In your collegiate career, professors like me tell you that you should work hard, play by the rules and seek a job that makes you happy. We tell you that the job is your reward for all of the things you endured during your four (or five or six) years in college, eking out an existence with food-service jobs and low-paying (or non-paying) internships. It’s why you spent all your collegiate life locked in that windowless basement that smells like feet and shattered dreams known as the student newspaper office instead of partying with friends.
Emily Bloch did all that. She worked for the student newspaper at Florida Atlantic University, ascending to the rank of editor in chief. She attended national media conventions, where I met her through her adviser, Michael Koretzky. She freelanced for Teen Vogue, blogged for Sunfest and contributed to the Miami New Times. In February 2017, she got her dream job: Community reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, an amazing publication that Tronc purchased in late May.
And last week, Tronc “restructured” her out of a job.
That’s right. The media giant fired her. As journalist and author Jeff Pearlman noted in his blog, “Tronc has kicked Emily to the curb—a multi-million dollar company saving (and this is pure guesswork) $35,000 a year and directly hurting its coverage.”
So, knowing that she got cut and that there was nothing she could do to change that, Bloch did something I doubt I would have had the strength to do: Her job.
“I was told I was laid off BEFORE I started working on that politician story,” Bloch told me in a text message.
The story made the front page of the Sun-Sentinel, and it also went viral when Bloch tweeted the ironic juxtaposition of the newspaper and her severance papers:
This is why Emily Bloch is my hero, and she should be yours, too. At that age, (hell, even at this age) I don’t know exactly what I would do if I lost a job I always wanted, just because some chucklehead in a suit wanted to nudge a profit-margin up for some stockholders. However, my best guess would be that I would have one of the following reactions:
- Weep like an overwrought 12-year-old girl if the break up of my favorite boy band occurred on the same day my dog died
- Launch into a social media rage that would make this clip of Nicholas Cage look calm and well-adjusted by comparison
- Drink the state of Wisconsin dry while listening to every song by The Cure
Going out and breaking a major story for a publication that told me I lacked value to them wouldn’t even be in the ballpark of what I’d consider doing. Bloch typifies exactly what I try to tell students about the importance of finishing what you start, regardless of odds or obstacles against you, even if it feels like a lost cause. I fell in love with the phrase “Finish the game” as an exemplar of that concept (if you excuse the dated references):
This all sounds great in concept, but I don’t know how easy it is to do in practice. Once the applause from Twitter dies down, she still has to pay rent and buy food. It’s also a hell of a bruise to a person’s psyche to know that you can be trucking along at your job and then it’s like a mob hit: Bang. You’re gone. What happens next?
“A lot of it’s up in the air but honestly I think I’m more excited than scared,” Bloch said. “To make ends meet, I’m bulking up on freelance. It’s actually ridiculous. Gearing up at my usual places, upping the hustle just a little, I’ll basically break even with my salary. Not sure if that a compliment to me or a diss to my wage.”
She said she wants to stay in Florida and stay in news at some level. (Koretzky wrote to some folks who know Bloch and said that after her story went viral, two smaller Florida newspapers reached out to her and offered some employment.) By deciding to “finish the game,” she became a shining example of what’s good in journalists and “kids these days.” It also showcased her abilities and strength, two characteristics that are likely to open a lot of doors for her in this next stage of her career.
It’s OK to feel like you got stabbed in the heart if something like this happens. It’s what you do after that happens that will make the difference in life. Bloch said she felt bummed at first, but decided that she would pick herself up off the ground and “begin to hustle.” Her story on the politicians was the result.
“I think there’s a real lesson in there,” she added. “If you’re in this field, it’s likely not because of a tantalizing salary. It’s because you give a shit.”