San Diego Union-Tribune


SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Bill Speros lost his job at the Orlando Sentinel in the middle of a 20-month span in which he had two liver transplants and almost died twice.

Bill Eichenberger struggled for months to regain his self-identity after he took a buyout at Newsday.

Jay Mariotti lost his job with ESPN after he was arrested and charged in a domestic violence incident. Mariotti maintained his innocence, and the charges were ultimately expunged, but the case drastically impacted his life.

In a session entitled “Dealing with Harsh Reality” at the Associated Press Sports Editors convention on Thursday, Speros, Eichenberger and Mariotti candidly described how they each rebounded from losing their jobs at different points of their careers to remake themselves and stay find new positions in the rapidly evolving media industry.

All three encouraged their audience to maintain a healthy sense of perspective and not allow work to consume their self-identity.

Mariotti worked so much during his years juggling his newspaper columnist job with his Around the Horn television and radio gigs that he suffered a heart attack in 2007 and now says he’s glad he was able to take time off from sports because it allowed him to get healthy again. He’s since jumped back into the business as the sports director at the San Francisco Examiner.

Right after he lost his job at Newsday, Eichenberger said he fell into a depressive funk and spent most of his time sleeping.

“My identity was way too linked to my job. I really had a crisis of self-worth,” said Eichenberger, who is now the special projects editor at Bleacher Report.

The important thing, however, is to keep evolving and never be afraid to take chances. Eichenberger, for instance, got his foot in the door at Bleacher Report as an unpaid copy editing intern. They liked him enough that they then hired him as a college football feedback editor before ultimately giving him his current job.

After his health improved, Speros went back to school to pick up digital skills and that opened opportunities for him with ESPN’s Playbook and recently informed Speros that they were discontinuing his “Obnoxious Boston Fan” column, and he’s once again looking for work.

But having been in this position before, Speros came up with a list of 10 lessons he’s learned that could benefit everyone who’s job hunting:

1. It’s all about survival: “Both physically and professionally. If you’re dead or physically incapacitated you cannot work. Take care of yourself physically,” Speros said.
2. You have a lot of acquaintances and associates but not a lot of friends.
3. Talk is cheap. Awards are cheap too. All that matters is the paycheck.
4. Believe the rumors in the newsroom about what’s happening at your company. Especially the ones with detail. People don’t have time to make up this crap.
5. Be nice. To people who are important and not important. It’s the right thing to do.
6. Marry up. “My wife and transplant nurse are the open reasons I’m here now,” Speros said.
7. Avoid debt and disease where you can: Speros and his wife tried to live debt free. That was a huge help when tough times hit.
8. Know what’s important: Prioritize. Whatever someone else is making has no relevance to your position.
9. Life is full of different stories and nothing is permanent. “Don’t attach permanence to what you’re doing,” Speros said. “It’s not a wise investment of time and emotion. Enjoy your ride.”
10. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it