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Friday, June 22, 2007

Mercury News Tragedy

The Mercury News reports today on the suspected suicide of a beloved editor, Rich Ramirez who was found dead Wednesday morning. A longtime colleague of his told me that "he was a wonderful human being, endlessly helpful who gave his entire life to journalism." People are devastated at the Merc where grief counselors were on hand and an impromptu memorial took place.

I wouldn't know what drove a great person like him to take his life, but it couldn't have helped that the Merc is in the throes of yet another round of layoffs about to be announced. On Wednesday, there was a full staff meeting in which new management announced that the number of layoffs would be forty. Nobody is to come to work on July 2nd. Those who are to be axed will receive a call at home. The goal is to get down to 200 employees on a staff that numbered 350 a few years ago. Mr. Ramirez had been told privately that his position as assistant to the Executive Editor would be eliminated but that he could transfer back to the newsroom.

For the rest of the news staff, there is some relief that the layoff number is forty, when many had expected sixty, but the layoffs hang over everyone's head like a "game" of Russian Roulette. It's not a good time to be looking for work in the shrinking newspaper industry.

Condolences to the Ramirez family in their time of devastating loss. Best wishes to the entire Mercury News staff with the hope that they are given the encouragement and space to grieve and share the myriad feelings they must be going through - rocked by grief, shock, and personal angst.

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