Sunday, May 20, 2007

Getting Fired

Fifteen or so years ago: Malcolm Borg, the publisher, joked with me on the floor of the Bergen Record—he liked chatting with old-timers. A few minutes later I looked up from my word-processor: Glen Ritt, the editor and a very strange man, was glaring at me. I turned away. I looked up again. He was again glaring at me, but from a different position. Sending me a message. I decided: He was nuts. So concerned that I might have an “in” with the publisher!
Tale has it that a managing editor, asked by Ritt what his agenda was, said: I want your job. Ritt fired him. I encountered the managing editor in the bathroom before he left: Why didn’t you take another job here? (I thought that, there being two managing editors, he had just been demoted.) “I wasn’t offered one,” he said.
Years later, that managing editor and I worked together at the Daily Record in Parsippany. Both of us having been fired by Glen Ritt.

I was told that Glen Ritt, interviewing someone, murmured, “I studied economics at Princeton.” He had. During a summer course. He was not known for his strict adherence to the truth.

He also told a secretary, who had arranged for him to interview someone over 40, that he never wanted to interview anyone so old again.

When I occasionally spoke with him, sometimes he would launch into incomprehensible speech. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

When he first came to the Record, I had just written a small booklet on investing for the head of the marketing department, Pete Hearne. Ritt again and again asked me: How did I happen to write the booklet? I got the message: He thought such projects were HIS job to dole out. He was forever trying to obtain more power – and clashed sometimes with the publisher and the director of advertising. No wonder he was so afraid that others would try to take his own job away! Projection.

Once I invited other columnists out to lunch—to talk about challenges and problems writing columns. Ritt came over to me: Do I want to tell him about this secret meeting? I didn’t know what he was talking about, and said so. Later I realized: He was talking about this proposed meeting of columnists. A Spanish columnist whom I had invited had told Ritt about it—had “squealed.” When I told Ritt, later, about this proposed meeting, after I had figured out what he was referring to, he seemed satisfied…that no conspiracy was afoot. (I don’t think we ever had that meeting.)

Another time, he was walking out of the room and I heard him say something. Are you talking to me? I asked. He angrily said…lots of nonsense.

Ritt killed a column of mine, one justifiably criticizing the mutual-fund ratings in Investors Business Daily. No explanation. But IBD was about to hire the Record to print something. Hence, the killed column.
I complained to Malcolm Borg. Who, I was told, raked Ritt over the coals.
Ritt called me into his office. A long tirade, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. As I recall, he said that he had held by column because…he thought it could be improved!

I was working at my desk. I looked up. Glen Ritt was glaring at me. A little later, he walked past my desk and in passing RAPPED ON MY DESK WITH HIS KNUCKLES.
What was this about? He felt that I didn’t accord him enough respect? That I wasn’t sufficiently sycophantic? If he was avid for power over people, shouldn’t those underlings of his be cowering and frightened? Or was it just that he was afraid I wanted his job—and because of my ties with Borg, I might be successful? By rapping on my desk, he was sending me a message.

I wanted to publish a mutual fund newsletter, and I sent Malcolm a note. He wasn’t interested. I decided to start a newsletter—show it to Borg—and maybe get the paper to sponsor it.
I started a newsletter, mainly getting names from a radio program I had, and I put two friends’ names on the masthead. 200 subscribers. A dinky newsletter.
Borg sent my newsletter to Ritt. “Do you know about this?”
Ritt called me down to human resources and fired me—for starting a newsletter without the company’s permission. (Also, I had put my office number in the newsletter—I didn’t have an answering machine at home.)
I was escorted out of the building—and told to come back the next day and clear my stuff out.

Ritt was getting even with me for having complained about him—and for not toadying up to him. (He had another editorial person, Bruce Locklin, fired, too, for some reason or other.) (This has turned oiut not to be true. Locklin took a buy-out.)

I wrote to Borg, complaining. He said he couldn’t do anything. What a contemptible ignorant person.
Oh, Jennifer Borg, a lawyer, had tracked my phone messages—and found that I had made phone calls to my two friends listed on the masthead! One, to arrange for tennis matches, one to arrange for lunches. While they were going to help on future issues, if there were any, they didn’t help on the first issue.

I was throroughly depressed. But my friends stood by me—and I quickly got other jobs. (I’m a conscientious person. And known to be such.) I got a job with the Passaic Herald-News. And when the Record bought the newspaper, a year or so later, Jennifer Borg had me fired! (The people at the paper liked me & arranged to give me a big severance package.)
Then, thanks to a fellow named Ron Stepneski, I got a job with the Daily Record—where I’ve worked for over 10 years. A fumble forward. When a door shuts, as Suzanne told me, a window opens. I’ve become a syndicated columnist; written two or more books; worked on over 20 public forums, with the wonderful Pat B.
The former editor of the Daily Record and the current managing editor once told me: “You’re the best hire we ever made.”

I had considered suing. Glad I didn’t. Things worked out.
Ritt got fired, too—and I once saw him in the parking lot of a local diner. He glared at me. I just looked at him coldly. Time wounds all heels.

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