At the end of September, I got a message from the managing editor of MoneyWatch. It said, “I need to talk to you about some changes at MoneyWatch. Can you let me know a good time to call you?”
I responded with times I was available and then added, “Can you give me a heads up as to the topic?”
When she just responded with a time, I knew my fate was sealed. I’ve been involved in a lot of firings over the years and this evasion is a dead giveaway. I’d seen it coming for a while–editors were taking longer and longer to get to my pieces, the level of editing was increasing, and I was getting pushback on things that I had been doing for years.
To her credit, she handled the actual termination of contract (after all, I have never been a CBS employee) just like someone who has been instructed by, well, an expert in HR and especially terminations. She was straightforward, told me immediately, didn’t soften it, and informed me that I would be writing through the end of November, at which point our relationship would end.
I asked the reason. I knew it wasn’t performance as I had doubled my hits in the past year. She said, “We’re moving away from the expert model.”
“So you want non-experts to write about things?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
I find this highly amusing. She added that the bigwigs at CBS wanted to do less commentary and more news because they were, after all, a news organization, not a commentary one. I am decidedly not a journalist. I don’t go out and chase stories. I give commentary on things, and I answer questions. I totally respect the concept that they want to be more “newsy” (although, probably not more Newsies). But, regardless, I find it amusing that I was terminated because they don’t want experts writing about things.
Now, I’ve said in the past, that when you terminate someone, it should be immediate and with severance. After working out two months of notice (and no severance, which is fair, as I was a contractor), I have to say, I stand behind that advice 100 percent. Here’s why:
1. I wasn’t the only one let go. A bunch of bona fide employees were terminated at the same time, which meant MoneyWatch HQ was in traumatized turmoil. My understanding is that the employees were not given a notice period and I don’t know if they received severance (but I would guess they did, as CBS has given out severance in the past). So, the people left behind were stressed out. They now had more work to do, and had the emotional turmoil of losing their coworkers and friends. They were awkward with me as well. I mean, how do you treat someone who’s just been let go, but is still working?
2. Things changed, but I wasn’t part of the change. No one notified me of changes, but when I made a mistake because I wasn’t doing it the new way, I was criticized. This was frustrating on everyone’s side.
3. I needed to find a new contract, but I had to fulfill the old one. This meant I was working my tail end off, trying to job hunt while writing. And, for the record, I’ve landed a couple new contracts (yeah, networking!), that I’m really really excited about, but I’m still open to more possibilities. You want to hire me? Email me at EvilHRLady@gmail.com
It would have been much easier if they had simply handed me a paycheck for 30 days (as 30 days notice was stipulated in my contract) and we all parted as friends. I’m not complaining, mind you, just pointing out that there is a reason for the advice I give.
This was my first paid writing job (although it has gone through many changes, and many editors), and I learned a lot over almost 5 years. I am a little bit sad, but I’m also going to get back to more letters, since I stopped writing those for MoneyWatch and they are my favorite.
To look back fondly at this time, here are some of my favorite CBS articles:
The most popular:
The one that got me death threat emails:
The one where I learned that people have confirmation bias in a big way:
Why Mitt Romney Likes Firing People (I wish the comments hadn’t gotten deleted when CBS switched back ends, because the comments were hilarious. They alternated between, “See? It’s just another Republican defending Romney! You horrible, lousy Republican!” and “See? It’s the liberal media hating on Romney. We can’t trust the media! They are all liberals! You horrible, lousy Democrat!” These made me laugh and laugh and laugh. I am sad they are gone.)
The one that ended up in Reader’s Digest:
The one I refer people to the most: