“I would have loved to piss on your shoes,” wrote just-laid-off Akron Beacon Journal reporter Mark Schlueb in a 2001 exit note to the newspaper’s corporate leader, Tony Ridder. I so adored Schlueb’s good-bye to the former Knight Ridder CEO that earlier this week I collected a similar set of F.U. gestures directed at bosses by departing (or departed) journalists for a column titled “I Would Have Loved To Piss on Your Shoes.”
While it’s difficult to top Schlueb’s letter for animus, imagination, and imagery, I asked my readers to help me find additional journalistic kiss-offs that deserve similar enshrinement. So, here goes!
“Fired from the Wall Street Journal in 1954 for lacking respect for price of crude cottonseed oil.”
—Gene Miller, in his obituary, which he wrote and which his paper, the Miami Herald, ran in June 2005.
In his last column for the U.K. Daily Express, Stephen Pollard arranged the first letters of each sentence to spell out “fuck you Desmond,” a reference to new Express owner Richard Desmond. Pollard, who was headed for a new job at the Times of London, was sacked from that position before he even started.
—Source: the Jan. 9, 2001, edition of the Guardian.
“When you assign budgets thinner than your employee-issue loo roll there’s little option but for Daily Star editors to build a newspaper from cut-and-paste-jobs off the Daily Mail website, all tied together with gormless press releases.
“If you can’t see that words matter, you should go back to running porn magazines. But if you do, yet still allow your editors to use inciteful over insightful language, then far from standing up for Britain, you’re a menace against all things that make it great.
“I may have been just a lowly hack in your business empire, void of the power to make you change your ways, but there is still one thing that I can do; that I was trained to do; that I love to do: write about it.”
—Richard Peppiatt, quitting the Daily Star, also owned by Richard Desmond, March 2011
“I would not expect to be paid for punditry. … Point of view is cheap. … However, the journalism pieces I have done in the past year seem to me as good as anything HuffPost’s paid reporters Sam Stein and Ryan Grim produce. Why do they get money, and I do not? I don’t recall either of them writing the story about Barack Obama waxing large on ‘clinging to guns and religion,’ which seems more and more as time goes by to be the one big story out of the last presidential election to live on.”
—Mayhill Fowler, a blogger, resigning from the Huffington Post, September 2010.
“As a result of the article titled ‘Blood Dispute’ in the October 24th issue of Page Six, I am compelled to resign from my position as Freelance Journalist for Page Six magazine.
“I did not, and would not, write such an article as the one to appear as my Page Six magazine column in this Sunday’s Post.”
—Lydia Hearst, socialite, heiress, model, actress, and sorta journalist parts ways with the Sunday magazine of the New York Post, October 2008
“I just thought I’d be [at the Baltimore Sun] for the rest of my career,” said Simon. “I looked around one day and I thought, these guys [Editor John Carroll and Managing Editor Bill Marimow]—their reputations preceded them, but they’re moneychangers and they’re in the only temple that matters.”
—David Simon, who took a 1995 buyout from the Sun, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, January 2008. Some consider the fifth season of Simon’s series The Wire an extended F.U. to the Sun staffers Simon disliked.
“I don’t even know who the chief drama critic of the Washington Post is!” said New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines to Timesman Peter Marks, after Marks informed him he was leaving the Times to become the Post’s drama critic.
“You will!” said Marks.
—Source: New York Observer, July 2002
“To the fine folks at CBS News who fired me after a couple of decades, and then wrote me a—issued me—a short-term day-pass, so I could do a spot of piecework for them, I would like to say, must ring all the eloquence for which we writers are famous, pffffftth! Don’t misunderstand, I don’t say pffffftth! bitterly. I say pffffftth! philosophically. Anyway, the sum total is, with very few exceptions, I do thank you all.”
—Peter Freundlich, upon accepting an Emmy in 2001 for his writing for CBS Sunday Morning.
“I needed to separate myself from the Las Vegas showgirls with ornate nipples in the [New Yorker]. I don’t blame [editor] Tina Brown. She’s just scared like anyone else working for the Conde Nast empire.”
—Jamaica Kincaid, former New Yorker writer, who resigned from The New Yorker in September 1995, quoted in the Albany Times Union, February 1996.
“For you to kiss the ass of celebrity culture at this moment that way is like selling your soul to get close to the Hapsburgs—in 1913,” wrote longtime New Yorker writer George W.S. Trow to New Yorker editor Tina Brown, deploring the pop turn the magazine had taken. Brown’s response, as reported in the April 1995 American Journalism Review:“I am distraught at your defection, but since you never actually write anything, I should say I am notionally distraught.”
Thanks to Don Van Natta Jr., Alex Koppelman, Tom Scocca, Ivan Oransky, Christopher Shea, Tim Worstall, others, and as always, the Fort Worth Sports Literacy Association. If I missed a good kiss-off note or gesture, send it my way: email@example.com. See my Twitter feed for an endless series of pffffftths. (Email may be quoted by name in “The Fray,” Slate’s readers’ forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)
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