Reading tea leaves

I faced an awkward decision in early December.  More or less out of the blue, NPR offered me an editing job in its digital unit. I was interested, but I also felt a strong loyalty to my then-current employer, USA Today.

And then came a USAT staff meeting where Editor Ken Paulson announced the newsroom needed to eliminate 20 positions.

That wasn’t a surprise. However, his next statement was definitely unexpected.

Paulson told people that if they had a job offer and were thinking about leaving, they should “go ahead and do it now.” That statement came from a man who had, many times over many staff meetings over many years, urged anyone thinking about switching jobs to talk to him first.

That was, as they say in the journalism business, a hint. There had to be a reason for that change of position. I took his advice and accepted the NPR job.

Flash forward six weeks. Paulson has announced he’s leaving as editor — a decision the publisher has described as a surprise. Every employee of USA Today has been ordered to take one week of unpaid leave before the end of March. More layoffs are rumored.

And the angst that I felt over making my job choice has been completely erased. All that’s left is the sadness I feel for my former colleagues.

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