I was on vacation last week. Well, for about 17 1/2 hours of last week. Somehow, for the other 20 hours of my “work-free” week, I was working.
It’s not entirely my fault, I suppose, even though it is. I can’t just walk away, even though that is what a vacation is supposed to be. I’m just not wired to leave it all behind, especially when there is nobody there to pick up the slack.
Last week for the first (and probably last) time in my life I took two straight weeks off. I knew I had the staff to handle it.
That is no longer the case.
Thus, today, on Saturday, June 25th in the year of our God, 2016, I have discovered the one reality of my new-found professional life. Vacations are officially dead to me.
RIP, old friend. I hardly knew ye.
That’s it. Plain and simple in my black and white world.
The company I now work for — the one that bought my newspaper and gutted my staff from four employees down to one (me) — has left me with no choice moving forward.
Ok, there is a choice. Take a week off and let my Sports Section and, more importantly, my readers suffer.
Or, say screw it. Vacations are no longer part of the equation.
I’m going with the latter decision because that’s who I am and what I am. The news doesn’t stop.
Sure I get 15 “vacation” days every year on top of X-amount of personal days and X-amount of sick days and some holiday days accrued as I work them.
But taking five straight days off with a couple of weekends sandwiched around each side? That’s ancient history, my friends, and it won’t be happening again anytime soon.
It can’t. There is nobody there to pick up the pieces and do the job I’m being paid to do.
Granted, it’s a bad business plan — having just one person being responsible for the coverage of three towns and four high schools and countless other programs from within the world of sports.
One person can’t do the job properly by working a 37.5 hour week, which is why I’m a salaried kind of guy clocking 50 hour weeks on a regular basis. How is the job supposed to get done when there is nobody there to do it?
Yes, you can hire “freelancers” to cover a one event a day and stick it on your front cover and say, “Look — Local.”
But, readers aren’t stupid. The events we missed in the week I was “out” should not have been missed.
I, however, am stupid — I’m “stupid” enough to put my readers first and the athletes that I cover in front of my own well-being and time-off.
Thus, moving forward, for as long as I am a Hearst employee, I will not take another vacation.
There goes my trip to China … my bucket-list journey of taking a train trip across these United States of America … my renting another cabin or an RV and heading to my native Maine for a week of R&R (and mosquitoes … and ants).
If and when, as the schedule allows, I’ll try to steal days here and there. Maybe a three-day weekend or two this summer.
What I will not do, however, is leave my Sports section high and dry for another week.
We’re asking our readers to pay more while giving them less. How the hell am I supposed to look at them in the eye when I see them at a game or an event? It’s already hard enough to do.
I was trained in this business by the best of the best — the crew that ran the Bangor Daily News Sports Section from 1984 to 1997.
They taught me how to work hard, what was right and what was wrong in this business of sports journalism, and to take pride in the product we’re putting out seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Back then vacations were easy to take because you knew the rest of the staff had your back and was willing to step up and do more work to allow you your time to rest and recharge.
Today, that’s no longer possible for a couple of reasons — the most obvious being the straight-up fact that department sizes have shrunk so much that it’s almost impossible to pick up anybody’s slack when so much is already being piled upon another’s plate.
The readers come first. If newspapers really plan on surviving, or finding a road back to profitability, that is something the business leads to remember.