Trusting strangers

My paper, the Tucson Citizen, was supposed to be closed by Saturday. With multiple newspapers for sale and no buyers jumping into the fray (the Rocky Mountain News folded a few weeks ago and the Seattle P-I shed about 130 staffers Monday to go to a 20-person online only newspaper Tuesday) no one expected a buyer to step forward for a small afternoon daily.

But, SURPRISE! we were told yesterday that at least two buyers have come forward and the bidding is “very serious.” Should be good news, no?

Maybe. But not if the new buyer comes in, rapes the newsroom and leaves everyone out of work sans the severance our paper’s corporate parent offered. Or certainly not for the folks who’ve been lucky enough to score jobs that start in the next week, because the severance is only good if you stay until the sale closes, and they took those jobs thinking the paper would close Saturday.

So, stress is high in the newsroom. Staffers had fought the inevitable and then, in the last week, accepted they’d probably have to give up journalism and dig for jobs in the worst job market since the ’80s. That acceptance brought a certain measure of peace. Yes, it was going to suck and yes, few were getting job offers, but at least we’d have severance and wouldn’t be on the street right away. But now, with the news of a possible sale, uncertainty is rife and fear is rampant. And people are acting just a little crazy.

When you don’t know what the future holds, there are two options: you can trust (in God, the Great Spirit, positive energy or benevolent buyers) or you can flip out. There’s been a whole lot of the latter and not enough of the former in the past 24 hours. I can’t blame people because the whole living-in-a-car thing is all too real on Tucson streets right now. (It would make a great story, but investigations are rare at both of Tucson’s dailies because metro desks have been thinned to barely-there by corporate demands for profits. Not that I’m cynical or anything.)

The thing is, twisting in the wind or railing against the forces of corporate media gets you no where. I found myself almost quoting scripture in the newsroom today, Jesus’ statement about worrying not adding a day to your life. There comes a time when you have to accept that all you can do is keep going and recognize that if you stay positive, you’ll be led in the right direction. It won’t be easy, necessarily, and you may have to ask for help. But at least you won’t die of a heart attack because you’re panicked 24-7.

I’m a professional worrier, so I know what I’m talking about here. You have to distract yourself from worry about the future because it won’t change the future, and it just might kill you. (I’m distracting myself by worrying about the present: my 19 y/old is on a mission trip to Chiapas that doesn’t end for four days.)

We don’t even know if we’ll be alive tomorrow. So listen to some good music (thanks Stauffer for lending me your headphones to drown out the newsroom angst!), have a glass of wine, run on the treadmill, gaze at the ridiculous beauty of Tucson’s mountains, hug your kids, lift someone else’s load. Yes, losing a job will be horrible. Being tossed around by guys with deep pockets as though you’re a rag doll sucks. But your child didn’t die in a fraternity last week and your son isn’t facing the death penalty for killing his kids. If you’re not dealing with those tragedies, I say be grateful and put on your trust hat. And remember the motto of a journalist I know: It will be alright. I promise.

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