Five Years After VMS

[Writer’s note: The following was originally published on my LinkedIn account 26 August 2016, but I wanted to share it here — with some updates — as well.]

Five years ago today, the company known as Video Monitoring Services of America LP — VMS — followed its founder to the grave through Chapter 7 bankruptcy (completed 13 November 2014, per Bloomberg).

I worked at VMS from 29 October 2007 to this day in 2011 at its production office on Linn Station Road in Louisville’s East End.

My task: transcribe TV and radio adverts. While I would also help with BurrellesLuce news transcripts, excise TV adverts from their source material, and maintain the media library, transcription was my main job, where I made $9.25/hour for the last four years of the company’s life.

The Great Recession (whose arrival I’ll always associate with Hurricane Ike) took its toll on the media monitoring company, leading to layoff after layoff after layoff, the last of which — involving the aforementioned BurrellesLuce news transcription department — taking place two months before this day in 2011.

I remember how it ended this day. I arrived for work at 9:45 a.m., walking past my supervisor’s cubicle. He pulled me aside to tell me what had been leaked onto Facebook 18 hours before: VMS would close its doors at noon, following a final company-wide WebEx conference from the last CEO.

The last hours were spent not giving a damn; most of us in the Louisville office were already jaded as it was. It was this time I admitted to my supervisor I was planning on quitting VMS to pursue journalism/blogging as my career; I was an independent fashion blogger for over a year then, having covered NY Fashion Week for the first time in February 2011.

Noon arrived, thus beginning the most tragicomic WebEx I would ever experience. I recall a sales rep in New York, upon hearing health insurance benefits would be axed by end of day, audibly stating “OH GOD!” on his end of the call. I forget the rest of the details, likely because I was already ready to move on.

At 12:30 p.m., security — an elderly gentleman positioned near my cubicle — stood watch as all of us exited the blackened glass building for the last time, making sure we didn’t steal the ancient Pentium 4-powered PCs or office chairs on our way out.

A lot has happened since this day for the 1,000+ nationwide who lost their jobs. For me, I did start pursuing journalism on this day in 2011. The pursuit led to a summer internship at WFPL, a brief stint writing for Louisville.com, off-and-on contributions to Insider Louisville, two years with The Truth About Cars as its newsbot, ongoing work with Dispatches Europe (with a move to its HQ in the Netherlands in 2017 in the offing), a short relationship with Yahoo Autos — which fell to a similar fate as VMS in May of 2016 — and new relationships with Tab’s View and Extol Magazine in the future.

I may not have been thrilled to have lost my (only) full-time job five years ago, but I wonder where I would be had VMS survived its economic woes.

No, I don’t.

VMS is dead. Long live us.

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