Career Crossroads: Surviving and Thriving After a Newsroom Layoff
The newspaper industry has taken a beating in recent years.
Shrinking ad revenue has led to tighter newsrooms. Consolidation, downsizing, buyouts, and cutbacks have become familiar within the industry.
In the past two years, major daily newspapers reduced staff. These include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New York Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Tribune Publishing.
Last summer, Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, bought The Record, the second largest newspaper in New Jersey.
Veteran editor Christina Joseph Robinson knew her job could be on the chopping block.
Much to Robinson’s relief, that wasn’t the case. She survived Gannett’s initial restructuring, which resulted in the elimination of about 130 news jobs in November.
But Gannett wasn’t done.
Stories Worth Remembering
At the start of 2017, Gannett announced a new round of cutbacks.
Robinson wasn’t so lucky this time.
“I thought I made the cut,” she says. “It was a little surprising when we came into the new year, and they said, ‘Oh, we have to do it again.'”
Robinson spent nearly 15 years with The Record.
During her tenure, she worked her way up from assignment editor of municipal/government and diversity coverage to entertainment editor. Most recently, she landed back on the assignment desk working as an editor on the enterprise and topics team.
Her most memorable stories include the “Bridgegate” scandal, where she was among several editors supervising reporters assigned to the story, and the Haiti earthquake in 2010. It was Robinson’s first time with an international story, and she successfully managed the reporting team sent to the region, working through technical and logistical issues.
“In the end, it was a truly rewarding assignment because the stories we produced were remarkable about the perseverance or the families and kindness of these volunteers who also put their lives in harm’s way,” she says.
Now, Robinson was preparing to leave everything behind.
Awareness of Community and Culture
Robinson’s absence would leave a hole in the newsroom.
“I was a little shocked and disappointed as the only Black editor in the newsroom that I was slated to be laid off,” she says. “Aside from maybe some weekly reporters, there aren’t any more.”
Robinson considered herself among the few voices in the newsroom who could educate others about the sensitivities of the diverse NY metro area.
“You want to make sure there are people in the newsroom who are wanting and willing to tell those stories,” she says.
An example of this is when the immigration crisis began to heat up.
The Record increased its coverage.
Robinson, who’d been entrenched for years in this type of coverage, provided guidance to fellow news colleagues about acceptable vs. unacceptable terms.
“Not everybody is sensitive or informed of those particular issues and so that’s why it’s so important to have diverse workplaces, whether it’s newspapers or corporations,” Robinson says.
A Brand New Reality
Robinson, a married mother of two young children, found herself at a crossroads.
Would she stay in news or take a stab at something new?
“My only regret is that I saw it coming,” Robinson says. “At the time, I said, ‘Let me start getting my resume together, let me start reaching out to people’ because you always want to leave on your own terms. Now I’m in a defensive position instead of an offensive position, but what it did was kick me!”
To bring in additional income, Robinson began freelancing a couple of years ago. It helped expand her network, and she also built up a solid portfolio of fresh content.
This week, Robinson starts a new job with NY-based content marketing firm, Group SJR.
She credits her journalism background, which gave her the ability to successfully adapt to new storytelling mediums.
Robinson used the last several months to evaluate her skills and get out of her comfort zone. She’s optimistic and excited about her new role.
Have an interesting story to share about your media or blogging career? The Beyond Bylines’ Career Crossroads series features stories and job advice for journalists and bloggers from journalists and bloggers. Tell us your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brett Simon is PR Newswire’s former director of audience relations and was a television reporter in her former life. Follow her @savsimon.