Genevieve Carlozo, my 4-year-old daughter, boasts a grin like a Cheshire cat on speed and a sophisticated knowledge of dinosaurs-just ask her what a diplodocus looks like. And she's always laughing; she's the kind of girl who fits her nickname "Pookey Bear" to a 'T.' And she's fun to tickle because she sounds like the preschool, giggly equivalent of a soap bubble machine stuck in top gear.
That is why taking her to the Chicago Tribune on Thursday-which by coincidence happened to be "Take Our Daughters to Work Day"-seemed so surreal. I was there not to socialize, but say goodbyes: I'd been laid off after 16 years of faithful service, the news delivered in flat affect by an editor whom I'd stepped up to bat many times for-most recently when I volunteered in August to do whatever he needed in the face of layoffs to keep the newsroom humming. When he transferred me to a new section writing about women's news, I scratched my head, but reported with a smile and a crisp salute because I believed in him. I rewarded him with performance documented by the best employee evaluation I'd ever received.
But in this case he utterly failed to step up for me, nor pull me aside to offer a single word of solace or condolence in person, though we've worked together for more than 10 years. (Note: None of his lunch buddies were laid off.)
And so there I stood, trying to pack up boxes, clean out my Tribune computer hard drive and do 1000 things while my daughter-my irrepressibly optimistic and funny daughter-wriggled on the ground and had her fist temper tantrum in a year. She sobbed and screamed, and yet no one in the newsroom dared asked me to shut the kid up. They knew all too well it would seem cruel, given my overwhelming list of to-dos.
I would never have subjected Genevieve to something that I'm sure she picked up on by way of kiddie sixth sense, but I had no choice. The Tribune gave me but 72 hours to gather up 16 years of belongings-an eternity compared to what some laid off folks in the past got-and I had no backup plan for child care. I didn't want to bring Genevieve with me: I had to.
But perhaps, in one of those lemons-into-lemonade ways, having her there will not have to result in a therapy visit later in life. If you want to REALLY take your daughter to work, and you're a journalist in the print realm, then what better day to do it on than one when you can witness history? She saw one more step in the death of print media-a diplodocus of another sort-played out before her eyes.
This week, I have seen 53 people say so long in polite, but too often passive-aggressive emails to the staff. If the Tribune allows me to issue a farewell email memo on Monday, I can promise you I won't leave without a parting shot. It is inexcusable that the company I loved and served so well hopes to dish out $13.3 million in bonuses to execs who, if they really think they deserve them over me deserving my job, are far more spoiled than Genevieve.
Here's an idea: Rescind just 10 percent of that amount, $1.33 million, and keep me and 20 of my diaspora colleagues on the payroll for another year.
Besides, our newsroom long ago ceased to be the feisty, innovative type of place that welcomed dissenting points of view. A high-ranking editor heralded the layoffs with the phrase "Today we begin a reorganization of the Chicago Tribune newsroom that will focus more clearly on our core mission," and not a single person replies, "What? This is how you announce massive layoffs? This ... is ... bullshit."
I wanted to take Genevieve in to meet the Author of the Email himself, so he could see the human consequences of his indiscriminate hatchet wielding disguised as pretty sound bites of disinformation. I heard the voice of my late mother in my head, the woman Genevieve is named after: "Let it go."
I can't promise much, and today I begin searching for work, after I head over to the Waffle House for a drown-your-sorrows pecan waffle. But I can tell you that on True/Slant-and any other e-media that will have me-I will be a thorn. A dissenter. A person who challenges the status quo. The late, great I.F. Stone said that the journalist's job is "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
Thank God True/Slant supports my First Amendment right to disagree with anyone and everyone when needed, and give me a soap box to do it.
That's the kind of work I want to take my daughter to see, and it's just a mouse click away.