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Layoffs are cutting newspapers’ brain, heart

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

September 22, 2013

More than a year ago, after an early morning appointment, I stopped for breakfast with just my Tribune for company. The friendly waiter took good care of me. As I was leaving he asked, "If you’re done with it, can I have your Opinion Section?" Maybe he knew I’d be so thrilled by this question that I’d tip $4 on a $10 tab, but I suspect not. He said he rode TRAX a long distance and he’d like something good to read on the way home. I was proud of him and so grateful. Which, I guess, means surprised. Yes, newspapers are dying or shrinking or changing everywhere you look, including where you’re looking right now. The fact that circulation is up (counting online readers) is small consolation because newspaper profitability is down. Blame the 24-hour news cycle; blame the industry’s naivete about modern monetizing; blame craigslist, whose name, lacking proper capitalization, punctuation, and spacing, should have raised our concerns they would cause a journalistic apocalypse; or blame the greed and obstructionism of the 1 percent. But that’s another column. Maybe. I’ll subscribe to The Salt Lake Tribune and the Sunday New York Times until the day I die or the day they die because I love them, and because reading a good newspaper is part of what I know informed people to do. I still believe our most engaged citizens read newspapers and that the act of subscribing to a newspaper honors not only a crucial and noble profession but an absolutely key element of our country’s founding and the way it continues to function best. The loss of good people and fine journalists from one of the nation’s quality dailies cuts deep, but it has happened so many times that now it’s about as shocking as finding an adorable kitty picture on the Internet, and nearly as ubiquitous. The cleaving last week of so many fine journalists from my beloved Salt Lake Tribune has me queasy with sadness. For a newspaper to sacrifice the very people who give it excellence and life is an abomination. We’re years past removing any unnecessary elements now, well into removing brain and heart. Several people on the Trib’s list of the newly lost have researched and reported stories that brought about positive change in our state. Or shone a light on things we would never have learned of otherwise. They’ve crafted sentences so perfectly that their beauty and truth feel like gifts. Further, some of them are people I know in real life and count as mentors and friends. Others, I’ve never met. I have so much gratitude in my heart for all of them and what they’ve given to all of us readers. I want to show respect and love to the people who have been forced to move on, and I would like to say something positive and hopeful about what lies next for them. I also know the Trib will go forward with great new leaders, people who have already contributed to the excellence of the paper for decades. And I want to say to fellow readers that our Trib needs us all the more now, and that we need to rally in support rather than burning bridges. I’ve been on both sides of getting laid off and they both hurt. Getting let go is a brutal life event; getting left behind is a huge morale hit, and your workload only increases. I also remember from having cancer that sometimes you appreciate someone who forgoes the platitudes and just says the truth out loud. In that spirit: This really, really sucks. --------- Barb Guy is a frequent contributor to these pages.

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