Shannon Philpott-Sanders

Writing, Reflecting, Teaching, Parenting

‘You’re Fired:’ Is it Worth Burning Bridges?

I was raised to work and work hard.  Maybe it was because I watched my mother struggle to raise three girls by working multiple jobs or maybe it was because I liked the intrinsic rewards tied to a job well done.

I work hard, I expect others to work hard and I believe that a strong work ethic is the most appealing quality of an employee, and even more, a journalist. Ethics surround our profession. They consume our minds when we choose photos, craft leads, choose quotes and organize facts. They trickle through our veins when we interview both sides to ensure the story is balanced and ask the difficult and often uncomfortable questions. We can’t half-ass it – our readers make us accountable.

It’s work ethics that separate the good journalists from the great ones. It’s the drive to perfect the story on little sleep and cover long and drawn-out city hall meetings when we’d rather be anywhere else. This work ethic keeps us up at night brainstorming story angles and jotting down important notes at 3 a.m. when we can’t sleep.

A strong work ethic does lead to sacrifices. When I was seventeen, I would have rather been at a high school party instead of closing a restaurant on a Friday night. My work ethic stopped me from blowing off the job, even if I was only making minimum wage. When I was a new reporter and a mom, my work ethic prompted me to miss out on a few preschool events that I desperately wanted to attend.

I made those sacrifices because I believe that when you make a commitment, you follow through. I was raised to work and work hard. And most importantly, I was taught to never burn bridges, no matter how much you want to toss a bowl of hot sauce on the restaurant manager or beam a red pen at your editor’s face.

I’ve never been fired and I never want to be fired. However, a fellow adviser pointed out this week that getting fired can be a valuable experience. Check out his post: How to Get Fired and Get Even.

While I still believe that a strong work ethic will offer more opportunities than a cut-throat ‘you’re fired’ moment, I worry that the shock value of burning bridges may be gaining popularity and the value of a strong work ethic is losing ground.

What do YOU think?


Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: May 25, 2011

© Shannon Philpott, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Philpott and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


May 25, 2011 - Posted by | Blog, Journalism | , , ,


  1. Oh, Shannon, where to begin… First, I totally agree with everything you said above. You should NEVER burn bridges. It can only do you harm in the long run. Second, I am quickly losing all respect for any positive things that our fellow adviser has done. It frequently seems that he’s being controversial just for the sake of doing so. I mean the photo alone with that link is terribly poor taste. You’re talking about getting even with people who fire you and you post a cartoon of someone with a gun? Poor, poor taste. I think if you read his “about” page, you can get a good glimpse at the credibility issue there.

    Comment by Kenna | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  2. I completely agree, Kenna. What’s troubling to me is that I don’t want my journalism students to buy into the shock value of being the point of controversy. Journalists expose controversy, yet they should not be center stage if they truly want to serve their readers. There is a huge difference between being an assertive reporter vs. an aggressive, self-serving reporter. Getting fired does not produce glory and fame (at least not the type of fame that is career positive), in my opinion.

    Comment by sphilpott | May 25, 2011 | Reply

    • I think this is offensive to the word “reporter,” although “aggressive” and “self-serving” certainly fit. It makes me have a greater understanding perhaps for why the university ended that relationship. It also makes me concerned for CMA’s association. I’m all about relating to students in a way in which they can understand, but that ends when you start encouraging them to jeopardize their futures by repeatedly making poor decisions. Standing up for the law and the “public’s right to know” is a must. So is using the manners your momma taught you!

      Comment by Kenna | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  3. I think the last thing journalists need to do is to walk around with a chip on their shoulder as if they have nothing to learn from anyone. The attitude portrayed in the “Get Even” blog post only encourages behaviors that make for bad employees, bad citizens, and bad journalists. I agree, the graphic choice — and much of the posting — was in poor taste.

    Comment by Erin | May 25, 2011 | Reply

  4. I knew you ladies would chime in 🙂 Great points – I’m reassured that my fellow advisers see this as shock value, too.

    Comment by sphilpott | May 26, 2011 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: