I learned a couple of things yesterday -- one that I didn't know and one that I already felt deeply in my bones. What I didn't know is apparently it's a myth that journalists don't keep booze in their desk drawers anymore...thank God! (That was just a joke, Mr. Senior Management Man, if you're reading this.) What I already knew so well -- but was reaffirmed as we started to say our cake-saturated goodbyes to 16 of my Daily News colleagues who are losing their jobs this week -- is that this place is one amazing and only occasionally dysfunctional family. We don't know whether to laugh or cry about this mess...so we've doing a lot of both.
You know, in these screwed-up times, you say "workplace" and the word that often comes next is "violence." The thing about the Daily News is that, while we do have our personality feuds and even the rare newsroom spat, when people get mad it's usually because they care so damn much about what we do here. And there's not even much of that, frankly. There's a lot more love here. When my colleagues Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker won their Pulitzer for exposing our corrupt police department in 2010, the rafters in our old newsroom practically melted with joy. And when someone has a problem, we rally -- check out the video challenge that Helen Ubinas organized for my editor Gar Joseph, inspired by his brave fight against brain cancer.
It is, simply put, the kind of place that people don't want to leave. Unless they're pushed out the door. We've lost a lot of people here at the Daily News over the last dozen years or so, from well over 100 people to the tiny defend-the-Alamo group we have left. Some took buyouts, some retired earlier than they'd once planned, some left journalism altogether. Now, it's tragic that these 16 people -- and also some amazing journalists who work elsewhere in this building -- are leaving under these circumstances.
I've heard a lot of people ask -- with an ever-shrinking business model -- what else was to be done. Fair question. I'll just say this: An organization does have to keep one eye on the bottom line, for sure, but it needs to keep the other eye on its people. And the people need to come first, or the dollars -- if they even come -- aren't worth the paper they're printed on. When folks say that American society is coming apart at the seams, this is what they're talking about.
We need to see the human beings.
There are the people walking out the door of the Daily News this week and not coming back:
A couple of these names are probably familiar bylines if you read the news online -- and a lot of them are the people who don't get any credit but do the things -- writing crazy headlines, laying out pages and just getting stuff out the door on time (or close enough to it) -- that have made the Daily News pretty much the best damn paper anywhere. I -- and I think every single person here would agree -- have so often been amazed by their talents and their dedication to this job...and we are all a bit lost right now figuring out how it's all going to get done without them. Indeed, the last few weeks since the layoffs were announced, when no one would have blamed them for calling in sick and watching Netflix all day, these folks have instead been working their butts off, hustling to crime scenes or still exposing school corruption as if this hadn't ever happened. Truly incredible.
The only people who won't miss them are all the hoodlums and the corrupt pols and cops or school officials in Philly who will be a little bit freer to do their dirty work next week. And the only silver lining is that eventually some other lucky newsroom or some other organization will reap their talents, that from the seeds that were planted here at the Daily News many flowers will eventually bloom.
The other silver lining is that losing a job doesn't mean losing your wonderful friends. In that, I'm tempted to paraphrase what Bruce Springsteen said about Clarence Clemons and the E Street Band a few years back -- that you don't leave the Daily News when you're laid off, that you only really get to leave the Daily News when the Daily News dies. And long live the Daily News.