As of today, April 14, it will be eight years since I walked away from a job that I think was damaging my health, physically, mentally and emotionally. And nothing else had felt better in such a long time.
I was the news editor of the Wagoner Tribune in Wagoner, Okla. But the title didn’t mean much. I really wasn’t anything much more than a glorified newspaper reporter. By the time I left, most of the major decisions on style and content were being made by my supervisors. The newspaper was owned by Community Publishers, Inc., which no longer exists, after all the Oklahoma newspapers were sold to Berkshire Hathaway Media Group the next year. That’s the one owned by Warren Buffet.
The signs were there in 2013 and 2014 that the ship was sinking. They couldn’t keep any advertising representatives on more than a year. It was like a revolving door. Every few months, a newspaper had a new person selling ads with unbelievable goals and no incentives. The editorial staff was getting fed up as well. It seemed like many of the other newspapers in the Tulsa suburbs would either close, consolidate or go through many “editors” in a short time, it made no sense.
I was ready to leave in the Fall of 2013, but I foolishly stayed on because I was looking for work elsewhere. But I think the damage had already been done. The Tribune had won the Sequoyah Award (the highest award for a paper) in 2013 in its category through the Oklahoma Press Association, which means I had won the award. Since I was technically the only one on the editorial staff, most of the awards were in the editorial side with the page design getting a first place. That was done at the Broken Arrow, Okla. office of Neighbor News, the department that oversaw the Oklahoma papers.
But going back to the morning of April 14, it was like any other Monday – hectic. I had arrived to work late that morning. I got about three miles in the fifteen-mile drive from my house to the office before I realized I had left my lunch at home. It was two-day-old pizza. It was going to be a busy day that I wouldn’t be able to take a lunch.
The previous Friday, I had to take my ex to the emergency room in Tulsa as she was complaining of pains from an emergency back surgery she had less than a month earlier. It had been a hard time for me. I had actually gotten so sick I had to go to the doctor and take a day off of work around the first of April to rest. I was 35 years old and I was fed the fuck up with working a job in which I didn’t even make a full $30,000 with overtime and bonuses.
So, I spent most of Friday at the hospital. I spent most of Saturday at the office. An young Army soldier had been injured overseas and he was coming home that day. People turned out in the downtown area to welcome him back home. And I got pictures of that.
Oh, the ministrial alliance was holding an Easter egg hunt at one of the parks. They hadn’t told me about this. I only found out because people were calling the newspaper office to find out. It wasn’t just the company I was getting fed up with but the people of Wagoner.
So, I spent several hours of my Saturday at the office, playing catch-up and covering two events. And I had taken some work home so I could do it on my laptop and home computer. It was a long day. The next day on Sunday, I could’ve done some work. But I was fed up. I was tired. I rested.
Little did I know in 24 hours, I would be unemployed.
So, I went into the office and the first thing I see is an e-mail from my managing editor about the Army soldier. They were mad I didn’t put much on the Internet. Well, considering that as usual, the Internet went on the fritz at work, I did what I could. I also wasn’t going to go banging on doors on a weekend to get a family to interact with the press. They’re had also been some issue with a troll on social media. I couldn’t immediately block him. I had to contact the “internet content editor” about this. I was supposed to post stuff always online but I wasn’t able to control the content when things got toxic.
Oh, before I get to the e-mail. The paper was trying to compile a bullshit special section to drive up their ad revenue. If you don’t know what a special section is, it’s a complete waste of money that print media publishers push on their advertisers. You know those little insert packages you find in newspapers that you glance at and then toss away, those are special sections. Normally, unless it’s sports related or having to deal with a high school graduation, no one gives a shit. This was one of the special sections that no one gave a shit, including us.
But it was apparent the company was hemorraging. Rumor had it, they lost a big publishing contract. But anyone can know there is trouble in Denmark. When I started working in May of 2006, the newspaper company seemed to be thriving. But they put the wrong people in charge. They pissed off advertisers. They pissed off their IT people, which you just don’t do in the 21st Century if you’re in media. A lot of people realized it was easier to post something on social media for free. The Internet didn’t ruin print media. Old-timers afraid to change ruined print media.
So, back to this email. I was told to get on it immediately. And it was the word “immediately” that pissed me off. I got up from my desk and went into a back room for some privacy and called my ex. I told her, I’m not doing this anymore. I’m coming home. And I told the other people in the office I was leaving and not coming back. I gathered up all my personal items and left. I knew one of them contacted the main office because I was able to contact my managing editor “immediately.” Normally, I had to send texts or leave voice mails.
I had problems with him. I had problems with the publisher, who the best way to describe is to imagine if Donald Trump had grew up in the Ozarks. He was a grade-A smart ass and had an answer to anything, even if the answer was wrong. I called my immediate supervisor and told him I was out. He tried to say I needed to come to the main office and discuss it, but it was pointless. I said I want a raise and I want help. He said no to neither and “stop asking, because it’s not happening.”
So, what was there to talk about?
I went home and spent the rest of the day relaxing. The next day, I woke up feeling better. For the first time in so many years, I realized there was so much you could do in a day. I was sick and tired of worrying about city council meetings, county commission meetings, murder trials, sporting events and so much more.
And I didn’t tell a lot of people about leaving. Why? It was none of their businesses. They weren’t going to hire me. I had quit jobs before and the first thing I get from people is, “What are you going to do now?” Is our society so messed up that we only associate people with their jobs? Yes. It used to be you worked for a living. Now, you’re living for work.
This was 2014. I’m so glad that Millennials and Gen Zers and a few Gen Xers who didn’t buy into their elders’ bullshit, are walking away from jobs they know don’t pay much. I had a college degree and 10 years experience and my base salary wasn’t $30,000. Now, eight years later, people with master’s degrees and 10 years experience are expected to work for under $35,000.
And any Boomer who had to do the work there knows they wouldn’t have put up with it, either. That’s why I don’t understand this “No one wants to work” mentality from people 50ish and over. If it bothers them so much, they need to go work for what the company is willing to pay them. Many people over 55 couldn’t work in the service industry one week.
I spent the rest of the spring and summer looking for work to no avail. They hired someone within two weeks to take my place, which led me to realize my suspicions they wanted me gone were more substantiated. (FYI, my successor is under investigation for allegedly videotaping a minor in the bathroom. Read it here: https://money.yahoo.com/allegations-against-okay-teacher-turned-021900209.html) Oh and that managing editor? He was fired about two months after I was. I don’t know why but a lot of people have their speculations but I’m not going to say much more.
I took a job at a call center that turned out to be sham in the Fall of 2014 so I only stayed there about two or three weeks. I had to focus my attention on my ex as I became a full-time caregiver to my ex. I tried to find work, but nothing happened. I would get a few phone calls but only a few interviews. I got one call back when I was at a crowded restaurant. When I told the person I was going to step outside in a few seconds. They said to call them back. I did a few minutes later and I got the voicemail. I was ghosted. Pardon me for not sitting around in a quiet place expecting people to call.
One job interview I went on in the Fall of 2015, I could tell when I first walked in they weren’t going to hire me. One of the women there gave me a look and it was all I needed to know. I stayed for two hours and talked with everyone in the office and even did some of those lovely tests they make you do. I thought I could get it, but after a week, I knew it wasn’t happened. They sent me a general rejection letter by email.
2016 came and went with job hunting but no call backs for interviews. In the Fall of 2017, I got a job interview that looked promising until I realized I was the first person they were interviewing. It was a committee of six or seven people. Whenever you’re the first one interviewed, it’s never a good sign. Finally, in spring of 2018, I went on my last job interview. Again, I was told I was the first one being interviewed. I didn’t get the job.
After that, I decided to file for my disability. Now, four years later, I’m in worse shape. People in better health than I are getting ghosted and expected to work for $30,000 or less. So, after a two-year-long pandemic and other problems, I don’t blame them for asking for more money. Job offers are supposed to be negotiable not take it or leave it.
The Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffling as some are calling it is a powder keg that has been waiting to explode for a long time. Like that email I got from someone who hadn’t worked at the company as long as I had, it was the match that ignited it. Except now in 2022, workers have something they hadn’t had before, more voting power. Boomers’ numbers are dwindling. But don’t be surprised if the Republican Party push to move the voting age back to 21.
The American nuclear family is a fantasy that hasn’t been around in 30-40 years. It was a fantasy back then. It’s hard to tell someone about the threat of Communism when all that was preached would happen has happened in their lifetime. It’s even harder for people to want to work at a job if they know at any moment they can be let go. That’s what happened to some of the people at the newspaper computer when BHMG came on. Yes, they were offered severance packeages, I heard, but were they able to find work just as fast as they were let go? Right-to-work has pretty much done away with the notion of job security. If someone can do it cheaper or if the bosses have someone who needs a favor done, it’s easy for someone to be let go.
Also, we are moving away from the “summer jobs for youth” mentality. No longer are young people able to find work during their summers. They’re having to compete with other people. This was the case when I was in college less than 25 years ago. Someone can’t come home from college to work for two or three months anymore at the local supermarket. Those jobs are filled up.
Even worse, many people are boycotting businesses that pay those under 18 or still in high school less than what they pay older people starting out. They see this as a cheap attempt by businesses to force a 16-year-old to accept a lower wage and they can only work so many hours a week. People aren’t stupid. They see the scams.
It’s time for a great reshuffling. Just like print media, when you have old-timers refusing to accept change, it doesn’t end well.
What do you think? Please comment.