A year ago today, my co-workers and I were told to gather in our old offices on the 14th floor. We had been moved to the 19th floor to be with the rest of the newsroom, but no one else had moved into that space, so the floor was still littered with copies of old newspapers and office supplies deemed not important enough to come with us to our new digs. In the darkened office, we sat on the abandoned desks and learned that in an hour, we would be called to a boardroom where we would be officially laid off.
That was a weird day. Everyone had known that mass layoffs were coming, and it was likely that CiN Weekly would be a target. Between our content partnership with national events website Metromix and the Enquirer's new focus on moms and baby boomers, having a dedicated local staff to cover events of interest to young professionals just wasn't cost-effective for the Enquirer. In our weekly staff meeting, we had exchanged contact info, "just in case." I parked my car in the building garage instead of in my normal lot that day, "just in case." We had been told to start making copies of any important files, "just in case."
All "just in case" aside, I really had only the faintest thought of losing my job that day. Just two months before, I had won an award for outstanding service in the line of duty - the Enquirer copy desk's version of the Medal of Honor. I figured there would be a place for me.
(Mr. W told me later that companies don't work that way; that when there's a reduction in force, they have to eliminate positions, not people.)
Losing your job, especially losing your job in 2009, is a scary, scary thing. But there's a kind of exhilaration that comes with the news: Hey, four-day weekend!
So we cleaned out our desks (I still kick myself for not saving all my email; some of my first conversations with Mr. W were in there), and we made plans to meet at Arthur's once we'd dropped off our pencil cups and novelty mouse pads at home. And, since we were all young, hip, and social-media-savvy (which is why we'd all been hired in the first place), we started updating our Twitter and Facebook friends on what was happening, using the hashtag #BlackWednesday (shoutout to Jeff!). "Stop by and buy us a drink!" I tweeted.
And you know what? People came to Arthur's! Old co-workers came! Twitter friends came! Fox 19 even came and interviewed a few of us. (Now I'm kicking myself for not writing down what someone on the crew said when I told him the other big layoff news - Peter Bronson was gone. I recall it being pithy.)
And those who couldn't come sent drinks - via PayPal and over the phone. At one point, our old boss called the bar from Reno to see how we were getting along. I think we mostly shouted about how amazing everyone was being. Eventually, Arthur's manager even sent out a free round.
All night, those of us with smartphones read Facebook updates and #BlackWednesday tweets to the group, adoring the firestorm over our departure. I had 50 new Twitter followers when I got home that night. By the time layoffs concluded the following day, Gannett employees all over the country were using #BlackWednesday and #BlackThursday.
So that was pretty cool.
Now it's a year later, and I have a shiny new job at a company that's doing well, even in a still-struggling economy. My ex-co-workers and I met at Arthur's again, and they're all doing well too. But we had a fantastic time reliving a day that should have been terrible, but - thanks to social media - turned into something wonderful.