Today’s blog is a guest post by fourth year Ryerson journalism student Daniel Rosen.
When the layoffs happened, it didn’t really hit me until someone pointed out an orange.
I poked my head over the partitions and saw a half-peeled orange sitting on a desk. One of the editors must have been peeling it before he left for the meeting, and never got to come back for it. It was frozen there as if the desk was Pompeii.
Those who were laid off weren’t allowed back to their desks. Their things were packed up by someone who took one look at that uneaten orange and just tossed it in the trash.
It all happened quickly. Around 1:30 p.m., everyone went to a meeting without me. I had a pretty good idea about what was going on considering the hushed tones and the fact that the entire staff of Canada.com had disappeared at once, but I still had to rely on social media speculation to figure out if the site I was interning for still existed. It’s unbelievably weird to read about the death of your publication on Twitter before anyone tells you what’s actually happening.
During the last week of my internship at Canada.com, Postmedia laid off several editors and offered voluntary buyout programs at some of its newspapers. Everyone left from Canada.com was moved to the National Post—except for me. I remained as the stalwart intern/editor-by-default, sitting alone in the corner of the fifth floor reserved for us.
One day, I actually got to sit with everyone else on the National Post floor a few levels down. Someone wasn’t in the office that day, and I was offered that desk. Working around humans again was fantastic until I noticed pictures of children staring up at me from behind the monitor. After two hours I had to flip the photos over so I wouldn’t make eye contact with them whenever I looked away from the computer.
As the only writer at Canada.com for a week, most of my duties were to make it look like the site was still moving while the powers-that-be nailed down what they were doing with it. It turns out that going from intern to the only employee in the span of a day is mostly an aesthetic change in that an empty floor looks very different.
It’s not that no one saw it coming. Many of the editors had already told me they were in a holding pattern—they were already told that the site was going to be shuffled. I wanted to intern at Canada.com because it had an interesting variety of articles and coverage, but that meant it didn’t really have a niche, and I guess it became redundant.
After many moved to the Post, editors tried to find something for me to do, but everyone was still working to get the hang of whatever the hell they were supposed to be doing now that their jobs had been upended. I have nothing but great things to say about the whole experience to that point. My time until then had been so productive. I wrote news stories, a feature or two and even got to do a little editing. I felt like I was building momentum until someone cut me off and ran me off the road, and there was really no one to blame.
It wasn’t all bad though. I developed a gut reaction to both children staring at me and half-peeled oranges, which is the kind of conditioning that usually takes years to internalize. Plus, I got a good, cynical peek into the heart of the Canadian media industry and took a long, hard look at what a digital-first publication needs to survive these days. I’m not sure what that is, but if you have any ideas beyond “a strong niche,” you could probably make a killing. And it wouldn’t be too tough to staff a new site. There are a lot of great writers looking for a publication right about now.