Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chicago Tribune Fires Reporter Covering The Recession

By Meg MarcoLet's pause a moment to consider this sentence from Crain's Chicago Business.

"On the same day the Chicago Tribune cut 53 jobs from its newsroom, its parent Tribune Co. asked a Bankruptcy Court to approve of $13.3 million in bonuses and other incentive payments to 703 employees."

One of the newsroom jobs that was eliminated belonged to 20-year veteran reporter Lou Carlozo. Mr. Carlozo had been assigned to write a series called, "The Recession Diaries," for the Trib.

Mr. Carlozo wrote:

"I wanted to post a final blog Wednesday to readers explaining that I had lost my job, a victim of the very recession I covered. I posted this without management's approval. I then informed management. Management took it down."

Goodbye from Lou Carlozo

The recession has truly hit home.

This will be my last post as a Chicago Tribune staff writer, and the author of the Recession Diaries.

Today, just an hour ago, I received word that this will be my last week as a Chicago Tribune employee. So as you can see, no one is immune from the recession–not even someone who writes about it daily, diligently and with an eye towards serving those who have had their bank accounts drained, their retirement accounts dashed, their hearts broken, and their hopes placed under a dangling sword of despair.

I, for one, refuse to be bitter or ungrateful. While it will take me some time to process being unemployed after 20-odd years in the field I love, I recognize now how much I need to take the advice I gave to you with every ounce of my passion. That is: Account for those things no recession can take away from you. Your faith in God. Your family. Your friends. Your health. Your many blessings.

I am part of an industry-wide trend that will likely result in the death of print journalism within five years time. That is not what the higher-ups would like me to tell you, nor is it a result of anything wrong that they have done. On the contrary, I admire Sam Zell and all he has done to keep this company going. I have not always agreed with the new ownership's decisions or rationale, but my opinions come from an uniformed perspective. I write for deadline; I do not know the intricacies of finance and balancing the books. (Perhaps my early dispatches on the recession front have proved this.)

So where will I be? Looking for a job. Playing with my kids. Walking, talking and praying with my wife. And of course, praying for and hopefully hearing from you, my readers, who have made this year of 2009 one of the most rewarding ever.

I started in this business in 1989 as a long-haired kid without a clue about journalism, but a heart for the written word, public service and fighting for the little guy. My hair has long since vanished–oh, the vagaries of middle age!–but the idealist and optimist in me refuses to walk gently into that good night. Nor will I allow it to do so.

Also, a tip of the hat to the best boss a man could ask for, Lara Weber. It was her idea to start this blog, and without her inspiration, support, and most of all guidance and good cheer, I could not have achieved anything on the recession reporting front. She's a woman any journalist would be lucky to call boss, confidant and dear, dear friend. I will miss you, Lara.

Please stay in touch, and wish me luck.
In God's Peace, Lou

Meanwhile, Crain's says that the Tribune company considers paying the $13 million in bonus vital for the survival of the paper.

I am the news today, oh boy: A recession writer gets laid off

From Lou Carlozo

On Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune laid off 50-some editorial staff writers, including myself. This places me, a journalist of 20 years experience, in the uncomfortable position of being the news (in some small part) instead of covering it.

Yet beneath a statistic that can tell the story about as well as a toddler pooping his pants, other realities exist that must and will get explored. Like: The Chicago Tribune Company petitioning a bankruptcy court at the same time to award $13 million in bonuses to people very much unlike me and my displaced colleagues, folks who make their living and buy yacht club berths off the sweat of our collective labors.

There was the extremely disingenuous memo sent out by senior editorial staff, which talked about positioning the newsroom for the future. The lede, as they say, was buried–read paragraphs down and you’ll see that the Tribune is trying to deal with the worst economy since the Great Depression.


No news there.

The real news is that the Tribune now soldiers on without an art critic (as the Art Institute is weeks away from opening the biggest addition in its modern history).

It loses gifted people like Lilah Lohr, the best word editor in the entire features operation, and Pat Reardon, an unsurpassed veteran who combines institutional memory with the productivity of a hungry, 25-year-old rookie. Robert K. Elder may not be a senior veteran, but he was by byline count the most productive writer in all of features, a newsroom force.

Yet for me, the cruelest cut of all comes in losing my job while covering, at management’s request, the recession by telling my personal story of family finances. “The Recession Diaries” blog was a beat I did not want nor ask for, and it involved me telling very tough stories about my own family finances–stories that led me and my wife to squabble many times over which details to withhold, which to print, and which ones looked inappropriate in print after the fact.

I wanted to post a final blog Wednesday to readers explaining that I had lost my job, a victim of the very recession I covered. I posted this without management’s approval. I then informed management. Management took it down.

That’s not my loss, it is the reader’s loss. As many emails attest, I was becoming a friend, a confidant, a trusted voice to thousands of hurting people. And in one swipe yesterday, the Chicago Tribune took that away from them without any explanation. It explains in no small part why the Tribune is losing readers like a trauma victim loses blood and internal organs.

It’s also why I now feel at least partially vindicated to devote more attention to True/Slant, an enterprise that represents the exciting and bold future of what news and commentary can be. Sad as I am, I waste no time getting back to work, the work of my life that I love, and to serve a group of readers that help me participate in a bold experiment.

Let’s hope and pray that it works beyond our wildest dreams.

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