On February 4, 2009, more than 100 employees of Bloomberg Radio and TV were laid off. While that’s part of the business, especially as the economy went from bad to worse, at the Mayor’s financial media empire, Bloomberg LP, it was unimaginable. Just do the math—28 years in business, no layoffs until that fateful day.
Last August, FishbowlNY spoke exclusively with veteran anchor Mike Schneider, who along with his staff, saw firsthand the ball rolling the night before.
Dozens were let go, but there were a select few that would find their voice again, working in New York radio and on the national scene. Longtime news anchor Mitch Lebe, at Bloomberg Radio (WBBR) through much of the last decade, is back on the air. He’s doing part-time anchoring on WABC-AM for Metro Networks and Westwood One.
But this focus is on the names you don’t see on TV or hear on your radio. This is a cross-section of some behind the scenes staffers who had to deal with the Bloomberg debacle, and how they’ve recovered, or attempted to, in the ensuing two years.
For Roslyn Barreaux, a news veteran for decades in New York, the timing of the layoffs (and her new marriage) made the decision for her.
“I almost retired a month before the layoff,” Barreaux admits. “So now I am happily enjoying retirement.”
She feels fortunate that she was ready to begin the next phase of her life.
“I must say I would have been very worried about trying to find a job after Bloomberg,” Barreaux says. “Even though I have more than 40 years in the news business, I think I would have had a very hard time finding work at my age.”
Prior to being an associate producer (and one-time writer) at Bloomberg, the pinnacle of Barreaux’s career was at WCBS 880, where she was newswriter and producer during a 20-year span.
Gray Basnight is also a radio veteran. He spent many years at Bloomberg 1130 as a reporter who covered anything related to the markets. He was also part of the on-air lineup during the historic 2008 election season.
That was then, and this is now.
“I have decided to exit from broadcasting and to try to write fiction,” Basnight says. “I have been doing that steadily for two years.”
Basnight says there’s hope for his two novels, with one offered a publishing contract.
Claudia Herrera was a BTV producer with three years under her belt prior to the massive layoffs. Despite landing another TV job shortly after leaving Bloomberg, Herrera came to the realization that now was the time to move on.
“I no longer felt the same way about the business as I did 15 years ago,” Herrera says.
So Herrera, after taking some time off, enrolled in a culinary school. She completed the career change, now as a private chef.
Lisa Kaplan is a former segment producer at Bloomberg TV. Since joining her brethren in the employee line, Kaplan found some freelance work.
She’s a writer at the United Stations Radio Network, and a producer for the start-up Wall Street Week.
“For over three decades on PBS, Wall Street Week was the high-level, low-decibel source for individual investors,” Kaplan tells FishbowlNY. “The program has been off the air for a few years, but now public television has exclusively licensed the Wall Street Week trademark to our firm.”
Kaplan says that while the name and mission are the same, the people and technology are new.
Alberto Riva was a producer, primarily overseeing morning show The First Word with Ken Prewitt (far left). But arguably, his best asset, being bilingual would serve him well.
Riva took the leap from working for a financial news organization to working on Wall Street at Oppenheimer Funds. Despite being a “pretty well paid full timer,” Riva walked away. He was more interested in returning to journalism, where he became full-time editor of America24.com. The New York City based news site is Italian-owned.
“I’m working 12-hour days for less money than [at] Bloomberg, but am very, very happy to be back full time in a newsroom doing what I do best,” Riva tells FishbowlNY.
If he weren’t busy enough, Riva is a freelance photographer (something he was doing while at Bloomberg). With that in mind, he also has started a photo blog. Additionally, he is working on a book about the Tea Party for an Italian publisher.
Marisela Riveros also used her bilingual abilities, (fluent in English and Spanish), to forge a career at Bloomberg. Riveros, spent nine years under Bloomberg’s employ, going from novice to accomplished.
“Bloomberg News is where I grew professionally from the bottom up, starting fresh out of college as TV technical operator working in transmissions and master control,” Riveros recalls.
She built up quite a resume along the way. Riveros was an English and Spanish radio affiliates reporter, before making a splash on the Bloomberg Latin American channel airing in 16 countries.
“I was very sad when I learned that our channel was being shut down in part because we had launched it from the ground up,” Riveros says. “We had just [begun] to penetrate the Latin American market and were building a reputation of respected financial journalism among the movers and shakers in the region.”
Helping deal with the grief of the job loss, Riveros was instrumental in organizing get-togethers with former (and current) Bloomberg staffers.
“I could not let the relationship we had built for nearly a decade fade away in time, so I created a group on Facebook,” Riveros says.
Since being forced (with the others) to leave Bloomberg, Riveros has kept close to the TV industry. With friends in the business, she was able to land freelance opportunities at CNN and NBC/Telemundo. She even had a hand in the award-winning documentary Brick City, airing on the Sundance Channel.
But leaving that on the side for now, Riveros is pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts at Parsons the New School for Design.
“I am learning the language of computer code, mobile media, and game design, which in the future will enrich my lifelong passion for storytelling, developing compelling content, and producing television,” Riveros says.
As you can see, since their abrupt loss of work, the above sampling has ranged from being retired and making a career change, to freelance and full-time work.
I was among those let go on that winter day two years ago. Starting in 2006, I worked as evening/overnight news anchor at WBBR. Since then, with radio opportunities dwindling, I began writing about the industry, for one website before joining FishbowlNY in August.
Keeping my broadcasting options open, though, shortly after leaving Bloomberg I started an association with Fordham University’s WFUV as fill-in newscaster.
Additionally, I was a freelance announcer at Cablevision’s News 12 Traffic and Weather.