Should I have seen it coming—that truck that hit me on March 9, 2004?
I was a company man who loved NPR, but I was never a contender for employee of the month (not that NPR has such a thing). People in the news business disagree about the value of stories and how they should be covered—and these disagreements can sometimes be spirited, even passionate. I think it’s a healthy thing that makes a news organization stronger. Maybe over the course of thirty years, a company gets tired of hearing it and fires the guy who won’t immediately salute.
The time I thought I might get the axe was back in 1996 when Bill Buzenberg was the vice president for news. Bill had ambitious plans for expanding NPR’s news coverage but lacked the reporting staff to do the job. Management wouldn’t authorize the hiring of more staff reporters, so Bill developed a nationwide team of twenty stringers under contract and on retainer to report for NPR. This was all very good for our network but not from my union perspective. Bill had established a shadow team of nonunion freelancers whose first reporting responsibilities were to NPR, but they were not getting NPR pay and benefits. Some were being compensated at about a third of what staff reporters were making. In the event of a strike, workers belonging to AFTRA would be out on the street while these twenty stringers would be turning out Morning Edition and All Things Considered. AFTRA was fighting to get these reporters covered by the union contract, so it threatened to take