Five years ago this morning I was pulled off the air, escorted to the office of the bookkeeper, and in front of two witnesses, fired from the company which had employed me for a little more than 30 years. I was a few months shy of 59 years of age and had just a few weeks prior set a retirement date with the person who engineered my demise. A few minutes later, my longtime friend and morning show partner Glen Gardner was given the same treatment. Several other people were fired later in the day.
We’d both known it was coming for a week, tipped off by our sources at the top of the food chain, so our lawyers were in place, the litigation commenced, justice was done, and we were both eventually paid off for our investment in the company (both of us were long-standing shareholders), settlements were agreed to, and life moved on.
There’s no sense minimizing the huge disruption this was in our lives, but we picked up the pieces, reinvested our payouts, and reinvented our professional lives. The station Glen and I had worked on eventually failed and was shuttered with another mass firing at the end.
After the litigation was settled, my wife – the world’s greatest support system – and I took a long vacation at Spring Training in Arizona. While we were soaking in sun and baseball, the person who had engineered our firing suffered a massive stroke and died a few days later. Ironically, our daughter was the unit coordinator in the neuro facility where this woman spent her last few hours on life support – a horrible and sad fate not to be wished upon anyone.
Having been business partners in broadcasting for many years, Glen and I had come to be good friends at and away from work. Some months after our abrupt dismissal, Glen started an online news service for which I became a contract writer, along with some other media friends from the area who were similarly “at liberty”.
If you’ve lived around here for more than five years, you’ll recognize most of the names above. The last half-decade has not been kind to the media business.
I realized my future was as a contract (freelance) writer/researcher, and the first big project I accepted after joining the YourNews operation, was development of a huge website for the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation. I did some contract work for wonderful non-profits like the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, and a few years ago Glen brought me on board as a contract writer/producer for Public News Service, where I’m still cranking out Wisconsin-based stories. Glen has since left Public News Service and moved “back home” to the Boston area, where he operates a thriving consulting business and spends a lot of his time on airplanes cris-crossing the country.
A year ago today, Glen married his childhood friend Lauren, giving us something to truly celebrate on November 18th every year! Glen and I are most fortunate to have such wonderful supportive spouses. Mazel tov, Glen and Lauren!
Five years out, I still have some bitterness about giving essentially my entire professional life to a closely-held private company, being a partner, investor, manager, and performer for 30 years – only to have friends and partners of long-standing dismiss my decades of service without even a thank-you. But for those of you reading this who’ve suffered similar fates during the ongoing media purges, know that there is abundant life after broadcasting.
As George Herbert wrote in 1651, living well is the best revenge.