Losing my dream job and the Conan connection

Posted on March 10, 2010


At the 2009 Louisiana  Associated Press Awards

At the 2009 Louisiana Associated Press Awards

In 2007 I got to live my dream.
In March of that year, right after my 37th birthday (March 23 to be exact), I filed my first story as weekend reporter for KTVE NBC 10.
A month later I resigned my duties as co-host of the Whipping Boy Show on radio station KXRR Rock 106 and went to work full time as a general assignment reporter at KTVE.
Within eight months I was promoted to weekend anchor, a few months later I was promoted to senior ‘night side’ reporter and anchor for FOX 14 News at Nine.
In a pretty short time, less than two years after I started with KTVE, I reached the top of the ladder in our newsroom, anchoring three newscasts Monday through Friday.
It was a dream come true. When I signed a three-year contract in March 2009 I told my boss I wanted it to be the last job I ever held.
My wife and I started planning our retirement (in 25 or 30 years).
My love for the TV news business started when I was a little boy growing up in Swartz in the 1970’s and 80’s. Until the age of 15 my maternal grandparents raised me. James and Kathleen Sliger were both in their mid forties in 1970 when I was born. As I’m sure you can guess, my greatest generation grandparents and I didn’t have a lot in common. After he got home from work every weekday my grandfather watched KNOE TV8 News, followed by the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.
I watched with him. I think maybe I did this to feel closer to him.
The last chopper to leave Vietnam, Watergate and Nixon’s shame, the death of Elvis and the murder of John Lennon, the day newly elected President Reagan was shot-all these events unfolded on our living room TV, narrated by my ‘Uncle’ Walter.
That’s why in 1987 one month after my 17th birthday, six months after I dropped out of high school, I signed up for TV broadcasting class at the local Vo-Tech.
That fall I got my first taste of the business with an internship in the KNOE sports department under the legendary Lanny James.
Like it was yesterday, I remember my first assignment. Armed with a camera and 3/4-inch tape recorder, I traveled to several high school football games shooting video for that night’s 10 o’clock sports. I even had a press pass and a magnet that said KNOE SPORTS slapped on the side of my Mercury Bobcat, so I could park wherever I wanted at the various stadiums I visited that night. It was one of the best nights of my life.
Over the next twenty-three years I worked in the media business. During that time, in addition to working in television news, first behind, then in front of the cameras, I’ve been a successful talk show host on radio and I’ve written articles for various news and entertainment publications.
But being the senior anchorman at KTVE NBC 10 was the very best of all those gigs.
A Dream Come True!
On August 19, 2009 that dream died. That day I was fired for a comment I’d posted on my personal Facebook page five days earlier.
It hurt like hell then and it’s still an open wound today.
I won’t go into all the details of how this has devastated my family. Most of you know how hard it is to be unemployed with a spouse and kids, but I would like to give you one example: my wife Amy, one of the hardest working people I know, is sick. She gets nauseous every time she eats. Amy owns her own business and though she’s only been at it for a year, she’s been very successful. Thank God for that, since her business is our family’s sole means of support. But she can’t afford health insurance for herself, let alone for our family. So Amy has to ‘suck it up’ and chomp antacids and aspirin and wait till 3/22/10, almost two weeks from now to get help. That is the first day she can afford to take time off and travel to the local charity hospital to sit in an always-crowded waiting room, in hopes of seeing a doctor who can ease her pain.
The constant calls from creditors, repo-men beating on the front door, eviction notices taped to the back door, that’s been our reality for the last seven months.
So when I heard what happened to Conan O’Brien, how his dream-job was ripped away, I felt an instant kinship with the gangly, red-haired comedian. I wasn’t embarrassed on national TV like Conan, but I think I understand what he’s feeling.
I only hope that by the time he reappears after his non-compete period is up (something else I understand all too well; even though I was fired, Nexstar can sue me and who ever hires me for trying to find work in media  for one year, this on top of the fact that they failed at an attempt to stop me from receiving unemployment benefits: “Hey thanks for helping us get our ratings up over the last two plus years and helping us secure a cross promotion deal with the Monroe Regional Airport and for hawking your 2010 Olympic advertising four days after posting the Facebook comment…but go screw yourself–and your little dog too!”), I will have regained my sense of humor long enough to actually have a laugh.
To hell with you Jay, I’m with Coco.
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