Forget “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” Let’s talk about “Three Ways To Leave Your Job.”
I’m guessing you’re just like me when it comes to resigning. Making the decision to quit can be painful, but once you’re there, you start thinking about the best way to go about it. “Never Burn A Bridge” echoes in your head. Very carefully, you try to orchestrate a quiet, private session with the boss, laying out your reasons, hoping to exit on at least civil, if not entirely pleasant terms. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not.
Things can get complicated, however, when matters of conscience are involved; if, for example, you feel your employer is doing something improper or at odds with your personal values. Here’s where many folks decide they need to do more than just leave. They endeavor to send a message.
Then, of course, there is a third category. That’s when you cultivate such an outsized self-image that you seriously believe your newly-unemployed status is major news, and with enablers like YouTube readily available, it’s pretty easy to indulge that ego of yours:
So, what should we make of Liz Wahl? (and Abby Martin, but I’ll get to her in a minute).
Ever since Ms. Wahl resigned on the air at Russia Today to protest the invasion of Crimea and RT’s handling of the story, a debate has raged over her real motivations, her state of mind, her politics, her knowledge of Ukraine or lack thereof, RT’s true nature, and on and on. No need to rehash most of that now. For the record, though, here’s how she did it:
Whether you believe this is a Category 2 (conscience/message) or a Category 3 (ego indulging) or some combination of both, the episode started me thinking about other times a public figure, or someone with access to a public forum, has made a deliberate decision to not go quietly.. and why they do it.
Turns out, it happens a lot. Jack Paar walking off The Tonight Show in 1960 is perhaps the best-known example. He was upset with NBC and with some newspaper columnists:
Another late night leave-taking happened in 1968 when Regis Philbin exited The Joey Bishop Show, only to return a week later. Philbin now says it was a stunt engineered by Bishop, but for a long time, Reege kept up the charade:
By the way, sometimes it’s the boss who finds the mic or the camera first. Or the phone. Like AOL’s Tim Armstrong firing Patch’s creative director, right in the middle of a conference call, for taking a picture. Or, more famously, radio icon Arthur Godfrey canning singer Julius La Rosa, after a song:
Lower down the media food chain, the aforementioned YouTube is chock full of, in my opinion, very juvenile on-air personalities waiting for the mic to go hot and the camera to roll before giving a verbal middle finger to the media company/snake-in-a-suit/clueless boss who put them on TV or on the radio in the first place. Anchors. Disc Jockeys. Sportscasters. Most of them predictably allude to a litany of mistreatments, slights, contract impasses, followed by heartfelt goodbyes and thank-you’s to the loyal viewers/listeners, etc. etc. There are even a handful of folks who get up out of their anchor chairs, walk off the set, and never come back. I won’t repost those videos. Those guys are just crybabies and not very interesting.
Probably my favorite public exit based on principle took place away from the cameras, even though the perpetrator could have easily found a few reporters only too happy to record him (and it wasn’t long before they did).
When President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, Ford’s brand new press secretary and friend of 25 years, Jerald terHorst, quit. He wrote a letter. Not exactly a private heart-to-heart with the boss, but on the other hand he didn’t call a full-blown news conference, either.
Look, I’m willing to concede that ego very likely figures in even the most noble and principled public resignations, and that the biggest egotists may also sincerely believe they’re doing something high-minded and right. We humans are multidimensional creatures and there’s a lot going on in our incredibly complicated minds.
So when Liz Wahl quits on camera, I’m glad she exposed RT for what it is, but not so glad she immediately became the cable news flavor of the month, appearing on one talking head show after another. I have decidedly less warmth for, and am considerably more wary of her colleague Abby Martin, who criticized Vladimir Putin but stayed on the job. Martin’s previous pronouncements on everything from 9/11 to Israel make one take anything she says or does with several grains of salt.
And speaking of staying on the job, I have to address the 800-pound pair of suspenders in the room: Larry King.
Did you know Larry has two shows on RT? And, at least so far, he has no intention of leaving? He explains it this way:
“I don’t work for RT. It’s a deal made between the companies (RT and OraTV in which King has an equity stake). “They just license our shows.”
“It would be bad if they tried to edit out things– I wouldn’t put up with it. As long as they don’t, as long as they’re carrying stuff critical of them, I’ve got no problem with it.”
King is splitting hairs. He makes money by appearing on RT, he’s a big part of their PR campaign, and the fact that they haven’t censored him yet is hardly justification for contributing to an entity most observers agree is a state-run propaganda machine.
After he left CNN but before his shows began airing on Russia Today, King gave this interview to an RT reporter:
King’s “It” guy has invaded a neighboring country, lied about it, and brought the world to the brink of a new Cold War. King should sever his relationship with RT, yesterday.