Ex-Free Press Staffer Looks Back At '09 Layoff: 'Journalism Cheated On Me'

December 11, 2013, 7:07 AM by  Alan Stamm

Rodney Curtis, a Free Press photo editor for three years, has a good reason -- or a bad one, actually -- to recall June 19, 2009 vividly. That's the Friday he was let go after 22 years in Michigan journalism.

In a 114-page book, Getting Laid Off, Curtis recalls that day:

Breathe, breathe breathe. This is it. This is the end of the career. . . . Gotta buy a lottery ticket. Seriously, listen to the COBRA spiel. ..  .

Oh, oh, HR lady is nervous; shaky hands give it away. Humor, jokes, feign interest in the Employee Assistance program. Do COBRAs bite or squeeze? . . .

It's ending. Career and this exit interview. 

Before joining the Freep in June 2006, Curtis was a deputy director of photography at The Detroit News for three years. His career, which began as an Ann Arbor News photographer in 1987, also includes stints at the Associated Press and Midland Daily News.

"I worked in journalism and journalism cheated on me," he says in the first chapter of his paperback and e-book. "I had been married to journalism for many many years and, then all at once, journalism went out and decided it didn’t want to be faithful to me anymore. It left me — and I was out. . . .

"I knew things weren’t good . . . when they closed down half the bathrooms in our building. The economy was going down the toilet, but we sure weren’t.

Curtis, 50, talks about that experience, a leukemia diagnosis the next year and his spiritual faith in a new interview with former colleague David Crumm, co-founder and editor of Read the Spirit -- a six -year-old Canton publisher that issued his book three months ago. Crumm was the Free Press religion writer from 1986-2007.

About a month after losing his job, Curtis writes that he felt a "need to justify my existence these days and make it look like I'm a productive, functioning member of the family."

My wife busily works at the computer behind me, editing her various photo shoots and I'm sure she gets tired of me saying, "Honey, if you'd just let me join the Navy, there are a zillion jobs for combat photographers." Curiously, 42 results show up with a "combat editors" search at

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