Thursday, January 08, 2009

Well, we're off to a nice start

It's been a long year already, and we're only eight days into it. If 2009 was a Jewish boy, we'd be snipping off the end of its john thomas today.

Actually, it goes back a bit farther. First, the paper's webmistress got downsized in November, during the busiest time of the year, which left me the only person in the place who could take over. (With a heckuva learning curve to catch up on, let me tell you.) Then on the day before New Year's Eve, the whole company gathered around the copy machine to hear that we were getting a pay cut, a flat percentage across the board, until at least April. At that, we're better off than most other properties in the corporation, where there have been a lot of job cuts as well. We ended up having a few people laid off here, too, but mostly it's positions going unfilled. Unfortunately, that means existing personnel have to cover those jobs indefinitely. The upshot was that since about Christmas I've been doing three people's jobs, as well as my side job on weekends. And getting less money for it, as well. January being a thin time in this business in general, I'm finally getting a little time today. So what do I do? I share it with you folks. Don't you feel honored?

For the record, I can't complain. I'm fortunate to have a job at all. I expect to weather this recession like I did the one in the early 90's: by being the chap who can and will step in and do anything in the place. Guys like that are always the last to be laid off.

The whole newspaper industry is in a shambles right now; comparatively, we're thriving. The conservative pundits tend to link the decline to lousy journalism, and maybe that's a factor at big papers like the NYT or the Trib. But at small papers like ours, the issue is a little more straightforward. (Cullen knows how this goes.)

See, the news isn't what pays our salaries; it's the advertising. News is just a loss-leader, to get people to read our product. (Don't tell the reporters that; they like to revel in their status as "professionals.") And who are the big-ticket advertisers? Realtors and car dealerships. Those are the businesses who buy full-page, full-color ads, or commission special advertising supplements. Unfortunately, realtors and car dealers are entirely dependent on the credit industry to be able to sell their goods. So when the banks and lenders went in the sewer last fall, their businesses followed suit. And from there, the well-known material rolled downhill to us poor newspapermen. Go on: pick up your local fishwrap and take a look at the automotive and real estate ads. Thin as sweat compared to a year or two ago. It's a temporary situation, but it's still taking its toll at the bottom of the food chain.

So working seven days a week, well into the night more often than not, has put a crimp in everything else. It's past Epiphany, and I still have Christmas presents I haven't sent out yet. Embarrassing.

Today is Octopus Boy's first birthday. (He shares it with some singer, I believe. Can't recall who.) Poor kid is spending it wrapped up like a mummy. Why, you ask innocently? Because Saturday evening the little disaster factory reached up and grabbed Drama Queen's boiling cup of cocoa and dumped it down his front. My Lovely and Brilliant Wife took him to the emergency room with second-degree burns down his chest and arm. By the time I got to the hospital (I was in Othello coming home from the side job), they had pumped some morphine into him and the screaming had subsided into a glassy-eyed look of general apathy. He's healing up pretty well, although his arm still looks pretty unhappy. Drama Queen has been knocking herself out being the perfect big sister meanwhile, even though rationally she knows she's not to blame for it.

You know, by the time you have this many kids, they might as well paint your name on a parking spot outside the emergency room. Been there, done that. I don't think there's a one of the kids that hasn't made at least one trip.

Finally, I put a list of the kids in the sidebar, so readers know whom I'm talking about. Most of the names are different from the ones my wife uses, but what the heck? It's my blog. A note on the second daughter's name: Last Christmas she got creative with the To/From tags on the presents she gave out, and mine said, "To the man with many virtuous daughters, from the one that excellest them all." (If it still doesn't ring a bell, look here.) So it's not to imply any lack of those qualities in my other girls, but just because I think it's one of the coolest things I've ever heard from a teenager. I know I've used the kids' real names on here in the past on occasion, and if some stalker wanted to piece them together, they probably could. In which case I refer them to this. I'm not worried, really.

And that's the way it is. Courage. What's the frequency, Kenneth? Good night, and good luck.

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