The things you learn when you get laid off

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I remember being called into the publisher’s office on that last day of August. That sinking feeling of knowing that somebody knows something you don’t. The looks on their faces. Sad, but not really sad, more sorry for themselves for having to ruin their day or maybe just the hour, probably.

But then a little ray of hope.

“We’re going to let you keep your blog.”

“Yeah, it represents all your hard work, your blood sweat and tears.”

It’s not much of a consolation prize when you’re getting laid off, but it’s a helluva lot better than a cold, escorted walk to the door.

I remember thinking about it after the clouds of dissolution parted. It wasn’t a huge gift, and in reality, no one would be able to pick up after I left it. It’s too much of a labor of love. It’s something you have to give birth to. You can’t adopt a blog very easily.

But after weeks of sending E-mails asking about when I could transfer the blog to my own account, I started to feel like the child who is told there is a surprise in the next room just to remove him from the current room.

I started hearing about the newspaper editor spreading the news that I had somehow relinquished interest in the blog as she recruited new writers for it.

If I have learned anything from my wife in all the long years I’ve known her, it’s that she will fight for justice far more than I will. She has a sense for it that I do not. Perhaps I’m jaded, but I don’t believe man’s justice is wise, nor do I believe it prevails even when somewhat close to a universal sense of justice.

But with her encouragement, I sent notes out to the far corners of the corporation that formerly employed me seeking justice in the form of an appeal based on something that wasn’t in writing, merely the word of two respected co workers.

My appeal was returned today with these words:

“Tim, I have looked into the matter of this blog and your separation from Lee Enterprises.
The Missoulian intends to keep the blog and maintain the content.
As far as receiving an understanding to give you this blog; besides any authority Stacey and Jim may or may not have had to allegedly agree to this; you surrendered any claim when you signed the release of rights and claims and received your severance payment.”

I’m not the dunce whose appearance I must often give off. I understood at the outset that giving away corporate property is a big no, no. In fact, I have seen numerous battles over intellectual property like this. I know lawyers who deal specifically in this realm.

I did, however, believe the publisher when she said she would draw up papers regarding the blog if I agreed to sign the release of rights. I generally take people at their word. In this case it might have helped to understand all the legalities, something I’m going to assume neither of us knew very well.

But no matter, this battle is over, and it’s time to move on beyond it. To the writers who’ve inherited my progeny, I wish you the best of luck. When I say it’s a labor of love, I mean that completely. You will not love this. You may, in fact, come to hate it.

Justice is better served cold. I do not feel a warmth for it as my wife does. Instead, I’d rather look beyond perceived personal injustices and out toward those places where injustice, if it’s a quantifiable thing, occurs to the point of matching those universal laws, those unalienable rights we like to chatter on about.

The rights of indigenous people. The rights of women and children in lawless places. The rights of the press. The rights of the people.

These are worth pursuing when it comes to justice. A silly little blog is hardly worth fighting for. Maybe it’s just the principle of the thing. Maybe it’s my arch nemesis, a characteristic conservatism that finds personification an an old editor I once worked for. Or in the uphill battles against the old mindset that I fight against on a daily basis. Principles are worked out in the individual. You live by yours, I’ll live by mine.

And so my appeal ends, and it’s time to move on to the next new thing.

Tim

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