Plain Dealer, Cleveland Browns and civility

I’m writing this at 9:15 a.m. By the time I’m done, if you’re a reporter at The Plain Dealer, you’ll know whether you still have a job or not. If you don’t get a phone call from editor Susan Goldberg (or perhaps someone in Human Resources) by 9:30 then you’re sitting pretty. But 27 are going to hear the phone ring — and with that their careers at The Plain Dealer end today.

Kind of sad on a whole host of levels — particularly for the people involved who are about to become unemployed during the worst recession since the Great Depression. (Yeah, the numbers guys in Washington finally confirmed that yesterday. And guess what. We’ve been in a recession for a year. Remember a few months ago when W. denied that. Ah, the good old days. I digress.)

When I was at Goodrich I had to on several occasions tell people their jobs were being eliminated — and it wasn’t their fault. There is no good way to deliver that message. And I think it is the toughest thing a manager has to do. Period. But I did it face to face. We all did. This idea of a phone call at The Plain Dealer leaves me a little cold.

Here’s from a post yesterday in The Cleveland Leader by Roldo Bartimole who received a copy of the message Goldberg sent to the editorial staff.


As you all know, we previously announced the need to reduce our staff size.

Unfortunately, there was insufficient participation in the voluntary buyout program. Therefore, we must reduce our workforce by 27 bargaining unit positions. Here is how that procedure will work:

If you are in the bargaining unit, no matter what your shift or schedule, please be reachable by phone tomorrow (Tuesday, Dec. 2) between 7:00 am to 9:30 am. I will be calling the people who have been selected for layoff during that time. If you do not receive a phone call by 9:30 am, please report to work at your regularly scheduled start time.

There is no good way to tell anyone he or she has been laid off. We have chosen to do it this way because I believe it respects and protects the laid off person’s privacy when receiving such traumatic news. In a world of bad options, this seems the best alternative.

If you receive a phone call, we will set up a time for you to come in to meet with Human Resources, fill out paperwork and pick up your personal belongings. All people who are being laid off will no longer come to work beginning Dec. 2, but will be paid for the following two weeks, in addition to their full severance.

Like I said — no good way to do this. But I think it could have been handled a little more personally. And maybe with a little more civility.

Which gets me to the Cleveland Browns.

For those of you who read this blog you know that to the extent I watch pro football (which isn’t often) I’m a Steelers’ fan. And for the past 35 years the Steelers have had a championship-level team, year in and year out. So nothing much to complain about. And at some level it’s a shame that Cleveland hasn’t experienced a championship season. It really does unite the community — and it overshadows a lot of problems, if only for a few months following the holidays.

So I guess I understand the frustration of the thousands who head to the stadium to watch the Browns play in good weather and now mostly bad. Yet I can’t understand how anyone can cheer when Derek Anderson gets injured at the end of Sunday’s game — and it may turn out to be a career-ending injury.

C’mon folks, get a grip. It’s a game. And it’s being played between two corporate entities with market valuations much greater than most businesses in the community. There’s a lot of ways to describe what happened as the fans cheered. Pathetic comes to mind almost immediately. Terry Pluto did a great job of it this morning in The Plain Dealer. (I bet Terry doesn’t get a phone call.) But I’ll just write it off to a lack of civility — something that I hope Obama can restore Inside the Beltway and maybe all of us could work a little harder at in the real world.

And for those heading to any more Browns games this season, try to remember that it is just football. If you want blood sport, better to go shopping at Wal-Mart.

Oops. Got to go. Phone’s ringing.


3 responses to “Plain Dealer, Cleveland Browns and civility

  1. Pingback: Plain Dealer jobs and severance pay « PR on the run

    • Tim, Wow. I can’t believe I missed the 80s! And the 90s, apparently. Time flies. But wait until the Browns beat the Titans Sunday. And for the Steelers. Yeah. I agree. TV time in January.

  2. I do agree with your assessment of the boorish behavior of those who cheered after Anderson was injured. But one statment of yours stood out:

    “And for the past 35 years, the Steelers have had a championship-level team, year in and year out.”

    Rob, you should do stand up! As an avid Browns supporter, it is my anointed duty to point out that between 1981 and 2004, the Browns and Steelers won a grand total of zero Super Bowls. And I don’t think any team that started Kordell Stewart at QB would be considered championship level.

    I predict the Giants and Titans in 2009. The Browns and Steelers will be watching the big game on TV.

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