Chicago Tribune Fires Reporter Covering The Recession

Let’s pause a moment to consider this sentence from Crain’s Chicago Business. “On the same day the Chicago Tribune cut 53 jobs from its newsroom, its parent Tribune Co. asked a Bankruptcy Court to approve of $13.3 million in bonuses and other incentive payments to 703 employees.”

One of the newsroom jobs that was eliminated belonged to 20-year veteran reporter Lou Carlozo. Mr. Carlozo had been assigned to write a series called, “The Recession Diaries,” for the Trib.

I wanted to post a final blog Wednesday to readers explaining that I had lost my job, a victim of the very recession I covered. I posted this without management’s approval. I then informed management. Management took it down.

Lou posted the censored entry on TrueSlant.com. Here it is:

Goodbye from Lou Carlozo

The recession has truly hit home.

This will be my last post as a Chicago Tribune staff writer, and the author of the Recession Diaries.

Today, just an hour ago, I received word that this will be my last week as a Chicago Tribune employee. So as you can see, no one is immune from the recession–not even someone who writes about it daily, diligently and with an eye towards serving those who have had their bank accounts drained, their retirement accounts dashed, their hearts broken, and their hopes placed under a dangling sword of despair.

I, for one, refuse to be bitter or ungrateful. While it will take me some time to process being unemployed after 20-odd years in the field I love, I recognize now how much I need to take the advice I gave to you with every ounce of my passion. That is: Account for those things no recession can take away from you. Your faith in God. Your family. Your friends. Your health. Your many blessings.

I am part of an industry-wide trend that will likely result in the death of print journalism within five years time. That is not what the higher-ups would like me to tell you, nor is it a result of anything wrong that they have done. On the contrary, I admire Sam Zell and all he has done to keep this company going. I have not always agreed with the new ownership’s decisions or rationale, but my opinions come from an uniformed perspective. I write for deadline; I do not know the intricacies of finance and balancing the books. (Perhaps my early dispatches on the recession front have proved this.)

So where will I be? Looking for a job. Playing with my kids. Walking, talking and praying with my wife. And of course, praying for and hopefully hearing from you, my readers, who have made this year of 2009 one of the most rewarding ever. I started in this business in 1989 as a long-haired kid without a clue about journalism, but a heart for the written word, public service and fighting for the little guy. My hair has long since vanished–oh, the vagaries of middle age!–but the idealist and optimist in me refuses to walk gently into that good night. Nor will I allow it to do so.

Also, a tip of the hat to the best boss a man could ask for, Lara Weber. It was her idea to start this blog, and without her inspiration, support, and most of all guidance and good cheer, I could not have achieved anything on the recession reporting front. She’s a woman any journalist would be lucky to call boss, confidant and dear, dear friend. I will miss you, Lara.

Please stay in touch, and wish me luck. feedbacker@aol.com.
In God’s Peace, Lou

Meanwhile, Crain’s says that the Tribune company considers paying the $13 million in bonus vital for the survival of the paper.

The payments are “vitally necessary” to reward employees for a difficult year and motivate them during the current year, according to Tribune’s motion filed with the court Wednesday. The top ten executives in the company are not eligible for the payments.

The Tribune also said that it will be hiring new people to expand its consumer coverage.

The paper will expand its local news operation and establish a new “watchdog unit to increase our consumer and investigative coverage,” Mr. Kern told his staff.

Hey, take it from us, the experts — advertisers just love consumer watchdogs.

Maybe the new watchdog unit can literally watch dogs. For money. When you’re out of town.

What do you think? Will any of this help?

Tribune cuts jobs, parent seeks approval for $13M in bonuses [Crain’s Chicago Business]
I am the news today, oh boy: A recession writer gets laid off [TrueSlant]