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How it happened

Posted By Ester Venouziou, Saturday, October 8, 2011
I've often wondered how it happens, how someone gets laid off. Not what caused it -- we are, after all, in tough economic times -- but what the actual procedure is.

I'd been at the St. Petersburg Times closing in on nine years. Many of those were happy, prosperous times. Recently, though, we were faced with all the troubles faced by most corporations these days: tight budgets, tough decisions. But the Times prided itself in being one of the few large papers that hadn't had layoffs. Being owned by a non-profit and not having to deal with shareholders kept us immune from all the problems around us. We could survive on smaller profit margins. We could ride it out, keep our staff intact.

• • •

That changed in the past few years. We were no longer safe. There were pay cuts (in 2008?); then pay freezes and then another round of pay cuts (earlier this year). And there were Early Termination Plans (aka buyouts). And the dreaded layoffs.

The latest rounds were announced a week ago. The executive editor posted a grim note, explaining that in these tough economic times we had to make the tough economic decisions. By mid month, he wrote, our staff would be leaner, but we would forge ahead and continue to be, like it states in the mast, Florida's Best Newspaper.

They would carry on the layoffs in a dignified manner. They, too, were saddened by the circumstances and sad to see longtime friends lose their jobs.

Every day, a goodbye note was up on the board. Some days there were two or even three. Saying goodbye wasn't easy, but it was what we had to do in these tough economic times.

• • •

Today I walked in the lobby at work and was greeted by Patty Cox, one of the Times' (three, I think) managing editors.

-- Can you come with me and talk?

-- OK. ... Wait, am I getting laid off?

-- Yes ....

-- I don't really want to talk.

-- But ... ?

-- Just send me whatever paperwork I need.

And just like that, it was over.

Some people have asked me why I didn't go up to HR, why I didn't go hear what they had to say. I was shocked, and it seemed pointless. I was angry, and didn't want to say the wrong thing. But most of all, I just didn't want them to see me cry.

Are you starting over after a layoff? We want to hear your story! Please email us at, and include your story and contact info. We will try to include as many stories as possible in future blogs.

Ester Venouziou, founder of and co-founder of Gulfport! Magazine, is available for freelance projects: writing, editing, design or social media. She can be reached at or 727.637.5586.

Tags:  economy  journalism  layoff  st. petersburg times 

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