Are The Young Turks Losing Their Soul?
Everyone kept telling me that I needed to write about this and I wanted to right away, but I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t just flat out cast a shadow on this place, because despite it’s shortcomings, I know it is trying to do some good in the world.
A few months ago I started a contracted temp-to-permanent job with The Young Turks. For those who don’t know, The Young Turks is an American news and commentary YouTube show. Its stance is claimed progressive and the hosts provide commentary on topics of varying news genres. It was created by Cenk Uygur, Ben Mankiewicz and Evan Wagner and currently co-hosted mainly by Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian.
According to their website, the AHD definition of a “young turk” is a young, progressive or insurgent member of an institution, movement or political party or a young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations. So I am sure you can imagine with this in mind, while claiming the label of a progressive, a lot of their commentary is of the typical to anti-establishment, pro-98% rhetoric.
As someone who worked in a local news station where crime and bad news was the daily dosage of mental stimulation, this was a breath of fresh air. Though the majority of my duties were not dedicated to the main show, I was only supposed to have a helping hand in the process as far as preparing the show and researching information.
My first few days were bumpy, as one could expect in starting out in a new job with new people already established in their positions. I was eager to please. I asked my Executive Producer of any tasks that needed to be done when I had down time. I was supposed to be a producer’s assistant to Ana, so I bombarded her daily with “how can I help you” questions. After the first week, I could see that I was becoming a nuisance. Every time I asked “is there anything else I can do for you? Is there anything you need researched?”, I’d get a tightly grinned response of “no”.
However, I did not want it to be said that I was not doing my job, so I found others on the team to help. I increased my skill set so if someone was out for the day, I could pick up the slack without anyone missing a beat. Then one day, after being there about 3 weeks, I found myself with nothing to do and asked Ana again if there was anything more she needed of me. It was then she requested that I stop asking her this question and if she needed something from me, whether research or the like, she would ask me. It was then, I knew I indeed was bugging her. So as requested, I stopped asking.
Allow me to interject here that there is a daily meeting that happens where the hosts, reporters, and producers get together and go over the topics that will be talked about during the broadcast that day. I was required to go to these daily meetings. My first day, Ana did not notice me in the office to inform me of when and where the meeting was and did not mention my absence from the meeting until it was over. I was then given the needed information that the meeting occurring everyday at 10 AM. The next day, ready for the meeting with the stories I received to print out for Ana, 10 AM rolls by. Then 11 AM. Then 12 PM. That’s when the meeting started. No one who attends the meeting was in office before then.
Then the next day, I was sent the email I needed to print out the potential stories for the meeting. It didn’t matter because Ana was not there. I was not informed until I asked. I understood that I was a new face to be recognized, a new name and pathway that information had to be relayed to. Though, that 1 meeting I attended on my second day was the only meeting I ever attended. Not one meeting ever started at 10 AM. The meeting started whenever everyone who needed to be in the meeting just happen to show up in the office and, because of my position, sometimes that was when I was in the studio as the Associate Producer to one of TYT Network’s other shows. There were even times when the meeting was going on during a time I could have attended, but Ana did not see fit to make me aware that the meeting was even happening. The reason I chose her to blame and not any other person in the meeting is because after some investigation, supposedly no one else but her knew that I was supposed to be in the meetings.
I had the task of printing out the new articles for the stories of the main show Ana was doing. I only received the email to do so 2 or 3 times a week. So when I was approached and asked “did you print out my stories today” or “why didn’t you print out my stories today”, my only response was “you didn’t send them to me”. This became more of a problem after I was informed I would only do something for Ana when asked. She spoke not 1 word to me after she told me that. She never requested a print out, I stopped receiving her emails, she didn’t ask me to research topics or information for her, and she certainly wasn’t the kind of person that said “hi” when she walked by. All the research I did was for other members of the team and that wasn’t always a lot, so I focused my energies toward an avenue that appreciated my dedication; my Executive Producer Amir.
I spent my time developing and improving the 3 other TYT Network shows I had on my plate, since I was not being utilized by Ana. I stilled helped on the main show with graphics and filling out the rundown, but that work didn’t start until 2 or 3 PM anyway. Even while on vacation over the Christmas holiday, I spent time online posting for my shows. It was something that I enjoyed to do, and since Ana was not, whether intentional or not, speaking with me AT ALL, I spent all my time in office focused on the other shows.
It got to the point to where my Exec could go to meetings or take care of other business during studio time because he trusted that I knew what I was doing on my own and I felt trusted and was excited at the growth. I could feel myself developing. I was getting to know the people around me, some faster than others, some more than others. I could see myself gaining the authority I needed to control a set and move things along and keep talent on track.
I was coming up with ideas to help. I was meeting new and exciting people every week. I was doing this all at a company that I had grown to respect because of what it claimed it stood for. Sure it had its office drama, name an office that doesn’t. Yes, they could have handled things better, there always is a better way.
Then came the time I had to start asking the question of whether or not my temp position would become a permanent one. By the looks of what I was accomplishing and the praise I was getting, it was a no-brainer: I was at TYT to stay…or so I thought. I got in contact with my temp agency and requested that as soon as they found out whether or not I was being kept on to let me know and sure enough the next day I was called and told I was not being kept. Out of curiosity, I asked if he was told why. He gave me 2 reasons:
(1) Ana complained that I did not attend the meetings as I was told to. The meetings that I was not given a proper commencement for and the few times I was made aware, it was when I was in the studio and could not attend.
(2) Ana complained that I was not giving her the help that she needed. The same woman who I tried to help so much that it bugged her to the point she told me to stop asking to help and that she would come to me if she needed it, only to LITERALLY never speak to me again. Though, when I returned for vacation, I saw that we had an intern that she was frequently asked for help on many things. (Also, when I brought this point up to a co-worker their first response was “but wasn’t SHE the one who told you to stop asking her and that she’d come to you if she needed help?”, proving that not only did she say it, but loud enough for others to hear).
So after telling me these reasons, I was told that I was going to have a meeting with my supervisor and Exec for them to tell me whether or not I was going to be kept on. They were not aware of my request to know of my fate beforehand until later. I, personally, didn’t want to go in with a question mark on my face. So instead, I went into the meeting wondering why we needed such pomp to be told that I’m not getting kept on because Ana complained about shortcomings that only existed because of her lack of communication. Interesting enough, I was not told any of this in the meeting.
The first thing talked about was their new awareness that I was told of the decision before the meeting. Then came the standard break up routine, which in terms of a job is never a good thing. I was told how great of an asset I was, how much I’ve developed since I started, my contributions to the shows that were for the better, hell it was almost as if I was given the wrong information and they were actually keeping me! Then came the big BUT. And what I was told was WAY worse than the reasons before. They told me that they were going to dispel my position altogether and replace it with an internship.
This was upsetting on many levels for many reasons.
- You’re telling me a different story as to why you’re getting rid of me. It’s either because you don’t have the balls to say to my face what Ana said or you knew what she said was bullshit and didn’t see it worth bringing up (which is okay in my book).
- You just told me all these great things I was doing only to tell me you’re not keeping me. So was what I did not good enough? I was doing all I did while only getting paid half…you read right HALF…of what everyone else was getting paid, if not less.
- You pretty much just told me that I do good work (as someone who’s been working in this business for 7 years I better) but you think you can get a fresh out of college, doe-eyed INTERN to do that same thing!? What kind of slap-in-the-face compliment is THAT!?
- This company has just shit on EVERYTHING it stood for. The underdogs, the 98%, those beaten down by the establishment!? How more hypocritical can you get then taking away a job from an admittedly qualified, hard-worker to give to an intern? This I expect from a corporation, the thing you claim to be against. This I expect from a large, soulless production company, the thing you claim to be against. This I don’t expect from you. As businesswoman, I totally got it. To make a profit you have to do business things. Why pay someone to do a job you can get someone else to do for less, or free, right?
As my final days came and I started to say goodbye, I was asked why I was leaving. I simply told the truth. It was not my choice and my position was getting dissolved to an internship and everyone’s reaction was the same:
I thought this place was supposed to be different.
That’s the kind of stuff this place is supposed to be against.
How do they think this makes us look? Our reputation is a lie.
More and more I could see in people’s eyes coming to the realization that The Young Turks were starting to become the profit-driven business it condemned on the daily basis. Some I talked to even knew what it became or was becoming before I was even there, but it was apparent, somewhere along the way The Young Turks lost its soul. The worst part is, is that I think it’s happening under their noses and they don’t even realize it and those that do don’t have the power to repair it.
I appreciate everything I learned there and the people I met, but I wouldn’t go back if I had the chance. I’d rather work for a company that knows what it is than one where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.