My students chuckle or roll their eyes when I use the quaint expressions of old fashioned journalism. I try to hippen it up…”Your kicker’s got to rock!” (Meaning: The last line of your story must be powerful, must end with a bang, not a whimper.)

This reminds me of how often I must translate words, concepts, skills from a practical, newsroom setting into the classroom. That reminds me of the differences between the the news business and the college-teaching business. That reminds me that, in my opinion, neither should be a business. And THAT reminds me of the retirement parties I attended earlier this summer, where faculty members ended their 30-year careers at this undefunded, underperforming, underrated, oddly run, land grant state university. The parties were long on the best of Oregon — wild salmon, Pinot Noir, local herbed goat cheese, organic greens picked that day from nearby farms; cool, breezy evenings beneath Evergreens of all persuasions. The parties were also long (winded) on speeches. What’s striking was how civilized these endings were. Folks who’d done G-d’s work for 30 or more years, teaching those 8 a.m. surveys of 200 or more students — many of whom were up all night working at the mill or the local pub just to pay for school, many of whom are the first in their family to got to college, some in their fifth or sixth year because they have to drop out to work for their families, some who come straight from picking in the fields at dawn to hear your take on whatever; writing endless letters to Financial Aid begging for money on behalf of students. After  30-odd years of that, they got toasted. And toasted. And congratulated and celebrated. The pay is for crap. The lifestyle, they tell you, more than makes up for it. But we all raised our Pinot to their good work and big hearts and new lives. That’s their kicker.

And THAT brings me back TO THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. As I’ve mentioned, many of the most revered journalists around recently volunteered to leave after 20, 30-odd years of service. And what was their goodbye? On Friday at 2 pm they were told to pack up and exit the building by 5pm.

Now that’s a kicker.


Voluntary reductions. They are not breasts. They are Democracy.

Tribune embarks on latest staff cuts

By: Ann Saphir Aug. 08, 2008

(Crain’s) — The Chicago Tribune’s managing editor for news, its Washington bureau chief and its public editor are leaving Friday as the paper begins a new round of newsroom cuts.

Hanke Gratteau, who was promoted to managing editor in May; Michael Tackett, who has covered every presidential election since 1988, and Timothy McNulty, who has been public editor since 2006, head a list of staffers who are leaving voluntarily.

“We still must make some additional involuntary reductions,” Editor Gerould Kern told staffers in a memo Friday afternoon. “We now are in the process of evaluating the scope of these reductions. Nothing about this is easy, but it is necessary.”

In an interview published Friday on a Tribune blog, Randy Michaels, Tribune’s chief operating officer, is unsentimental about the changes.

“We are not running a museum. We are running a business in a time of increased competition and economic hardship,” he says. “We should grieve for those who have been downsized. We should NOT be mourning the loss of anything else.”

Read the whole article, if you can stomach it:

     Okay. These “voluntary reductions” are some of the greatest, most heroic journalists in the country.  Not only should we be grieving their loss, but should indeed be mourning the loss, Mr. Randy Michaels, of the kind of reporters who do the kind of reporting that stops innocent people from being executed. Those voluntary reductions did that.

     They were also my colleagues, and many remain my friends, and the loss of their combined brain power and institutional memory and source base and understanding and mastery of the complex societal systems they explored is a grave loss to Democracy. We’re ALL being involuntarily reduced.