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Christmas Contemporary Funny

#_P-C_AllStaff


Wow, what to say on my last day of 30 years at the Press-Caller? It has been a wild ride. How else can you describe a career that peaked at “managing editor” and finishes now with “redundant.” And yet I do have something important to tell you before I go.


It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with all of you these many years. Well, some of you. Actually, none of you since I’m the last of the pre-merger staff to remain. I remember well the last round of staff cuts. And the one before it. And the one before that. And the one that came less than 24 hours after the representative from the hedge fund brought a bullhorn to the newsroom to announce the takeover was complete and that we shouldn’t panic because there would be no layoffs and we should all return to putting out the special edition.


There is a thing to tell you before I follow them out the door.


I have so many fond memories of our last year together.


Remember the time when the Editor-In-Chief was replaced by the Content Concierge? Dear CC, so many of my best moments have you in them. Remember that your first mandate was to cut half the reporters and rehire 10% of them as freelance contributors? Remember when you fired Dave Eisenberg for plagiarism because you discovered evidence that he’d copied and pasted from a book into his file? Remember you could tell because the mark  –30­– was in the copy and you howled with laughter that he’d been so sloppy as to include the page number in his cut and paste? Remember when I told you that –30– was actually newspaper mark to indicate the end of file? It’s used because the notation won’t slip by a proofreader. Or SpellCheck software. Remember I said that Eisenberg was a pro and had never plagiarized anyone in his two decades in the business? Do you remember my telling you that in the meeting? Or maybe you didn’t hear me over the howling. And I admit it was hard to hear anything after Dave pulled the fire alarm whilst being escorted out of the building. Good times.


Remember when you banned all copy-editing marks as “stupid and ridiculous” and insisted everyone use “normal words” when writing anything into the system. Remember when you fired the photo editor for using “caption TK” because it was “old and stupid” and then the following month the front page ran with the phrase “two sentence description of that idiot goes here” under the photo of the mayor. Because of that spell checking thing I told you about, remember? It doesn’t stop at real words just because you didn’t mean to use them print. Anyway, wow, was the mayor steamed. And it sure was shame when she cancelled every Town Hall subscription and stopped giving interviews to P-C reporters and we haven’t had any Town Hall coverage that didn’t appear in a press release since. That was a mess, wasn’t it? Memories!


That was just one of the ways you infused the newsroom with your trademark “lean startup” process. Or perhaps that was someone else’s trademark? No matter. You owned it. The productivity study in which you set an airhorn alarm to blare every 15 minutes and told us to record what we were doing at that moment in time was so creative. Sad it had to be cut short when too many noted: Thinking of ways to kill Content Concierge. Clearly, you were ahead of the curve on that. And your idea to give away Christmas tree ornaments to all subscribers – bravo! Who would ever guess there was a voice-activated live stream camera embedded in each cute little snowflake. The consumer data captured by spying on Christmas morning was tremendous. And who knew so many couples celebrated Christmas Eve with a little nookie under the mistletoe? I guess we should be glad that child songster only saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. We’ve seen a lot more. All of us. Since you harvested that video, made a best-of reel and showed it at random staff meetings.


Of course, I’ll never forget the day I arrived at work and the entire second floor of the building was dark. The memo announcing the “right-sizing” of the accounting, advertising, IT and HR to off-shore providers circulated later. When I peered through the glass door, all I could see was a lone table with an unplugged computer and a thin ray of light from the back stairwell. I told you I was sorry we hadn’t had time for a goodbye cake. We used to have a goodbye cake when a single individual left the Press-Caller. Certainly, the demise of four departments met that standard. You laughed and said: “Let them eat cake.” It strikes me that the one time you were joking, you were actually, terrifyingly, honest. Marie A. would be proud.


There is the thing that I wanted to mention in my exit interview but I’m told by the now-remote HR that I won’t be having one? Is that a new policy? I’m reminded of the time when you told me if I was so eager to continue in management, I could manage the summer interns. Weren’t they a nifty bunch? So smart and sharp to be born to the members of the Board and senior management! And so clever of you to allow one unconnected applicant to slip through so he could see up close and personal what his life would be like should he decide to hit “send” on those applications to the Ivy League. What insights you’ve given him!


Of course, the interns displayed their smarts over and over again. In fact, they did it routinely, right before every deadline you gave them. That “computer error” that they used to experience all the time? The one you never really did understand that seemed to scramble their screens at random? That wasn’t a software flaw; it’s a hack they learned from social media. The account is called How To Succeed As An Intern Without Really Trying. By scrambling the copy or excel sheet or really whatever you’d assigned to them and bursting into tears over the apparent unforced technical issue, the interns could spend more of the summer on their phones without really working. You were so so sympathetic to their computer problems. It really was one of your shining moments.


I did request a meeting with you to discuss the interns and their software shenanigans. And it was such a pleasure to be yelled at in front of your executive assistant’s desk as I made that request. So many of the staff were able to hear you tell me that if I couldn’t handle a bunch of children, perhaps I was past my prime. Such a magnificent leadership statement! It was all anyone could talk about for days. Even me. Which is why I did forget until just how about the thing I wanted to tell you before I go.


So, you sent me back to the interns, back to my chair since you determined I wouldn’t need a desk anymore, to sit by the door and watch the little rascals play their little phone games. And watch the one – the unconnected one – take it all in.


It was just yesterday, after you’d sent your assistant to fire me by handing me an envelope and reading the “redundancy” instructions from an index card. It was then, when the youngster approached me and showed me the most remarkable thing on his phone. I really did mean to share it with you, but security showed up so quickly that I never had the chance. I can’t say I can manage texting while two men have me by the elbows. It’s a brave new world!


So, good-bye all, good luck. And oh, by the way, dear CC, I’ve been meaning to tell you: Eisenberg and one of the old IT guys got into that lonely second floor computer. With the help of the interns, they’ve hacked the internal communications system and beginning today at 6 am, it’s been running in a display loop on a billboard in Times Square. I’m on my way to catch the train there now. Hopefully I won’t miss the really good parts like vendor contracts, customer accounts, and of course, emails. All of them. Including this one.


Best regards,

Jill











August 11, 2023 16:32

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10 comments

David Sanchez
03:45 Aug 19, 2023

Having worked as a copy editor and reporter at my college newspaper and being around journalists in a past life, this was such a great view into that world. I loved the character’s voice throughout. Loved it!

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Ellen Neuborne
15:01 Aug 22, 2023

Thanks. This one resonated with the newspaper community. I appreciate the feedback.

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Michał Przywara
20:40 Aug 15, 2023

Ah yes, the scorched earth approach to leaving a job :) I'm sure most have fantasized about it, only here curiously, it's the employer scorching the earth until the employee has nothing left. Indeed, she even tried to fix things for as long as she was able - a bit of a Cassandra. The snark is amusing, though under the hood it highlights a number of ugly policies and practices. Good business ruined by - I don't even know what. Short term "investors", nepotism, unbridled egos; the list goes on. Funny, and depressing :) Thanks for sharing!

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Ellen Neuborne
02:58 Aug 16, 2023

Thanks for reading! I guess everyone in this story ends up scorched in the end ;)

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Martin Ross
17:46 Aug 15, 2023

Loved and FELT it. I was a reporter/editor for 33 years, and, wow, you captured the “evolution” of the media. I started with managing editors to whom accuracy and objectivity and community service were the standard and retired with an editor who shrugged off story errors and sloppy layout and who’d surrendered to upper mgmt’s push to promote reader views and make print stories first more like broadcast bytes and then almost like Tweets. Always respected the AP and Reuters correspondents who seemed immune from the dumbing-down. When our “pub...

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Ellen Neuborne
02:53 Aug 16, 2023

Thanks, Martin. That story about the 30 tweets is both hilarious and gutting. It illustrates perfectly how completely journalism has been turned upside down. Thanks for reading.

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Mary Bendickson
12:43 Aug 12, 2023

Someone knows the inner workings of a media world. Hilariously exposing op ed.🤕

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Ellen Neuborne
21:12 Aug 12, 2023

Thanks! I worry it may be a bit too "inside baseball." But we'll see how it plays out with readers.

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Unknown User
18:13 Aug 16, 2023

<removed by user>

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Ellen Neuborne
17:09 Aug 18, 2023

Thanks for reading!

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