At this point, every one of us in this business knows someone–likely, a few people–who’ve lost their jobs since this time last year. They are smart, they are dedicated, they are the people we liked working alongside, gossiping with, bitching about the business with, and now–they are gone. From tape room operators in the smallest markets to anchors at the top of the game, there’s an all-star team sidelined by an economic situation that’s threatening to change local news forever.
Some get to say goodbye, but most, like WHDH’s Randy Price, get to write quick farewell emails to co-workersin the newsroom computer, but have to rely on the local newspaper to relay their gratitude to viewers. As local news stations, we cover the closing of every factory and mill, and never miss a chance to use the down-arrow gfx when job loss numbers are released, but folks who still get news, weather and (for now) sports from local stations rarely get any explanation of the latest layoff at the station itself.
Longtime WJLA/DC reporter Andrea McCarren wrote in the Washington Post recently, “It’s hard to say whether getting pink-slipped in the public eye is better or worse. When you work in local television news, strangers treat you like family. We on-camera reporters are their friends, their confidants. After all, we’re in their living rooms and kitchens, in some cases every day.”
“In a sense, these people are my “family,” too. Over the years, they’ve shared my life’s high points — getting married, having kids, even being promoted — and they’ve been there for the low ones, sending condolence cards after my father’s sudden death and, now, the loss of my job.”
McCarren never got to say goodbye to her tv “family” on tv, but those viewers who felt they knew her have been letting her know they care–in the form of more than 400 emails and letters, some, she told me, “were heartbreaking; others were filled with optimism. Hundreds came from other experienced, hard-working people like me who loved their jobs and were also laid off. Many came from people who had been through the ordeal of being abruptly terminated and bounced back, landing in a place where they were happier than ever!”
So while I’ve been accused of being a web-based harbinger of doom for relaying the layoffs day in and day out, I wanted to share Andrea McCarren’s words as well; that while the loss is painful and huge, the support, the friendship and love is too. “This whole experience has renewed my faith in humanity: the kindness of strangers, and the compassion of Americans to lend a hand in troubled times. It’s also revealed just how many talented and dedicated people are out of work right now. We’re all in this together,” McCarren told me.
McCarren says she’s still figuring out what her next step will be. The economy’s down, but her spirits are certainly up, and she says she’ll immerse herself in volunteer work as a way to pay it forward, and to “keep everything in perspective.”