to be safely dead — a lot of industries will change radically; it doesn’t mean that life is over because your part became obsolete. It just means that you have to change or get left behind.
Is it scary? Yeah. But it’s supposed to be unnerving. Fear motivates us to get off our butts and try something else. It’s how we learn about who and what we are.
I’m generally happy with my life right now. I probably wouldn’t be if I hadn’t been served up some real dilemmas in the past, changes that were forced on me by fate, employers or the police.
Use my colleagues and me as an example. Give our uncertain situation a think about your own. While you do, remember that your countdown toward obsolescence started the day you were born. That alone should motivate you to get moving.
What happens to The Tribune in the meantime? That’s easy. We’ll continue to inform those who want to hear what we have to report and — this is the fun part — get on the nerves of those who don’t.