Why Media Pros Sometimes Get Fired

A picture of a woman getting a pink slip
Getting fired may be a shock, but it's common in the media industry. Photo © Sharon Dominick / Getty Images

Getting fired from a media job is much more common than in other industries. Because of that, being handed a pink slip isn't usually a career-killer. These are the top three reasons for getting fired in the media industry.

Getting Fired for Violating Your Media Contract

Most people who work in media have to negotiate a media contract, which is full of requirements and restrictions on employment. Examine the basics of a TV contract, which has several key parts that would likely appear in other types of media agreements.

One key element is the list of services you are to provide exclusively to your media company. That means a reporter who might win a media industry award for a touching TV story of a woman's battle with breast cancer can't turn around and sell the story to a magazine without permission from her station or network.

Moonlighting by working on a political campaign, even as a volunteer, is usually considered a conflict of interest and would end with your getting fired. People in other industries will often seek out your knowledge and list of contacts and not understand when you're unwilling to help. But your media contract gives your company wide-ranging ownership over your actions.

If your career ambitions are conflicting with the agreement you made, know how to break your media contract the right way to avoid a confrontation that could lead to your dismissal.

Getting Fired for Poor Personal Conduct

Getting fired for bad behavior isn't limited to finding a pink slip after you've thrown a chair through a window in the newsroom.

Often, conduct away from work is also grounds for dismissal.

An arrest on a drunk-driving charge can get you canned, even long before your trial. Most media companies consider any behavior that might make a negative public impression on the company as reason enough for termination. That's especially true if you have a name, face or voice that is easily recognized in your community.

Media companies expect their top people to have squeaky-clean images. That includes talking positively about the company and the community at all times.

This requirement often prevents media pros from being totally themselves, especially when chatting with friends on Facebook or Twitter. People in media can use Facebook to build their brand, but not to post drunken party pictures or rant about the government. Twitter is an effective tool as well, but tweets must not be too opinionated, unless that is part of your specific job.

Good professional morality would prevent you from accepting payola, even if it isn't specifically in a contract or job description. Keeping high media ethics standards isn't an option, they are a necessity of the business.

That would mean someone working in news would never slant a political news story for money, influence or any other motivation. People in the magazine industry should never break the rules of photo manipulation as a way to deceive the readers, no matter how easy today's software may make it.

Getting Fired for Bad Job Performance

It's a given that if you don't show up for work, you'll get canned. That's true in every industry. But in media, job performance is measured in many different ways.

The country's best TV news anchor will have his job security measured in part by the Nielsen ratings. Even if he's early to work, helpful and friendly, if the audience chooses to watch someone else, he could be fired. Conversely, there are plenty of stories about hard-drinking, womanizing, lazy anchormen who are loathed in their newsroom but are popular with viewers and who are protected from getting fired.

Consider how your job skills will be rated. Someone working in media sales might be too aggressive to invite to a dinner party, but knows how to push clients into purchasing commercials. A newspaper editor might be popular with the newsroom staff, but if circulation dwindles, personality isn't as important as performance.

Occasionally, a change in ownership or management is the only reason a media pros gets fired.

Incoming bosses want to hire their own team. That means getting rid of people, even those who are good at their jobs, to create openings to fill with new faces.

With all the potential reasons for getting fired in media, it's easy to see why it happens to nearly everybody. If it happens to you, learn from whatever mistake you made and then apply for your next media job. As long as you don't wind up in prison, there'll be another media company eager to hire you.

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