I’ve never been fired from a job, which I’m sure will now trigger calls from a portion of the readership for my immediate ouster. Anyway, I’ve quit several jobs but was never fired. I attribute this largely to my ability to make myself useful.
Early in my TV news reporting career, I’d volunteer for any job, whether I knew how to do it or not. Call it misguided confidence.
Another reason why I’ve avoided the security escort to the parking lot is that I’ve never done anything to warrant getting fired, which, as we all know, isn’t necessarily a guarantee of employment but it helps. All of this leads me to query the folks who run CNN. What are grounds for dismissal at the Cable News Network?
I’m not calling for anyone to be fired. I’m just asking. I asked myself this question as CNN’s Anderson Cooper transitioned from a discussion with Jeffrey Toobin, the network’s top legal analyst, to a story about the suspension of CNN’s Chris Cuomo. Perhaps the better question is what won’t get you fired at CNN? We already have a few answers.
There was Toobin, back on the air as if nothing had ever happened. Perhaps CNN execs figured if they kept him out of sight long enough – which they did for about nine months after “the incident” – they could slide him back in there and he could pick up where he left off, with the legal analysis I mean, not the…well…just google it. The best I can do here in terms of providing context is borrow the Seinfeld euphemism. You might remember that Toobin revealed, in a Zoom session of all things, that he was not “master of his domain.”
If this doesn’t get you canned at CNN, the suspension of Chris Cuomo makes perfect sense. Cuomo committed journalistic malpractice by using his influence and sources to help his embattled brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who is facing sexual harassment allegations. It’s one of the more spectacular conflicts of interest in recent journalistic history. Yet, Cuomo was given what amounts to a long vacation. His bosses are relying on the public and media’s short attention span and figure that, eventually, most everyone will be distracted by another shiny thing, forget, lose interest, or all of the above. Then, Cuomo will reappear. I don’t know that they’re wrong.
Still, given this background, I would like to go to work for CNN, at least for a while, just to see what I can get away with. It would be a sort of social experiment. Not that CNN would ever hire me of course but just in case, I have a few ideas.
For starters, I will microwave salmon and cabbage every day for lunch. I will install a chain-link fence around my cubicle. I will nap every day at 3 p.m. I will spend at least 30 minutes of each day staring off into the distance.
I could go on but one might argue that if we’re doing the equivalency thing here, no matter how exhaustive my list of atrocities, it wouldn’t come close to rivaling the behavior of Toobin or Cuomo. Sure, I would be the most annoying employee ever, but I wouldn’t have compromised my or the network’s credibility, and I certainly wouldn’t have…well…you know…show such a horrific lack of self-control during a Zoom session.
Chris Cuomo himself has been accused by a TV producer of sexual harassment. He also lied to viewers about his involvement in his brother’s scandals. Not since George Constanza smeared strawberries on Babe Ruth’s jersey has a man done more to get fired and still kept his job.
I’m a believer in forgiveness. We all need it. But there are practical consequences of bad behavior, or at least there should be. That’s called justice. Once we’ve cracked the eggs, we can’t put them back together. Unless, of course, you work for CNN and you can just make an omelet.
Rich Manieri is a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.