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Laid-Off Journalist Who Won't Stop Working Inspires A Weary Nation

March 23, 2020 Daniel Hill
Courtesy of Daniel Hill

The week of March 16 was a terrible one for alt-weeklies. The free newspapers — which rely entirely on advertising and public events for revenue — were dealt a terrible early blow by the nation’s response to the coronavirus. From coast to coast, publications suspended print editions and laid off staffers

St. Louis’ Riverfront Times was among those hardest hit. The 42-year-old publication announced that it was suspending its print edition (though it later decided to publish its March 25 issue). It also laid off seven staffers, including three editors, the art director and a staff writer. Only two journalists remain on the payroll: Editor in Chief Doyle Murphy and Digital Editor Jaime Lees.

But one of the laid-off journalists has simply refused to leave.   

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Riverfront Times Music Editor Daniel Hill explained the sequence of events that led him to post defiantly on the publication’s website that he was going to keep writing whether or not he got paid for it.

“On Wednesday, I started drinking around 9 a.m.,” he said, referring to the morning he was laid off. “By 1 in the morning, I decided, ‘Screw it.’” Asked how drunk he was, he said, “I would say, ‘Just the right amount of drunk.’”

Upon making the decision to keep working, Hill said, he emailed the publication’s editor in chief, Doyle Murphy. “I said, ‘I don’t care what you say or what you do. I’m going to keep working.’ And he responded and said, ‘Let me talk to the publisher and see if I can get you some money.’ I said, ‘I don’t care about that; I’m going to keep working. You can’t stop me.’ I’m stubborn, and this is a nice way of not living in reality, to keep working no matter what.”


Hill’s essay about his refusal to stop went viral, with outlets from CNN to the Daily Beast reaching out for interviews. “I think there’s a lot of people right now who would rather be working right now but can’t. Maybe for a lot of people, they wish they could still keep busy throughout all this, too. Maybe it’s aspirational; maybe it’s just stupid enough to amuse people while they’re bored in their homes. I’m not sure.”

Hill also used the interview to announce he was running for governor of Missouri. “I’ve noticed especially in the face of a global pandemic that our governor is mostly useless. And I, too, am mostly useless. So I figured I had a shot.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.