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Khristopher Brooks Headshot

How to Get Fired Before Your First Day

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Most college students hope to land a nice-paying job in their field of study immediately after graduation.

And for the most part, I was headed in that direction. I finished my last two classes of graduate school at New York University and I had a new job waiting for me at the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal. Although Gannett has developed somewhat of a bad reputation in regards to caring for its employees, I was excited to start my new job. For the first time in my career, my immediate editor was going to be someone I could relate to and I was going to be paid more than I've ever made in my life.

I was so excited in fact, that I decided to announce my hiring in a press release-style post on my blogs. An unknown person saw those posts and sent the URL to media gossiper Jim Romenesko.

Romenesko interviewed me yesterday morning and wrote a post about my announcement. He thought it was creative and interesting. I was honored to be on his site.

Before Romenesko and I hung up, he asked if the News Journal had seen my blog post. I didn't know the answer. I figured someone had seen the post because it was on a public Tumblr page, a public Wordpress blog and I tweeted a link to it. Romenesko said he would reach out to the News Journal for comment. I thought nothing of it.

Around the time Romenesko finally posted his piece, I was wrapping up my internship at The Huffington Post Black Voices. The editors there were happy about my new job and they thanked me for my short stint in the New York newsroom.

And then my cell phone rang.

Phil Freedman, the News Journal's local editor, called and said the newspaper is rescinding its job offer. I was being fired for using the company's logo on my personal blog and quoting the executive editor from my job offer letter.

I was at a loss for words. When I finally spoke I said, "Well, can I just take it down? I know Romenesko's cell number. I can have him take it down, I'll take mine down, this never happened."

Freedman said the decision was out of his hands and that the final axe came from the publisher, HR and corporate. To me, that says there was an internal conversation about this, a conversation that I wasn't invited to join. Had I been brought in, I could have said "I'm sorry. I didn't know this was bad. I'll take it down. End of story."

At this point of the story, it's important to note that I had already visited the News Journal office and I signed my HR paperwork and had lunch with my immediate editor. It wasn't like I had never seen or spoken with the folks at the News Journal. In fact, I was developing a fantastic relationship with my immediate editor. I did not tell my editor that I had plans to make a press release, partly because I didn't think any harm would come from it, but also because the press release was never intended to be for "the press."

The way I announced my new job was a personal "Khristopher is a reporter" take on informing my family and friends about the next stage in my career. To me, it was no different than an actor telling his family that he'll star on Broadway by announcing it in a tiny stage play.

Could I have called my family and told them over the phone? Probably, but that meant also calling all my former colleagues across the nation, at the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier, The Associated Press, the Omaha World-Herald and Central Michigan University. Simply put, a pseudo press release was quicker, quirkier and, what I presumed, harmless.

After I hung up with Freedman, I panicked. My dreams of having a job out of college were gone. One blog post. I couldn't believe it. I had been applying for jobs for four months and now I'm back to nothing. I called my girlfriend and told her what happened and then I called Romenesko.

He immediately wrote an update. (inside note: around the time this was happening, George Zimmerman was being charged with second-degree murder) Romenesko apologized for what happened and asked if I wanted to write a few lines as reaction. I couldn't. I was feeling numb. A few minutes earlier, I was hungry, but suddenly I had lost my appetite. All I could think was: maybe the News Journal wasn't the right fit.

But I couldn't fully bring myself to believe that. I thought the News Journal would be the perfect step for me. When I met David Ledford, the executive editor, we got along very well. And I'll still go on the record as saying I really like that guy. I was starting to interact with my fellow reporters on Twitter and I was lining up apartments to view this Friday. Everything was looking thumbs-up, so why did this happen?

I pondered all this while sitting at my desk at Black Voices. I looked at the computer screen and suddenly I had a handful of emails. Job offers. All across the country, from as near as Connecticut, out to Iowa and even more pouring in today. I received an offer to write a essay for a popular online magazine and my followers on Twitter have reached out to me. Most of them are saying, "ahh, you didn't want to be with Gannett anyway."

And I appreciate those condolences. I appreciate all the new Twitter and Tumblr followers I've received. I want everyone to know I'll be OK. I'm from Detroit, a city that knows how to respond in the face of negative publicity and I'm no different. Hopefully the next time you'll see my name, it's under a headline and not in it.