No matter whether you were expecting it, a punch in the gut hurts nonetheless.
I learned this lesson again last week, when it was announced that Freedom Communications will shut down the East Valley Tribune, the Mesa, Ariz., newspaper I worked at for a dozen years before I came to Sedalia. That blow was not a direct shot for me, but since I still have many good friends at that paper, it still hurt. Many of my former colleagues felt it, as well.
We all knew the Trib was on shaky footing, even before the day in October 2008 when about 140 of us were told our jobs would be eliminated in three months. If you look at the roster of newspapers that have either cut down to Web-only content or closed altogether, they have one thing in common: All were in competitive markets, where readers chose one paper over the other. The Tribune competes with the Arizona Republic, a statewide publication with greater circulation and deeper pockets. While the Tribune put up a feisty fight, including winning a Pulitzer Prize for local news reporting this year, we all hoped for the best but knew the hill was too steep to climb, given the economy and print media trends.
Thankfully, here in Sedalia, we donít have those worries. While all businesses are feeling at least a bit of a pinch in the current economy, The Democrat is on solid ground and prepared to fill our readersí and customersí needs for decades to come.
Upon learning the news, the Trib community shared our thoughts and well-wishes with our soon-to-be-out-of-work friends through Facebook. Those of us who have moved on to new positions shared our sadness for our friends, and relief that we are not in their position. Those who still work at the Trib expressed their fears for the future, many acknowledging they knew the day would come eventually but were hopeful that the paper could hold on a little while longer.
Many of us know people in the same position. Employers are fighting the good fight, but in tight times they sometimes have to make the hard decision to eliminate paid positions or, more drastically, close altogether.
On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that productivity increased at a rate of 9.5 percent in the July-September quarter, exceeding the 6.4 percent gain that economists expected, according to The Associated Press. While that is good news for companies, AP noted that wages remain flat and, since employers are getting more done with fewer workers, unemployed Americans shouldnít expect the job market to open up any time soon. Which is bad news for my friends back in Arizona and scores of people in the Sedalia area.
One of my former co-workers, Sam Mittelsteadt, wrote on his blog, Sammit (sammitt.wordpress.com/) about the closing of the Trib and then ruminated about other businesses that he frequented, some infrequently, before they closed. His point: With apologies to hair metal band Cinderella, ďYou donít know what youíve got Ďtil itís gone.Ē
The reader comments on the Tribuneís online story about its closing include many that bemoan the paperís passing. The unanswered question: How many of those people would be willing to pay for the news and information product the Tribune delivers every day? Or frequent the paperís advertisers and tell the merchants that they saw the ad in the paper?
Here in Sedalia, Quiznos recently shut its doors. Iím a big fan of Quiznos ó the Black Angus steak sandwich is great, especially if you replace the onions with mushrooms. But as I sit here writing this, at lunchtime no less, I can only blame myself for not being able to go down and order that sandwich. I should have provided more support for a business I care about.
The closing of a neighborhood video rental store reminded Sam ďto patronize the places I like more often, in an effort to direct my spending money toward places I want to stay open. ... Itís not about spending more money, itís about redirecting it to where it can make the most difference. Itís a little more effort, but itís bound to be worth it.Ē
You never know ó your patronage, your positive comments to friends and family might help keep that businessí doors open and its workers employed. You, and your dollars, have that kind of power.