Monday, January 21, 2008

The whole story

Ok, so, this'll probably get a little long-winded and I'll apologize in advance. So much has been asked and speculated and surmised and whatever that I sort of feel like there's more of a record that needs to be set straight than just saying, this is how the firing went down.

So, from the beginning, I guess: I started doing the Ask A Lobbyist column in August of '06 in the midst of a soul-suckingly awful stint at a consulting firm (and, at a really difficult time in my personal life). When the Anonymous Hill Staffer guy left, Alex Pareene put out a call for entries (Hillies or whomever) and I sent an email, he thought it was funny and I started writing. A lot of the time I wrote drunk. Once I wrote drunk, sick and late at night from Vietnam (a business trip). My dad and a couple of friends that knew about it thought it was hilarious that I was able to stay anonymous because it sounded so much like talking to me when I had my rant pants on. It was never great money (Peter, aka Princess Sparkle Pony, called it "shoe money" to me once, and he was right) but it was a good outlet for a lot of frustration with both the job I was in and the anti-lobbyist backlash in the world (when, really, the politicians are as bad if not worse).

Then that October I got a new job and kept doing the columns because I liked it. It was one of the few times I got be be creative in my writing (press releases=not very fun) and I had inadvertently (again) stumbled into a job for which I wasn't particularly suited experience-wise (they should've hired someone with less), politically (they told me they were very non-partisan and no one there was) or interest-wise (because they didn't let me do any intellectually stimulating work nearly the entire time I was there).

In the mean time, Alex put me in touch with Moe Tkacik and we hit it off and she liked my writing and she asked if I would be interested in taking over "That's So Janes" at Jezebel, and I was. They posted my first one when I was on a cross-country road trip with my cousin and, when I came back, my employer laid me off. That sucked. It was also just about the time that Alex was leaving to work for Gawker and John Clarke was joining Wonkette and it seemed like serendipitous timing to me because I realized that I was burnt out at being a lobbyist and that I'd only ever had two jobs (of 6) that I liked and that was because of the bosses I'd had.

So, I spent October unemployed, writing columns for Jezebel and Wonkette and looking for work and trying to decide on a career transition (work on the Hill, for a non-profit, see what could come of the writing thing, etc.). Anna was heading off on a vacation and Moe pitched me as a guest editor and Anna agreed; in the mean time, John Clarke said he wanted to hire me because he liked my voice and my insider-y-ness and because it was a woman's voice- but that I needed a trial run and so that's what my Jezebel guesting stint became.

And I found I really liked it, despite the pace and everything. So, while we were negotiating during my trial period, for the record, no one pressured me to stop being anonymous. But, I figured that if I was going to make the jump to blogging/writing/journalism, I should do it whole-heartedly. If it failed, well, I'd be in no worse a position than I was in last October but at least I would have a body of work for which I could take credit. And, on using the pictures, well, I was egged on by my gay best friend and a really good photographer the day after my 30th birthday and the day after the man I'd been dating decided (at 4:20) that he needed a break from our relationship because it was too much pressure. That made for a fun birthday, though Alex's going-away party was a good way to get out of the house. And I figured that, if nothing else, no one would be scoping my Facebook profile or a cached version of my (now defunct) website looking for sexier or less flattering pictures of me (and, I was right). Plus, my idea of what's not shocking (lying fully clothed in a bathtub with the shower going) was never quite in tune with most of DC's, as my grad school classmates can attest.

So, I outed myself and started working and trying to be true to the vision for the site that was laid out for me: newsy, cynical, (yes) snarky, funny when it warranted, insider-y, etc. And then things were thrown into chaos with John's abrupt departure and Jim and I ended up basically running the site for a month. Despite the fact that we still had to post 10 times a day in addition to doing administrative stuff (which made for long days) and the fact that December's never a great month, I thought we did pretty well: traffic went steadily up, I didn't think our writing quality declined, etc. Plus, Jim and I have similarly collaborative working styles and complementary interests, so it was rare that we ever wanted to write the same story.

We found out Ken Layne was starting about the same time everyone else did on January 2nd and were both really super excited. That wore off a little quickly for me, as it was obvious from the get-go that he was not a fan of my writing. He didn't think I was funny and he didn't like when I was serious or rant-y and it was pretty clear to me by last weekend that what happened was going to happen. I was still in the probationary phase of my contract (3 months and I'd get 2 weeks notice), but I figured that he might let that run down before letting me go. I was wrong.

He very politely called me at 5:30 on Friday (which: standard HR practice, truly) to tell me that it had been my last day writing for Wonkette. He told me that the intention of bringing him back was to move the site towards being what it was under him and Alex and that my voice and writing didn't fit with that vision -- and he's right, it doesn't. In that editorial environment, I would stick out like a sore thumb, and he said he wanted a more uniform tone. He said that I should finish what I was doing, write a goodbye and call it a day. Getting fired sucks, but he wasn't a dick about it.

So, I finished my post on the Texas guy and the Sharon Jones video that Eric Brewer had done, and contemplated what to write for a little while. I had a short conversation over IM with Anna and Moe to let them know what was going on, and to ask if I would still be contributing to Crappy Hour and whether they might be able to pay me for some contributions and they said yes, so I added that to the goodbye. I also called my parents and emailed some people so that no one would completely freak out when it went up. And then I pushed "Publish" and logged out of the system.

So, to some of the stuff that's been said on the comment boards and others. It didn't feel, nor was it presented, like sexism and I doubt seriously that Ken was jealous of me, given that he comes with like 20 some years of experience and his own following. Ken's assessment of my fit with where he wants to take Wonkette is completely accurate, even if the results of that are personally devastating to me. I have no idea whether Nick Denton was informed of or gave any input to Ken about the decision to fire me, though my (admittedly limited) experience with him suggests to me that he was probably like "Do what you think best" if he was told.

So, that's the story. It is, admittedly, kind of boring. And now I'm going back to bed for a couple of hours because I was out late, up early and I like sleeping. Then I'll get on the job search train.

30 comments:

M said...

On what planet are they living if they think your writing isn't the best thing that's happened to Wonkette in a long time. I don't get what "vision" they have for Wonkette, I guess. Thanks for the explanation. xoxox

Anonymous said...

I'd stopped reading Wonkette until they brought you on. It had gotten so... dull and dry. Looks like I'll be dumping it from my daily rotation, again. I'm happy to hear that I'll still get to read some from you on Jezebel.

coozledad said...

You're a much better writer. These guys would have fired Orwell and replaced him with Hitchens.
I still think Josh Marshall wants to have your children.

rptrcub said...

It seems the theory I posited earlier was true--that there was too much "wonk" for the tastes of some. Well, so what? I prefer some intelligence in the midst of some silly posts. Good luck with the job search.

rptrcub said...

BTW, totes put up ads on this blog, Meg. I'll click all over the place for yas, and I think the rest of the HFA will too.

Anonymous said...

You don't fit their vision of the site? That's bullshit.
If there's one thig I've learned, its that you make room for talent in an organization. You were the one who really had your finger on the pulse of the wonkette community (and frankly, the comments from the readers are usually the reason why I head over there. You fit in well). Letting you go was a big mistake.

louisev said...

There are a couple of bright spots in the story, I have to say. First, that it was not the quality of your work - you were hired to do what you were doing, and that Ken was forthright with you. Nothing sucks worse than a boss who decides he has to run you down and take no prisoners to justify a decision! However it does seem like Ken came back and replaced you with himself, and that is sad to see. Keep on trucking Megan, I'm glad to see you still have irons in the fire!

litotes said...

Thanks for the frank and thorough story. Especially kind of you to relive the whole sorry sequence, when you would probably much rather be moving on.

I'd just like to add my voice to the choir, and say that your Wonkette posts showed an exemplary writer and an absolutely spot-on lethal satirist.

Be afraid, hypocrites and liars, be very afraid. Megan's out there, and she's uncaged.

Can't wait to see where you end up.

corprip said...

The explanation about fits what I expected it to be. There were quite a few posts of yours that I enjoyed quite a lot, with the post(s) about the Bhutto assassination shining the most. But even at the time, I was thinking it was much more serious in tone than Wonkette normally is, and wondered whether that direction would be keeping in line with the original spirit of Wonkette. I think AMC more or less pioneered the "ass-fucking" angle on politics, and during the tenures of the various editors and writers, that is about the only them to which editors could go back and sync with the expected tone of the blog.

So I am sad to see you go. It is nice to see you approach this with maturity. With that said, could you please put out a call to reign in the Megtards? They are really getting annoying.

blogenfreude said...

Shouldn't their vision for the site take in account what the readers like, want to read?

Homofascist said...

Thanks for this Megan - it definitely puts things in perspective and I think will help us Megtards decide what we want to do next.

Nabisco said...

I totally got the editor's voice thing from the moment I heard the shoe drop, but still...how could Ken never have liked your writing, when your AL posts were consistently meaty, snarky and attractive to a really wide audience at Wonkette?

Keep the quill pen inked and ready. You're mighty, and we're your minions.

-N

lonbordin said...

Megan- Thanks for your side.
Wonkette isn't the same without you.

Not going back.

kat said...

I agree with everybody else. You were the only reason I ever went to Wonkette anymore, and I won't be going back.

keltzjm said...

I loved your writing at Wonkette and I'm sure I'll be reading the site a lot less now. If swooning over Barak Obama, calling the media out on post-Bhutto-assassination photos and comparing Mike Huckabee's vision of America to The Handmaid's Tale is wrong then I don't want to be right. I suppose now only female politicians (who am I kidding, they're too old, I should have said the daughters of politicians) will be objectified from now on?

I look forward to seeing your work on Jezebel.

nojo said...

Now I'm all pissed again, but thanks for the background. As I think rptrcub has noted elsewhere, I was really looking forward to election-year coverage with Friday's team, especially the balance of perspectives. Now I feel like Vince Grove has jumped off the teeter-totter again, leaving me to crash my ass, and I really don't need to relive third-grade memories.

Anonymous said...

Christ, that was boring. Are you sure there wasn't a knife fight or something you missed? Some thrown chairs you forgot about?

sanfranlefty said...

Thanks for the info.

How's your hangover headache?

Kisses from Cali,

SF Lefty

DC1974 said...

I could sort of see this as well. I noticed when Ken and Alex were working together that over time Alex started to write more and more like Ken. To the point that they were sort of indistinguishable. I thought it was just that Alex was younger and was looking for his voice.

Apparently, this is Ken's thing: a consistent voice no matter who is actually writing. I like Ken's voice. But I don't necessarily want everyone to sound like Ken.

It's his site, though, I suppose. And I have no doubt that you'll move up to bigger and more awesome stuff. Still, though, thanks for taking the high road with your "whole story." You remain wonderfully professional. When I'm sure it would help to call everyone a hypocrit and denounce men in general. We'll do it for you.

SouthernDem said...

Just catching up with the whole scandal (thank god for long weekends, but I'll repost my take on the shitstorm:

Congrats on 1,000 comments of support. As for the loss of Megan, it's a shame, but in the end it's just a blog, and I couldn't care less how Nick Denton chooses to run his mini-empire (even if it's into the ground).

Here's to bigger and better for you, Ms. Not So Anonymous Lobbyist. My advice is to leave DC and only occasionally look back. As Kennedy famously said, it's a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm. And it's populated by a lot of backstabbing assholes (formerly including yours truly). So find yourself a good state Capital (might I suggest Madison, WI or Raleigh, NC?) and get back to work.

Cheers.

(after considering this some more, I thought I'd give you unsolicited names of other state capitals you might enjoy: Providence, Boston, Austin, Nashville, Atlanta, Denver, Portland, Boise, Santa Fe). Seriously, though, get out of DC. The rent's too high and the BS is through the roof.

2Truthy said...

I'm a big Ken & Pareene fan who are, IMHO true to the departed voice of the Mistress of Subtlety, AMC. These guys both putte the *ette* in Wonkette, even if they are guys. Your writing (the girl can do Satire!) added an extra dimension that beefed up the homogeneous tone which, as you can see, was welcome by its readers, no small thanks to you.

I became a Megan fan with the Bhutto piece, where I got *shocked* Wonkette would be so, uhm, srsly sensitive when every other site was doing business as usual by keeping those unsightly, dead bodies of loved ones out of view. (I love real chaos and not homogenous, organized chaos.) That took guts to let us hear YOUR original voice on a site strait-jacketed in robo-writer, pay-for-click mode. More time together would have sorted this out?

Call me crazy -- or Rodney King ---but Ken, I just want to say, you know, can't we all get along?

So Happy King Day, Megan, and best to you. -t.t.

Agent Sparks said...

I'm pissed! I don't want you to not write for Wonkette and I'm not afraid to throw a big bitchfit about it! And by "bitchfit" I really mean join the HFA and post an entry about you on my personal blog.

Ken Layne can suck a fat nut!

Djuha said...

I'm still convinced that Bill Kristol/Carla Bruni had something to do with it...

Very sad, but at least we're no longer in the dark about it, imagining the worst. You were the brightest star since Alex. The whole tone BS is BS, quality is quality and readers aren't going to make their choices based on "tone," they go for what makes em laugh!

SayItWithWookies said...

Well while I disagree with their assessment of your writing and style, I'm chalking it up to "that kinda shit happens in the real world" and moving on. Your posts enlivened Wonkette and they're worse off without you. And while I'll probably still read and comment there, I'll make extra room for anything new you do. So screw 'em -- kick the dust off your feet and keep up the inspired writing.

sugartitties said...

1. Megtards 4 life

2. The Bhutto piece literally made me cry. Which might have been bcs I forgot my Lexapro that day, but still.

3. I'm almost sad it wasn't a more catastrophic firing, bcs I really wanted someone to hate. Poli-blogs need more swooning. I say this as a girl who literally voted for John Edwards once just because he's hot. (I can't even believe I'm admitting this). My friend, who campaigned for him in some rando midwestern state, KISSED HIM ON THE LIPS when she met him. Which I told her to keep secret so people wouldn't think he cheated on Elizabeth. Anyway, it only worked bcs she sort of lunged and took him surprise. John's response: "Well, Jen, that was the most passionate expression of support I've had yet."

sugartitties said...

(I find it hard to believe nobody else kissed him on the campaign trail, but I guess babies don't count)

Yarha said...

I'm surprised they fired you for just homogeneity's sake, but then I dunno about 'blogs-that-use-money'. It appears you didn't bugger the bursar, so time to go forward, en avant! Excelsior! Whatnot.

TGY, К Блестящие Будущей!

latenightmoneyshots said...

So much for you becoming my wino-hag and attending janky parties with me.... the boycott of wonkette has officially begun. If you ever need more scoops on the AOF or LNS tomfoolery, let me know... you can have exclusive rights to my intelligence

Anonymous said...

totes put up ads on this blog, Meg. I'll click all over the place for yas,

rptrcub don't be a fucking retard she'll get kicked out of adsense if you spam-click it out, this girl has a hard enough time staying employed.

Sarah L said...

please keep writing for Jezebel, it's a lot more fun than Wonkette now anyway.

And don't leave DC, I'm bummed enough that Pareene left. something cool will come down the pike. have you checked brightest young things? I don't know who runs the site but it seems to keep growing so if nothing else probably a great place to keep writing more. Also what about media bistro?

bonne chance !