Cheers to You, Ma Trib and My Fellow Ship Mates

Cheers to You, Ma Trib and My Fellow Ship Mates

Tonight there will be a farewell celebration for a metropolitan newspaper I used to work for a little over 10 years ago. I’ve been invited along with hundreds and hundreds of recent staff and Tampa Tribune alumni to meet up at this special event to give the newspaper and its teams throughout 121 years of circulation a proper send-off. As much as I want to be there tonight, I can’t. I just don’t have another memorial service in me, not at this time at least. I sincerely hope my friends and teammates will understand.

 

Though the event is being called an ‘Irish Wake’ for the publication and should be as joyful and raucous a celebration can be in light of mourning an institution, I know myself too well. This past year and a half has been really trying physically and emotionally.  When I heard the May 3 announcement that the newspaper had been bought by its rival Tampa Bay Times and immediately shuttered with no final edition granted to its faithful readers, loyal staff and supportive community, I was devastated. For everyone on the receiving end of the news. I’ve been reading on almost an hourly basis the most touching tributes, comments and virtual love notes being passed between former Trib colleagues as those just let go try to cope with all that they’re feeling right now and those of us released years earlier attempting to comfort and encourage our friends that things will get better — and they really will get better but like any death, that concept is hard to digest right now when all you can think about is all that you’ve lost.

 

Everybody takes grief differently. For me, I’m an internalizer. I need time to process. Because this is another death after all, in a year filled with deaths elsewhere in the world that have made my heart ache, losses stretched across my pop culture universe and here at home among friends and family that I really care about. So… as much as I want to see certain people, hug many and toast some very talented and good people, I know I’m not strong enough right now to go to this event tonight. I can’t pretend to celebrate the good times when I know conversations will undoubtedly still turn to the sadness and emptiness many are feeling, not only because of the loss of a job or day-to-day interactions but because of the manner in which this institution was quieted so coldly and insensitively.

 

So for any of my former Trib co-workers who happen to read this, please know that I want to be there with you and spiritually and emotionally, I am with you. But I can’t drink a beer in one hand without wadding up used tissues in the other. I’m not Irish Wake material. Maybe it’s the fiery and emotional Greek in me.  But I will take a few moments to make my toasts here and send love and gratitude to individuals I won’t get to see tonight. Thank you in advance for letting me ramble a bit. That’s what we do sometimes when we are coming to terms with a loss.

 

People close to me know this story but for those of you who don’t, I will share why this newspaper meant so much to me. You see, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be involved in media. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Barbara Walters. Or at least Baba Wawa since I was a huuuuuuge Gilda Radner fan. As I got older, I studied journalism in high school and devoured every nourishing moment of working on the school newspaper as both a writer and the main editor. By the time I got to junior college, I still had visions of being involved in media somehow but my attention turned to the possibility of exploring children’s television through nearby Orlando opportunities. No matter what I did in my studies, writing and interviewing were always part of the mix. During my FSU stay, I altered my studies slightly as I continued to be a news writer and on-air reader at the campus radio station V-89.  When I graduated, I hoped there would be some opportunity to get into radio, whether it was through the news, sports or advertising arm, it didn’t matter to me. But jobs in that arena were hard to come by then and instead I spent the next 13 years working toward a different kind of career, carving out a niche in marketing communications for tech companies. (I know… sexy, huh?)  *smirks*

 

Then 2005 happened. A job I thoroughly enjoyed came to a close when a bought-out tech company relocated and I elected not to go with it. I took another marketing management role, this time making more money than I ever had before and even had direct reports to supervise. But the culture of the company was unbelievably stifling and I drove home every night usually after 8pm or 9pm in tears. In just a month, I knew — this was not a good fit. And began my search for the next job. I didn’t care what I was doing anymore, who I was working for or what I got paid. I just knew that I didn’t want any position to make me feel this miserable. I wanted to feel joy on the job again.

 

It took a few months before an opening appeared at the Tampa Tribune. Now I must first say — I thought I had no chance in hell in scoring a job with the paper. After all, I had just spent nearly 7 years working in marketing communications not media in the private sector, so despite my background and my studies, why on Earth would a newspaper pick me to come work for them? But I interviewed anyway. First by phone and then in person. It helped that I had been a loyal reader for the past 13 years, since I had relocated to Tampa just out of college. In fact, there were three things I immediately came to associate with the city:  the skyline with its beer can building and beautiful University of Tampa minarets; the scenic and what felt like pleasantly never-ending drive along Bayshore Boulevard; and the Tampa Tribune. I would see signs for it everywhere I went, newspaper racks in all the places I frequented, and the buildings along the Hillsborough River became almost comforting on any downtown visits, as if they were keeping a watchful eye on our fair city, looking out for us.

 

So when I had the chance to interview with this newspaper, I took my affection for it with me to the interview and I think the people there representing marketing and the newsroom might have sensed that. I felt I had grown up with this newspaper— at least the kind of growing up you do fresh out of school in your 20s and going through career transitions, unexpected divorce and the struggles a single person then faces as they try to pay the bills, balance a few jobs and eat a meal once in a while—when it fits into the budget. But this was where I turned to for my comfort — my Bloom County comics, my Dan Ruth columns, my horoscope, my want ads searching for the next gig, my Friday Extra things to do and movie, TV and book reviews…all of it!  And now I might have a chance to work with them.

 

I won’t run through the events of the interview or even what life was like in the promotions department working alongside members of the newsroom frequently and on a daily basis, wonderful graphic designers, photographers, copywriters, marketing managers, events and traffic schedulers. It was heavenly.  Greatest job I ever had and yeah, I took a monster-size pay cut to do it but my husband will attest to it — I was the happiest I’d ever been professionally in my life. And that joy continued despite almost being let go in 2007 when the powers-that-be determined some positions were simply not needed anymore – mine among them – but I managed to score a newly created position in the Advertising department. And it was here that I got to truly rely on those buried interviewing skills and write profiles for special advertising sections that featured local celebrities and sports figures as well as profile area businesses. I worked with yet another fantastic team for about a year before a new opportunity onsite became available — the chance to become an editor and key writer for a publication the Tribune was launching. In 2008, I became editor and main writer for the Trib’s Tampa Bay franchise of Skirt! magazine and the next year introduced me to yet another awesome team of designers and sales people who helped build a really beautiful publication and one I was quite proud to be a part of…until once again, business minds decided it was not necessary and shut the magazine down locally in 2009.  It was a wild journey from 2005 to 2009, and I continued to do freelance for the newspaper’s online edition of the magazine for another few years and still do freelance work for other regular writing clients in the Bay area. But none of it would have happened without that first hire from the Tampa Tribune.

 

I’ve told close friends that hiring decision changed my life. We all have a few moments we can look back on and know that the course of our lives took a truly abrupt turn (good or bad) because they took place. This is one of those moments. I don’t know that I would have ever gotten the chance to return to my love for  writing for a living or had an opportunity to work directly in the media world in whatever capacity had I not been hired by Andrea Daly that day. I’ve thanked her before in another blog that I’m not sure she’s ever seen but I say it again here publicly:  thank you. I owe you so much and feel so much gratitude for you making that decision. You changed my life professionally; the roles and work that I got to take on the next several years opened me up emotionally, too, and reminded me what I was capable of doing, like writing a book; and I came away with lifelong friends that I will treasure.  You opened up one very big door for me, Andrea. And I cannot tell this tale without next thanking Gail Schomers, my next manager and cheerleader who encouraged me to seek the editor position, the other job that really changed my life and how I viewed myself and what I could achieve. You believed in me and supported me then and afterward as a freelance writer seeking by-lines and work by letting me continue to be a part of the newspaper as a stringer for the special sections you oversaw. I gained so much experience and knowledge because of you, and I can’t thank you enough, Gail. And best of all, I gained an incredible friend for life in you.

 

Tonight, as so many wonderful friends gather to talk about old times and celebrate their many victories together, I want to toast these two wonderful ladies especially and all of the many people who I got to work with in all of the departments — Trisha, Jamie, Shelley and the fab skirt! sales team; Kim, Paul, Suzanne, Nitish and photog Jen; and my original awesome crew Matt and the design posse, Pat, Scott, Debbie, the terrific Trib Marketing events and research teams, and my dear, sweet friend and copywriting cohort Marti, who we lost last year. I send warm hugs to all of my neighbors there through the years who I might not have worked directly with but who always made me feel at home like Jared, Kimberly, Kristin, Cindy, Mick, Christine and Patty. And then there are those talented people who delivered the news to us each day as loyal readers. Kim, Penny, Jeff, Rosemary, Ken, Dale, Rommie, Mitch, Bob, Walt … and so many more wonderful folks I got to work with regularly even though it was customary, damn near traditional, for news and advertising/marketing to be at odds with each other or at least in opposite fields but this awesome group of people never let me feel like an outsider. You always welcomed me to the zoo with open arms.

 

TribSign_LR

 

The courtyard is empty and the walls are silent. But I know tonight all of you in attendance will fill the venue with many wild tales and much affection, laughter and love. I am there with you in spirit. Cheers to all of you. *clink* ~ Chris xo

 

1 Comment

  1. Kim Maccormack

    I keep Kleenex close also … Driving home to Tampa today to a new routine, new landscape.

    Thank you for your wonderful words … See u at Skippers in July – surely we will be cried out by then, right?

    XO

    Kim

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