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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Seriously Man, AOL and Me, We’re Done Professionally

by Jay Allbritton
Thursday afternoon I received an email from my boss at Politics Daily, Michael Kraskin, that said this:
Due to new decisions regarding the editorial direction of Politics Daily and financial limitations, I'm sorry to tell you that we will be ending our contract with you effective today.
I was a bit shocked because I figured that for the meager sum they were paying me, I could blog at that site for all of eternity. At the time I guessed that they were letting me go because my posting frequency had dwindled. When I was initially hired by the site I was posting ten times a week. Since the election ended, I've been busier, so the most I managed in a week is two or three posts. Still, in my 18 months with Politics Daily (which was previously called Political Machine), no one had ever complained to me about anything I posted there.

Confused, I emailed Kraskin and asked if there were any adjustments I could make that would allow me to keep the gig. He's a nice guy, and he politely reiterated what he wrote in the first email. For an hour or so, I just felt numb and rejected. Then I went on Twitter. I quickly found out that I was not the only Politics Daily writer to have been canned by the site. Tommy Christopher has been fired from PD too. I started reconstructing the saga I had missed over the previous three days.

On June 1, Playboy blogger Guy Cimbalo published an unctuous post about the top 10 conservative women he would like to hate fuck (the post has been pulled, but Caleb Howe has the screen shots). Hate fuck? Seriously? If you're not hip to the terminology, consult with the urban dictionary. I'm not even going to go into it. Cimbalo's post was so disgusting that he managed to unite, if only temporarily, liberal and conservative bloggers at the gut level in a way in which I haven't seen in my three and a half years as a blogger. Tweets and re-tweets started flying. Posts on Hot Air were suddenly lining up with posts on Huffington Post. LOLcats and LOLdogs living together. Madness.

Tommy weighed in on the controversy at Politics Daily right away. Tommy jumps on stories and produces funny material about them fast. I know because I spent over a year racing him to the primo material when we were both posting frequently during the never ending election season.

I'm not sure how long it took, but the post he wrote was taken down, reportedly because of profanity, although the piece contained no uncensored profanity. Since nothing dies in the blogosphere, you can still read the post at Tommy's blog Tommy Christopher's Daily Dose. According to reports, Tommy was fired three days later by Politics Daily editor-in-chief Melinda Henneberger just hours after pitching a follow up on the Playboy saga. Jason Linkins has details of Tommy's firing at Huffington Post. Tommy wrote about it here.

In following the story of Tommy's firing I noticed in the comments section of Linkins' story that several other Politics Daily writers were fired at the same time I was fired. These were the bloggers who were hired by AOL when they hired Tommy and me in late 2007, to help launch Political Machine, which was re-branded earlier this year as Politics Daily. We were all kept on after the re-launch even though a bunch of experienced writers I never heard of were hired and featured on the site.

Despite Kraskin's assertions that I was let go because of Politics Daily's "editorial direction" and "financial limitations" it's hard for me to accept that the timing of the firing of all the Political Machine bloggers and Tommy's firing are unrelated. I can only speculate.

Henneberger told Linkins this:
Does it make a lick of sense to you that I would fire anyone for standing up for women, or for taking on that disgusting story in Playboy? [ED. NOTE: Uhm...no, Melinda, it doesn't, which is sort of why I asked the question!] The bloggers for the old AOL site, Political Machine, weren't retained for the new site, Politics Daily, which has only been in existence for the last five weeks, and which we're just staffing up. Sorry so dull, but there's nothing more to it than that.
Maybe Tommy was just part of the purge. I've heard differing accounts of the timing. Maybe the people at AOL didn't anticipate the immediate criticism they would receive for letting Tommy go, so they decided that firing all the Political Machine writers would allow them to respond to that criticism by saying that Tommy's firing was just one of several lay-offs associated with the re-brand. Or the economy.

So, the AOL audience will no longer have my posts to comment on in all-caps anymore, unless they come to Ice Station Tango to do it. I had a great time writing for AOL. The Political Machine team covered the election very well and I will always be very proud of my participation in that coverage. Everyone at the site has been very kind and professional, regardless of political ideology, since day one. I wish the fired PM'ers luck moving forward. I also wish Michael Kraskin, Melinda Henneberger and everyone still working for Politics Daily all the best. No hard feelings. I just think the firings were weird and unfair, but that's life.

Moving on.


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