‘None of us are indispensable’: Navigating media layoffs

By Meena Thiruvengadam 

February 28, 2024

Olesea Vetrila / Shutterstock

If you’re one of the many journalists who has been affected by a layoff this year, we’re here for you and we feel your pain. I’ve been in your shoes, and I can tell you it will get better. There are positive professional opportunities on the other side of this, even though it’s hard to fathom right now. 

I didn’t expect to walk into a higher paying media job a 10-minute walk from my apartment when I was laid off from the Thunderdome in 2014, nor did I expect the rich friendships I made there would be going so strong a decade later. I could never have imagined co-authoring Lonely Planet guidebooks to Iceland, New York City and Chicago when I was laid off from in 2019, but here I am, more professionally fulfilled and happier than I was in that job.    

If you’ve been laid off, I hope something even better than what you’ve left behind comes your way. If you’re worried about being laid off, know you’re not alone. Over the past 20 years in media, one thing I’ve learned is just about everyone goes through this at least once in their journalism careers. It sucks, but it checks out. None of us are indispensable, not forever.  

A few pieces of concrete advice from my experience:  

  • This may sound obvious, but if you’re expecting to be laid off, save up as much money as you can ahead of time.  
  • If you’ve been laid off, get three-month refills of your prescriptions before your health insurance runs out. Consider COBRA if you’ve already met or are nearing your deductible. If switching to a Marketplace plan, confirm with your doctors that they accept the plan you’re considering.  
  • Rollover your 401K into an individual IRA. If you try to take this out as a cash disbursement, you’ll get hit with a tax bill and potentially additional penalties. Avoid this if you can.  
  • File for unemployment. It won’t replace your income, but it can give you a little more breathing room and is a government benefit you’ve already paid into with your employment taxes.  
  • Find ways to enjoy your time. Chances are you had too little free time before your layoff, and will likely have too little free time when you begin working again. You’ll make more money, but time is the one thing you’ll never be able to make more of.  

A few additional resources:  

This essay originally appeared in the Audience Community of Practice newsletter. The Audience Community provides support and resources for audience development news professionals.

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