Fired by the Journal

At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.

On Tuesday, Nov. 22, I was fired from my job reporting for the Albuquerque Journal newspaper, for sending the following letter to spokespeople for Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, congressmen representing my state and home district:

Hello. Hope you’re well. This message is for an article or a series of
articles I plan on writing for the paper sometime in the near future.
Please read all the way through.

I have never been so engaged in politics as I am now. This is bad news
for me, because the stories either lay bare how genuinely stupid
politics can be, or how corrupt (income inequality, unemployment,
taxation). Depressing stuff. It’s all bad news. All. Bad. News.

In spite of all this bad news (or probably because of it, if I’m
honest) I can’t stop following what’s going on with our suit-wearing
representatives in Washington D.C.

You are the spokesperson for a member of Congress. That member of
Congress is paid six figures to represent the people, to solve the
problems of constituents on a day-to-day basis. As a spokesperson
whose job exists so that we in the media may tell the public what is
happening at the highest levels, I challenge you to prove me wrong
when I say politics is dominated by the lazy and corrupt. Prove to me
that your boss is working for the people in his district, and not his
fellow suits.

But do so with awesomeness, in a way that grabs me and then my
readers. I’ve seen your press releases, and they’ve got no zing. No
pizzazz. I don’t think legislation crafting and meetings are what this
country needs right now. America needs action! So what was your guy up
to yesterday or today to make things better for the middle-class in
New Mexico?

I realize individual Congressmen aren’t deciding whether to arm the
Libyan rebels (did you read the article in Rolling Stone about Obama’s
decision on that? It was crazy), but there’s cool stuff going on with
Congress, right? Did you ever watch The West Wing?

Tell me about politics working, not making things worse.

Don’t ignore this email. This is a challenge. A duel. You’re a
congressional flack and I’m a newspaper reporter, so let’s dance. Give
me some good, interesting news that out-awesomes the depressing crap
we get coming out of D.C. on a daily basis. We have been slovenly in
our professions, we flacks and reporters. Society is suffering for it.

Congress’s approval rating is nine percent. As a congressional
spokesperson, that’s on you too.

This really is going to be an article, or at least a column, but feel
free to take a few days to respond. And I don’t want to talk about it
face to face, or over the phone. Only by e-mail. En guarde!

None of the flacks ever replied. One of them sent it to the Jounal’s reporter in D.C., and it moved up the hierarchy until the Editor-in-Chief decided it was grounds for my firing, three days after I first sent it out.

I’m super angry about this. I’ll probably stay super angry about this for the rest of my life. BUT… I’m not going anywhere. I’m still in Santa Fe, reporting and writing and watching movies and drawing Muhammad Ali fighting a dragon. Life is pretty sweet here most days. My brain feels lighter since the firing. I’ve lost a job before and bounced back. I’ll bounce back again.

Just watch.


7 thoughts on “Fired by the Journal

  1. Hey “Boo,”

    Once upon a time there was this guy, a younger reporter, who got sick and tired of the bullshit veneer of “objectivity” that was supposed to coat stories of outright wrongdoings because he thought this hoax was disingenuous and a disservice to his readers, his credibility and his own Karma. So one day this young turk decided to tell some elected officials what he really thought about what it was they were doing, and to challenge them to prove that what he was thinking was wrong.

    As could have been expected, the Powers That Be quickly protested the guy’s actions to the guy’s boss, which made the bosses very, very cross. Before the poor guy could even stammer, “Rumplestiltskin,” in his own defense to his bosses, he found himself reassigned to other duties and holding a one-way ticket to the magical Land of Unemployment due to “cost considerations” and an initiative to “right-size” the company.

    Sound familiar? It’s an old story. One that will be repeated over and over again, but with the protagonists and antagonists played by different actors in different theaters. I know the script well, as do you. As such, don’t be super angry or stay super angry. We tend to find ourselves exactly where we’re supposed to be. So take heart, young man, your destiny lies elsewhere.

    Call me if you want. We’ll talk. I’ll buy you a bowl of soup. It’ll be good.

  2. If you’re going to get fired, that’s the way to go.

    As another plus, you’ll have more time for college hoops and (finally) the NBA.

    Good luck.

  3. Pingback: This is the type of letter that will get you fired at a newspaper « Michael Amedeo Tumolillo

  4. I don’t know what the hell you were thinking?

    But as a Journal reporter you must have understood that everything about your job was “on the record”.

    That you didn’t when you wrote the letter suggests that:

    #1 You weren’t really suited for the job.

    #2 The job wasn’t really suited for you.

    Nonetheless, there’ s a lesson here for those who might be considering the trade and that is:

    #1 It is far easier to shape the news from inside than out.

    #2 Never repeat the libel.

    #3 And when all else fails, start a blog.

  5. I have a friend who asks me a profound question whenever I run into him.

    What’s REALLY going on?

    That’s what Phil was asking those flacks.

    Political news releases are often dull, self-serving, a quarter of the story and not really newsworthy. Though it’s clear that there’s real news happening in there somewhere. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that PIOs get better at telling the truth, and reporters get better at telling the story. We would all do well to turn off the cruise control.

  6. Pingback: What Was He Thinking? A Cautionary Tale

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