Disaster strikes at the Trib. No, not that one.

It’s early afternoon. That lunch-siesta-nothing going on time at a newspaper. I’m at the photo desk trying to track down a missing photo.

Darryl, the chief photog who’s just been laid off, is listening to the squawker. Something about a tanker truck in a building at the Chandler airport. This has got to be a drill, he says. And maybe a helicopter. Gotta be a drill, he says. Need to evacuate buildings, the squawker says. This can’t be a drill, he says. Gotta run. This guy who’s working his last Thursday at the paper goes sprinting out of the building for a high-speed chase after one last spot news photo.

The cop shop reporter is at lunch. With the city editor. The only reporters here are David, a business writer who’s also been shown the door, and Amanda, a reporter who is being relocated to an uncertain future.

Darryl Webb takes one last fire photo for the road.

They instantly go to work making calls. Fire officials. Airport. FAA. The husband of an employee here who works near the scene. Pretty much anyone in Chandler who will pick up a phone. Nobody asked them to jump on a story far outside their beats. But it’s news and they’re reporters. That’s what they do.

Jayson, the Internet guy (who didn’t get laid off because he is a terrific journalist as well as the architect of the brilliant Nerdvana blog, and you wouldn’t take a chance on bad Nerdvana mojo) alternates between posting their story and feeding them stuff from another site. Turns out it’s a World War II-era plane that crashed into a hangar in a ball of flame. Pilot dead. Not the world’s biggest story, but not bad (in that convoluted good is bad/bad is good newspaper speak. “There’s a really bad quake in Haiti.” “Wow. That’s a really good story.”)

Amanda and David relentlessly work the phones and keep updating. They both have their own stories they should be working on, but they continue to pound away, feeding Jayson rewrites for the web site. Randomly calling nearby businesses for quotes. Squeezing out every bit of news.

Seemingly hours later, the major metro’s web site posts a short story. About the same time, our photog sends in a photo of a firefighter looking at the charcoaled plane sticking out of the hangar that eventually becomes the cover photo for our Chandler print edition.

The cop reporter then picks up the story, freeing Amanda and David to resume their day job. Darryl returns and settles back into his routine.

What do these three have in common? They were all either laid off or reassigned. They had every right to call in sick, to be bitter, to go through the motions, to just finish out their shifts and move on. But when a big news story hit, they did what journalists do: They covered the hell out of it. Nobody will know, nobody will care. But when the bell rang in the last round, they came out swinging.

I’m glad that I walk out of the joint knowing that you can take the journalist out of the newspaper, but you can’t take the newspaper out of the journalist.

Gonna miss the place …

About gary

no sock monkeys were harmed in the making of this blog.
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8 Responses to Disaster strikes at the Trib. No, not that one.

  1. dustrud says:

    perfect. nice photo, too. totally true. we can’t help ourselves, it’s in our dna. what an apt, sad nearly-last-day story.

  2. dwalker says:

    as a good friend of Jayson i get to see him simultaneously exhibit a passion for his work and frustration with the constantly evolving situation at the Trib. thank you for this excellent snapshot piece, and for giving proper recognition to these hard-working, under-appreciated journalists.

  3. Gabe says:

    I took my last two days off and don’t feel bad. If I were still in editorial, I would have had graphics, maps and charts right away for you though.

  4. Big Dog says:

    Your recap proves that we do what we do despite the economic shitstorm because we understand its importance. And we will always love to tell the story, first.

    By the way, there is still a slip of paper on the bulletin board in my office that reads, “Well, that’s enough for one day. I’ll be leaving now.” I still have to be reminded to say that sometimes.

    Best to you, friend. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Noah Austin says:

    Hey! I have been terrible about keeping in touch with Tribune friends, but Amanda Keim linked me to this blog. Send me an email sometime. Best of luck with running and everything else.

    noah.austin@gmail.com

  6. Bill Bertolino says:

    Awesome and sad at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

    The East Valley has no idea what it will be missing. And crooked politicians are celebrating.

    Best of luck to you, my friend.

  7. Tony says:

    The world is only as good as the stories that are told. -TF

  8. Thank you so much for posting this. Ill be heading down the electronic and print journalism and this really opened to my eyes as to what true, hard working, journalist (and reporters!) do.

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