Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Inquirer Newsroom Epic Marred By 68 Layoffs

By Mel Greenberg

PHILADELPHIA -- And so that tough moment that has loomed over this newsroom for months has arrived.

The Guru, as many of you know by the profile that accompanies this space, has seen much in his 37 years in his main place of employment.

But Wednesday will be a new experience, although the effects were beginning to be felt upon our arrival to the office 24 hours earlier.

At 8 a.m., phone call will have begun to be made to the homes of 68 colleagues -- some of long-standing relationships and others of more recent times -- telling them not to come to work and that they will be paid through the middle of the month.

The Guru, for various reasons that can be explained through other means, does not expect to be among those recipients. We are mentioning it only in that many of you are hearing about our situation in news reports across the country and might be wondering about the Guru's status.

Nevertheless, it is not easy watching co-workers in this craft, whom we have cheered in their endeavors and who have also cheered us in ours, be told to depart immediately without fanfare or celebration for their contributions.

On Tuesday night, we broke into applause for two young copy editors as they departed not expecting to be back in the office Wednesday.

Another colleague, who has been unofficially notified, has been here 20 years.

We have seen our share of buyouts over the years in the newsroom, but at least those departures did not come as an instant shock and were made by choice.

I know some of the Guru's colleagues elsewhere have already had this experience at their publications. And some of them have become victims themselves.

But one doesn't really understand its dimension until the experience occurs first-hand.

Who would believe two years ago that a giant newspaper chain would implode and the layoff procedure to cut costs would arrive at our doorstop.

There have been many wonderful adventures in this place and fun times and the Guru's own mark on this place being just one of them.

In an epic movie, the sadness occurs when a bunch of stars are dispatched toward the film's grand conclusion. But that is all scripted.

In this situation, there has been no pre-determined script. The story has been one of evolvement. The official roll call in sports won't be known for several hours as of this writing, but we have already heard rumors that are tinged with fact.

The Guru already knows, through word that began to leak throughout Tuesday, that copy editors who made him look good in print, as well as wrote the headlines to bring his reports to life, will no longer be on the scene. Nor will several layout and design people.

And there are great friends in other departments who are also saying their good-byes.

For a while the printed edition is going to look much different, according to reports, as the news-space is reduced to adjust to a smaller staff's capacity. It's not to say quality work won't continue to appear.

A Pultizer Prize-winning journalist of high esteem who had been one of the stars of an earlier era here recently returned as the head of the newsroom. It is someone who grew up in this operation alongside the Guru.

He is equipped to lead us forward.

But so many talented bylines are about to disappear, although hopefully, their outstanding skills will emerge elsewhere.

So pardon us for taking a brief timeout to note the scene here at Guru-central.

On the upside has been the Guru's thrill to help develop some young talent from outside this place over the last year and who continue to aspire to this craft and its various venues.

Our mission for them, is to make sure a craft still exists to aspire.

And in that spirit, unless the phone unexpectedly rings in the next several hours, we will continue.

-- Mel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mel, This is a lovely tribute to departing colleagues. What a sad, sad day for the paper. But I'm glad you are still there, and happy to see that you have embraced the future by blogging. Beth Gillin

5:48 PM  

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