Khristopher Brooks, Young Reporter Fired Over A Press Release [Q&A]
Detroit native says he was just showing his excitement for new job at a Delaware newspaper
Brooks was packing up his apartment and getting ready to begin a new job, as the enterprise reporter for the News Journal in Wilmington, Del. He had also written a press release, which he posted to his personal Tumblr blog on April 9, announcing his career move and quoting from his job offer letter.
Wrong move, he soon found out. The newspaper called Brooks on Wednesday evening and rescinded their job offer, citing “illegal” use of the company’s logo and unauthorized use of the contents of the offer letter. He was offered the job on March 23, he said.
The 27-year-old Detroit native lives in Brooklyn, NY and is preparing to graduate from New York University’s literary reportage graduate journalism program. He’ll walk across the stage on May 11 and then move out of his apartment, without a job to go.
His layoff from a job at the Omaha World-Herald a couple of years ago brought him to New York for school. But Brooks says the entire ordeal has been a learning experience.
Loop 21: The last 24 hours have been pretty interesting for you, to say the least. Can you explain what’s happened?
Khristopher Brooks: Well, most of it happened yesterday. It was weird because it was happening at the same time that the George Zimmerman charges were coming out. I talked with (Jim) Romenesko Wednesday morning, and he posted (to his blog) shortly after. I was going about the rest of the day, into the early afternoon…then I got a phone call from my immediate editor, asking why did Romenesko call.
Loop 21: So, up until that point, you didn’t gather that there was anything wrong with sending out the press release.
KB: I just told my immediate editor what the post was about. And he said, ‘Oh, that sounds okay.’ And then Romenesko left a message for another editor…who is not my immediate editor…and around a quarter to six, (local editor) Phil Freedman called me and told me (the press release) was an illegal use of the company logo and I wasn’t supposed to quote from the offer letter that I got…and that they wanted to rescind my job offer because of that.
Loop 21: How did you react? Did they try to explain how they arrived to the decision?
KB: I was at a loss for words, at that point. I was like, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to do this.’ And then I asked them if I could take it down and he was like, ‘It’s out of our hands.’ And I was like, ‘Wow. I guess I’ll let you go.’
Loop 21: So, you hang up. What’s going through your head?
KB: When I found out I didn’t have the job anymore, I thought to myself, ‘Whew! I dodged a bullet.’ I hadn’t found an apartment down there yet. And I was thinking, if I found one and I had given them the (security) deposit, I would have been out of that money. It was a huge blessing that I didn’t sign a lease. But, I had just bought a car.
Loop 21: Do you believe that this was something that came directly from newsroom management?
KB: The editors there are still really liked. David Ledford, the guy who I quote (in the press release), I still really like that guy. And I believe he still really likes me. I can’t bring myself to believe that it was their unilateral decision. If it was up to them, maybe they would have tried to figure out a way that I could take (the blog post) down. And (act like) it never happened and they can keep me on staff. I can’t fault them for doing something someone higher up told them to do.
Loop 21: I’m sure you’ve already seen a lot of the online chatter about your predicament. Some people are positive, and others are really negative.
KB: I don’t fault any of the people who commented negatively. I think that needs to be there. I think that’s part of the discussion. The way I see it…they are not really attacking me. They’re attacking the issue. ‘Should we be allowed to do that?’ I feel like I was the one who created that conversation, because it had never been there. If you’re going to have a discussion, you’ve got to have the people who think what I did was boneheaded. At the end of the day, if it turns out that the industry has decided that you don’t do this…then you just don’t do it.
Loop 21: Right. But, do you think you did anything wrong?
KB: Obviously, if I knew it was wrong I wouldn’t have done it. I’m not going to purposely piss off my new employer. But I don’t make it a habit to constantly update myself on corporate policy. They could say that (it’s in the policy) and they’d be totally right. But, who reads that?
Loop 21: Do you think they misinterpreted your intent?
KB: I have no clue. If you read the tone of my original post, I was trying to say ‘I’m really excited to be here.’ And from what this guy (Ledford) has written to me, I think they’re really excited to have me. So why not express this joy? I wasn’t expressing it in a negative light.
Loop 21: Some people took issue with the part of your press release that details who didn’t hire you. Why did you include that?
KB: This criticism was that I put it out there that I interviewed with them and didn’t get it, or something. I was trying to show people that it’s really tough to get a journalism job. So much, that you have to start early and you have to apply everywhere. I was trying to explain the tribulation I went through to even get here. If you’re an actor and you want to announce to your family that you’re going to be on Broadway, maybe you put on a little stage play. I’m a reporter, and this is a cutesy way of telling my family, friends, and former coworkers.
Loop 21: So, what now?
KB: It’s definitely been a learning experience for me. I mean, I thought I was going to Delaware, so I put this (apartment) up. And someone is going to sign a lease on the first (of the month). So actually have to get out of here. But it’s okay. I’m going to drive to Delaware to get my car. And then I’m going to drive to Detroit. I’m just going to stay with my parents for a couple of weeks, until I can decide where I’m gonna go. I’ve gotten four job interviews lined up. I’m just hoping one of those will come to fruition and everything will blow over.
Loop 21: Bottom line is, you wouldn’t necessarily go back and change how you announced your new job. Right?
KB: I think I would do the same. Minus the logo, minus the quote from David Ledford…and I probably leave the editors’ names out of it. But I would still do it. I think fundamentally what I did was still right. But if I didn’t use the logo or the quote, I think they probably wouldn’t have had any grounds to fire me.