Words I never thought would be directed at me. Actually, the exact words were “we’re going in a different direction”. My wife advised me to be cautious writing about this. Sour grapes and all. In the broadcast business people get fired all the time. We call it “getting the ziggy”. Most of my friends in radio and TV have been fired for one reason or another. But I thought all the angels and saints had given me a divine exemption.
I prided myself on never losing a job. Besides death itself, it was my greatest fear. The loss of income is one thing but the humiliation is another. I was fired as program director of KMJ 4 years ago. In truth, I’m still not over it. Getting canned puts you in a league all it’s own. Colleagues you’ve worked with for many years act as if you’re a leper. Let’s face it. There is a stigma that comes with termination.
I’m not sure why it happened. I wasn’t a wanted felon, porn king, boozer, or drug user. The ratings were not great but were stable. We still maintained a lead in our format category. I made a lot of money. Maybe that was it. Maybe it was health. I was recovering from a prostatectomy after a cancer diagnosis. Who knows?
I knew ahead of time I was going to get the ziggy. Cumulus had recently taken over KMJ in a rather complex station swap following the bankruptcy of Peak Broadcasting. Then they brought in a new programmer to oversee the news talk stations. Randall Bloomquist came to town and started finding fault with just about everything. We had too many interviews with Devin Nunes, our local congressman. We should have zero. Don’t allow local politicians on the air. Nobody wants to hear them. Why were we supporting Honor Flights? Those old veterans may be the greatest generation but they’re the richest. They can afford their own trips to Washington DC. Besides, it makes us sound old. Local show Hometown Hero’s ,a program that chronicles the stories of WWII veterans, was “old” and he wanted it axed. There weren’t enough topics on our local talk shows. He wanted 3-4 topics per hour! And here was his big “gotcha”. One night he listened to the overnight show and there were no station ID’s. Now, to be fair, that is a serious issue. But Cumulus had ordered KMJ to run one of their shows overnight and for several weeks they had technical issues. Tones that were supposed to fire local IDs at the station level didn’t work. It was their problem, not ours. I knew all this but I figured Bloomquist would only see it as an excuse. The bottom line was, he was going to fire me no matter what.
I wasn’t going to be humiliated, doing the walk of shame with a cardboard box full of my items. So, knowing he was coming to town to fire me, I took a couple of days and started quietly removing my things.
The executioner showed up promptly the morning of July 14th, 2014. I was invited to the conference room where he informed me I was no longer employed and that “they were going in a different direction”. That was it. He walked out and the business manager went over my severance package. Then I was escorted to the parking lot. Since then, I’ve heard very little from the people I worked with for 7 years at 1071 W Shaw. As I suppose it’s natural. Loyalties go with whoever has the power.
I recall the sage advice of a Clear Channel labor attorney many years before. We ended up settling a labor dispute with a disgruntled employee. I was a bit incredulous that we would just pay off this person when we were in the right. The attorney told me “live and be happy”.
I decided to take my wife and go to France.