Monday, March 31, 2014

Self-Worth Good, Inflated Ego Bad

As a woman raised "old school" by a hard working "DQI" (Don't Question It) family, working my butt off is not a foreign concept. I have done more than my fair share of all-nighters and 16-hour-plus workdays.

But since the economic downturn circa 2008, making a decent living seems to have become more of a herculean task. The survivors of downsizing often question whether they were really that lucky to hold on to their jobs at all, because they're now doing the work of two or more of the laid-off employees.

Usually "higher-ups" only seem to know what they don't want but never seem to know exactly what they do want.  Their beleaguered employees suffer in the fallout, trying to satisfy their conflicted bosses; personal lives and health suffer, raises of any significance appear now a perk of the past.

Experience, expertise and aging are frequently the kiss of death. Instead of being paid for an acquired skillset and years of focusing on their jobs, worker bees are either forced to work for far less than they are worth or are shuffled out of a job so "young blood" can skulk in and work for (comparable) peanuts. (Except, of course, the young'uns utilize the job for the bare minimum of skills they need to move elsewhere as soon as they can.) 

Longevity and dedication to a job, industry, or business is simply not rewarded like it was even a decade or so ago.

Everyone is replaceable. Whether you want them to be, or not. If you don't think so, take a look at the entertainment/news business.

One of the most over-inflated egos to hit the morning news-entertainment genre is Josh Elliott. His entrĂ©e onto Good Morning America was scattered and teary after saying goodbye to his buddies at ABC "brother station" ESPN. He appeared to be a super-sensitive doting father and overall loveable big lug. But there was so much more brewing under the surface—and not much of it good. (If you want the gossip about his personal exploits, just Google it—it's there in volumes and at least some of it has to be true.)

At a time when my friends in the news business have sacrificed nearly every semblance of normalcy to stay in the industry for which they have been honing their skills, they're lucky to make half of what they were making ten years ago. That is, if they have a job at all. Largely because many of their fresh-faced newbie counterparts who think they know it all can afford to work for less because they are probably still living at home with Mom and Dad. They then milk the job for contacts and status and quickly move on, without little afterthought.

Many think—just like Oprah—they're going to be a household name. (Lara Spencer gave it a go at The Insider after she first left GMA, only to return. While her re-debut was a bit frenzied, with some uncomfortable moments with Elliott as they initially tried to outdo each other for attention, she has settled in much more comfortably and quietly re-signed her contract. She'd already learned her lesson.)

The idea of being a household name is an almost laughable notion, considering the fact that many viewers can't remember anchor-reporter names half the time. Then a lot of media outlets tend to have a clone-closet of similar-looking alternates (e.g., the Berman-Tapper-Harris-Stephanopolous quadruplets and Golodryga-Faris-Vargas triplets on ABC)

Not that an astute or attentive person couldn't tell the difference among each of these reporter-anchors as credible, skilled journalists, but they all physically resembled each other to the point that ABC hoped you didn't care enough to appreciate each of them for the unique individual journalists they are. (Eventually Berman and Tapper moved on; Faris doesn't seem to be returning after maternity leave and is not currently listed in the ABC News list of talent.)

But taking all this into consideration, adding the chaos that is the television business, and Disney's historic penny-pinching ways, Elliott had the unmitigated chutzpah to ask for $8 million during his new contract negotiations when his present salary had been $1.2 million.  Nearly six times his going rate to watch an almost-creepily-child-hugging, daughter-obsessed clod shuffle around GMA everyday? He's just not cute enough to make up for his downside.

No, thank you. As a former journalist myself, as well as a loyal viewer who watches seven days a week (pretty much since the show debuted), I'm thankful GMA didn't take the bait. So off Josh goes to NBC Sports. (The rumors he was going to be a regular Today Show anchor—reportedly planted so that GMA would cave to his asking pricehave since been verified by Today to have not been based in fact).

News hit Twitter Sunday night (3/30/2014) that Elliott was joining NBC. He didn't even bother to return to GMA for a classy goodbye come Monday. (Was he afraid he'd cry? I'm sure he would have—at least for the cameras.) ABC simultaneously announced Amy Robach—a proven news pro and survivor on so many levels—would be taking his seat on the anchor desk.

Ultimately my choice would be Ron Claiborne, who in my opinion, has the class, style, charm, credibility, and chops to "fill the man void" and keep GMA from looking like The View with poor George trying to keep the girls in line. (Although I wish they could have held on to Sam Champion, who is has left a huge hole in their morning crew.)

The moral here is where I started: Everyone can be replaced. And unlike Charlie Sheen replacing Michael J. Fox on "Spin City," giving Elliott the old heave-ho is an excellent move by ABC/GMA. 

Maybe ABC will now throw some of the cash they saved into the pockets of their behind-the-scenes production staff. They've earned it.

Update: GMA continues as #1 in morning news/entertainment shows sans Elliott, with numbers rising ever higher. Paula Harris has returned from maternity leave and continues to contribute.

1 comment:

  1. I'll miss him. I like GMA - and definitely it is a step above the Today Show, which I never watch, and which really needs to replace Matt Lauer!! We'll see how this all plays out.