The Guy After The Guy Who Just Got Fired

I’ve seen more firings than a boiler repairman.

Some of them were the end of a protracted season of disappointment in performance at the radio and TV stations where I worked. Others were just impulsive, dunderheaded moves by egotistical or inept managers. Some dismissals were needed, and others were long overdue. Broadcasting shares those traits with other industries. But that is where the similarity stops.

People who make their living on the television or radio live on a constant razor’s edge. To be sure, a small percentage of them have no-cut, long term contracts. Other broadcasters have contracts that mainly favor their employers, and are famous for non-compete clauses that prevent them from moving across town to another station, even when they are fired.

I’ve seen some strange departures. One reporter let go from his job got so angry that he tied his radio station blazer in knots, and threw it at me before he marched out the door, cursing. And that was a ‘for cause’ dismissal. Other workers were shame-marched out of the station, often with a box of their belongings. There were other dismissals where the worker was asked to turn in their id badge and keys, and told someone would go through their desk and ship them their personal property.

One time, I was doing traffic reports for an FM station, and suddenly the formats changed. At first, I thought maybe we were getting some interference from a station in another town. I tried calling the hot line, and nobody answered. I had to get back to the station before anybody would tell me what was going on. The format change happened when the manager walked into the studio with a new stack of cd’s. Surprise doesn’t really describe being on the air with a station one minute, and hearing an entirely different and unfamiliar station the next. Personnel changes happened, but fortunately, I dodged a career land mine because I had two other stations where I was on-the-air, and eventually was added back to the on-air staff at the changed station.

I think the most notorious firings I witnessed happened twice in my career.
My boss came to me early in the morning, and instructed me to quietly prepare a 9:00am newscast, and tell no-one. I did what I was told. I walked into the news announce booth at 8:55. Both times, when I came out of the booth at 9:07, the anchor scheduled to do that newscast had been let-go and led out of the building by security. One morning, just about the entire morning crew left the building.

That station had portrait photos of the on-the-air staff on the hallway walls. They were secured to the wall on velcro strips, so the photo would come down as the dismissed worker left. To the listener, those on-air people disappeared as if they were victims of an alien abduction.

That puts the guy-after-the-guy, or lady…. in a very strange position. They’re often warned not to mention their predecessor, and do not take any calls on the air that might result in the “what happened to” question being asked. I developed a theory, and I believe it has been verified time and time again. You don’t want to replace the lead-off batter. There are two reasons:

First, the management might hold you to an unrealistic set of goals, not based on you, but based on the perceived substandard performance of the person who had the job before you. There can be resentment, even if the audience didn’t like the personality…. They might be an idiot but they are … “my.. idiot.” The next on-air crew has an uphill battle to create a relationship and familiarity with the listener.   Managers might not be patient.   This is why I always counsel young people entering the industry to invest in inflatable furniture.

Morning show personalities come and go. When they go, folks are deprived of stability and, I believe, a kind of time-pacing where their audience knows what happens when, and what they should be doing in their morning routine, when they hear a particular segment on the radio.

Surely, University of Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt had some idea that he was on the way out. The sound of un-reeling packing tape making moving boxes outside his office… maybe the business off declined to print any new business cards… or other signs particular to the athletic coaching industry. He and nine other staff members are on the way out at UT. And it smells to me like a housecleaning before the information leaks out on some serious NCAA violations, and cover-ups. But I’ll leave the reporting and commentary to my friend Jimmy Hyams on The Sports Animal 99.1 FM.

Athletic Director Philip Fulmer is retiring.. either caught up in the meat grinder of staff changes , or honestly having enough of work, and looking to spend some time with his family and friends. (I would tell him retirement is highly under-rated.)

In the coaching rotisserie that is The University Of Tennessee, the next person up will have an even harder job trying to re-build the image and athletic record.

They’ll be the guy,
after the guy, after the guy,
after the guy, after the guy.

3 Comments

  1. Dave, I wanted to tell you that I appreciate you. You are honest, hardworking, loyal to your family and profession and have a wonderful sense of humor. With the new idea that complaining is the way to communicate, I felt the need to tell you that you have always been respected and appreciated by me. Have a wonderful day!!

    Nancy

    It is what it is

    >

    Like

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