How journalism jobs are lost (and kept)

DanDan Bradley knows all about being “riffed” – slang for reduction in force or RIF.  The former VP news for Media General Broadcast Group was actually part of a company team that decided to eliminate his former job.

“It came down to saving my corporate job or saving four to five journalists within our newsrooms,” Bradley said.  Fortunately, Bradley quickly found another position; he’s now running one of Media General’s television stations as general manager of  WCMH in Columbus, Ohio.

Bradley was quite frank with the audience during a Society of Professional Journalists convention session.  He talked about the decision-making process for newsroom layoffs.

“They’re designed to weed out less valuable employees,” Bradley said.  “We look at the last three years of performance reviews, the employee’s HR jacket – which by the way you should know what’s in yours – and we look at whether the employee has a lack of critical skills.”

However, Bradley says inevitably, subjective criteria also enter the equation.  To survive Bradley says you have to work to consistently be the best at your job and to keep working to acquire new skills.  He  says performance, flexibility and attitude are key.

“Be the person who helps maintain a level of sanity in the newsroom,” Bradley suggested.

He also encouraged everyone to stop taking annual performance reviews for granted.

“The worst thing you can do for your career is getting a performance review only once a year,” Bradley said.  “Its the most impotant part of job security and growth.”

Bradley suggests setting up a meeting with your boss or supervisor at least once a quarter – and not just a hallway meeting either.  He says you should bring examples of work you know could have been better and ask for advice on how to improve.  Check to see if there are any additional skills you should be learning, and find out if your boss feels you’re meeting his or her expectations.  The last thing you want to learn is that person has the wrong impression of you and you don’t find until your next performance review months later.

“You must manage this process,” says Bradley.