My humiliating Today show sacking
You've probably heard the television industry described as "cut-throat". But most people have no idea just how merciless the business really is.
I know this. I found out first-hand.
I was dumped as Channel 9's Today showweather presenter while I was on holiday. In fact, I was only given the shocking news on the very last day of what had been an otherwise enjoyable three-week vacay.
Talk about a holiday to remember.
This all happened many years ago, but the memory is just as vivid today. And thinking about how it all went down still makes me anxious.
I was enjoying dinner at some fancy pants restaurant in Beverly Hills, when I got the call from my manager, telling me not to rush home, because I didn't have a job to come back to. And just like that, without any warning, after three amazing years, my time at Today was over.
I was devastated. And humiliated. Because as it also turns out, I was the last one to know.
I was having dinner that night with some friends, including Richard Wilkins, who also happened to be in LA at the time. Dickie later told me that he found out I was leaving the show before dinner. I didn't find out until after dessert.
Yup, I found out the hard way that taking time off when you work in TV is risky business. Especially when you're working on a show that's not doing so great in the ratings.
TV is a ruthless business, where presenters (or "on-air talent" as the execs call us), are often pawns in a mostly sales-driven game of chess.
Getting the formula right with your on-air-team is the key. And a ratings win against your opposing network is a checkmate. Good ratings attract advertisers. And advertising revenue is what keeps a show on air, and people employed.
I'm not sure if ratings had anything to do with my removal from Today. The gossip and conjecture that accompanies that kind of very public job loss is hugely embarrassing.
At the time there were all kinds of ridiculous rumours flying around, but the official word from my manager was: "They just decided they wanted to put a man in the role. So they're keeping Stevie."
Which was an added kick in the guts, considering I'd happily trained my holiday replacement before I left. I had no idea at the time that I was preparing Steve Jacobs to take over my job.
By the way, I have no hard feelings towards Stevie. He was clearly the right man for the job. I mean, he's still there, all these years later.
As shocking as that whole hideous situation was, it also kinda prepared me for the next time it happened, about a decade later, when I was dumped from my radio job at Mix FM.
This time I found out via a Sunday paper.
I'd been co-hosting the breakfast show at Mix 106.5 in Sydney for about a year but I woke one Sunday morning to a text message from a friend in Brisbane which read, "Sorry to hear the news hon. Hope you're OK".
"What are you talking about?" I typed back, with a vaguely familiar sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
And I can't say I was completely shocked when she replied. "The story in today's paper that Kyle & Jackie O are taking over the breakfast show at Mix FM. Isn't that your job?".
Yep. It was my job at the time. My network. My timeslot.
Probably not for much longer, if you believed everything you read.
After a flurry of panicked phone calls to my co-host, manager, producer and eventually my boss, I was finally able to confirm that the network was letting me go.
I totally understood that it was a major coup for the network to sign Kyle & Jackie O. They'd been the unbeatable number 1 breakfast radio show for years. The network was guaranteed to hit the ratings jackpot with Kyle & Jack on air.
But it certainly would have lessened the blow if the bosses had respected me enough to let me know, before it became public knowledge.
A hefty dose of salt was rubbed into that wound, when I heard about it via text, from a friend, in another state, who read about it in the paper.
In an industry that's all about "communicating", it's ironic that communication is often its greatest let down.
This story is not intended to be a pity party. I'm not looking for sympathy. Those career moments didn't break me. And they certainly don't define me. I still love working in media (go figure!).
I've realised I need to take the good with the bad. And I'm certainly not the only person this has happened to. I reckon most of the folk who work in TV or radio in this country would have at least one similar war story.
I guess it's just a timely reminder that behind all those glamorous, happy, smiling faces you see on your television screen every day, media can sometimes be a seriously ugly business.