Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Waiting for the layoff shoe to drop

When it comes to writing stories about layoffs, you won't find an older hand at it than me. In August 1980, I arrived in Jeffrey City, Wyo., to run the local newspaper. It was a uranium mining town that had boomed in the mid-'70s to nearly 4,500 people. Unfortunately, I caught it on the downturn. The lead story of my first edition, was "Western Nuclear announces 118 being laid off."

I spent a year there, but in June 1981 the other shoe dropped -- 244 lost their jobs at the mine and mill -- and I started looking for a new gig. After a brief layover in Laramie, where I was police reporter for the Daily Boomerang (greatest newspaper name ever), the then-hyphenated Post-Register hired me to be its central Idaho staff writer. I arrived in Challis in October 1981 to learn that Cyprus Mining Corp. would be laying off scores of people at its Thompson Creek molybdenum mine.

Here's the funny thing about layoffs and writing stories about them. Everyone knows they're coming, but corporations seem reluctant to make the news official in a timely way. Are they secretly humiliated or is their aim to torment reporters? Although I could be wrong, I don't think most corporations give reporters enough thought to want to torture them.

Nevertheless, when a layoff looms, we press people make our calls and visits and ask our questions. The supervisors and public affairs people say things like, "At the present time we have no current plans to lay anyone off." We wait and wait for official word before we file our stories. Then we're off to the races.

At present, I'm waiting for a piece of layoff news from a significant employer in Idaho Falls. From what I've heard, employees have already been told, but no press release or e-mail has been issued. It might come today; then again it might not.

Can you guess who I'm talking about? Feel free to weigh in. Let's put the magic off social media to work, people.