Thursday, March 26, 2009


Ten minutes before the long-awaited Big Money Announcement, everyone's laughing, crowding in and joking about the future. I'm reading the New Yorker: A gold exhibit won't happen because the gold seller was Madoff-esque fraud. Five minutes till kick-off, and the rustle is quieting. Then: "My utility bills keep going up, but we have to pay those bank bonuses." "My utilities are going up, too!" "Did you hear we already laid people off?"

There's complete silence for nearly a whole minute until someone says, "Awkward silence." The whole room can hear. Another person says (quieter), "Just give us the poison."

I'm sitting by one person I don't know and one I met briefly at a retirement party a year ago, before the buyouts. Coats line the backs of chairs. It's really hot. I'm the youngest person in the room.

Still waiting, people talk again, timidly. Then, Patrick:

"I've got some news, not all of it good."

There's a list of dead papers (The P.I., the Rocky Mountain News and, soon, the San Francisco Chronicle).

"We are in a crisis."

Everyone applauds when he says we'll still keep printing the Oregonian, but the people around me look increasingly tense as he lists off the cuts: lay-offs, pay-cuts, furloughs, pension freezes. They had all been individual rumors, but we're getting the combination platter. If it works, we'll be black by the end of the year.

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