When quitting goes viral

Thanks to social media, resignations get a global audience
September 2, 2014

It’s the ultimate fantasy of disgruntled journalists everywhere: quitting with a grand, public gesture that leaves bosses fuming and colleagues cheering. In recent years, there has been a boomlet of elaborate and very public resignations. And since everything is shareable, aggregatable, and desperately seeking virality, these mad-as-hell moments still echo through the caverns of social media. 

Reimy Chavez Perche quit Globovision, Venezuela’s nonstop news network, during a live broadcast on April 2. Chavez later claimed the network’s new owners were broadcasting government propaganda and that he quit in protest. The story was picked up by Business Insider, Fusion, and a few other English-language outlets, and a video of his resignation (in Spanish) has been viewed more than 66,000 times on YouTube. Chavez, who said when he quit that he had no job lined up, now works for FM Center, part of Venezuela’s largest radio network. 

Liz Wahl quit Russia Today with a live, on-air denunciation March 5 of its one-sided coverage of Russia’s actions in the Crimea. A video of Wahl’s resignation went viral on YouTube, drawing more than a million views, and she was interviewed by CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC

Marina Shifrin resigned as international content editor at Taiwan’s Next Media Animation via YouTube on September 28, 2013. The video shows Shifrin dancing alone in her office, as subtitles explain that she was quitting because her boss was more focused on clicks than content. The video has been viewed more than 18 million times, and Shifrin wrote about it for The Huffington Post and appeared on the Queen Latifah Show, where she was offered a job. Today, Shifrin is a “struggling comic/babysitter/writer,” according to her Twitter profile.

Cindy Michaels and Tony Consiglio, co-anchors at WVII/WFVX-TV in Bangor, ME, announced their resignation at the end of their November 21, 2012, broadcast, citing a long-running feud with station management. The story was picked up by a number of outlets, including The Huffington Post and The New York Times, and it got more than 14,000 views on YouTube. Today, Michaels hosts a radio show and Consiglio is managing editor of WSHM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Springfield, MA.

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Of course, such moments aren’t entirely new. In 2001, Juan Gonzalez quit Democracy Now! via a six-minute on-air attack of the Pacifica Radio management for disrespecting free speech and labor rights. And Jack Paar, host of The Tonight Show from 1957 to 1962, walked off the set of the show’s February 10, 1960, broadcast after one of his jokes was censored. “There must be a better way to make a living than this,” he said at the time. A month later, though, Paar returned, telling his audience: “When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living. Well I’ve looked, and there isn’t.”

Lene Bech Sillesen is a CJR Delacorte Fellow. Follow her on Twitter at @LeneBechS.