Editorial: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

By: Ed Zintel

There was good news and bad news. They arrived almost simultaneously.

The good news for me was that I had been named new managing editor of E&P.

The bad news was that a former college classmate had been laid off at The Oregonian, one of about 45 newsroom employees given pink slips at the newspaper on June 20. He had worked there for some 26 years.

That’s how the news business goes these days. You take the good with the bad and hope the bad doesn’t dominate the good. It’s kind of a metaphor for news in general, really, so perhaps no one in the newspaper business should be surprised when the bad happens to them.

Still, it’s tough to witness bad things happening to good people. It’s one thing to be dismissed from a job for poor performance, quite another to be let go only because of the bottom line.

Journalists are taught to be tough. To be objective often means you have to be unaffected and thick-skinned. But applying that as a professional tenet isn’t the same as applying that to your personal life.

Of course the world of journalism isn’t the only one to have been adversely influenced by a downswing in the economy. It’s the reality of doing business in an ever-competitive and ever-changing industry.

And so, what can we do when we’re knocked down? We can either stay down, or bounce back up. Journalists have learned that to “reinvent yourself” isn’t just a cliché to avoid using when writing a Sunday feature about the Fortune 500 executive who lost her job, only to rebound to accomplish great things as an entrepreneur. Indeed, many news professionals are reinventing themselves in ways they probably thought weren’t possible.

One such person is Karen Kirkpatrick Vitt. A writer who worked at The Oregonian for nearly 20 years, Karen moved on to become a web content writer/editor. She currently works for Portland-based Zappallas Inc./Daily Insight Group, which publishes entertainment websites for horoscopes, astrology, numerology, tarot and gaming. Here’s what Karen wrote on her Facebook page on June 21:

“Today I’m thinking about all my longtime friends at The Oregonian who face an uncertain future … I’m wishing you well, my friends. There’s a big world out here to explore and exciting adventures ahead for you all. I grew up (literally) in the newsroom, where I started working in the sports department at age 16 … I was raised (again, literally) by a team of funny, caring sports writer ‘dads’ and so many dynamic folks who helped shape the woman I grew into — from my world view to my sense of humor to my own career as a writer. I thank you all for the 20 incredible years I spent at the 1320 (S.W. Broadway, Portland) building with you. It saddens me to know it will not be there anymore [it’s been reported that The Oregonian will sell the building and move at some point], but I’m thankful we’re moving into the future with new ways to connect and work together and stay in touch. Cheers and love to you all.”

You see, sometimes the difference between bad news and good news is just a little perspective.

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One thought on “Editorial: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

  • August 16, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Your article illustrates the writing trends that might be contributed to the demise of established publications: Writers writing about themselves. Any blogger can do that, and many do it well. Only professional journalists (in the past) were the ones who could engage their readers by providing them with needed and interesting facts.


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