René Syler
Late in the morning on November 29, 2006, I was in my office going over my schedule with Jahayra, as we do every day. When I opened up my calendar, though, I saw a meeting scheduled for that Friday with Sean McManus, president of both CBS News and CBS Sports.

This was not something I'd see on my schedule every week.

No matter what you do for a living, when the big boss schedules an unexpected meeting, your stomach drops. My inner alarm bell started to shriek. Calm down, I told myself. There had been whispers about changes being made to The Early Show, but nothing concrete.

The whispers had had nothing in them to make me quake about losing my job.

"What's the meeting about?" I asked Jahayra, who told me she didn't know. She knew only that they'd initially wanted the meeting to be on Thursday, but I would be out of town shooting a segment about a Christmas tree farm in rural Massachusetts.

The next two days passed in a blur. Wanting to be punctual on Friday, I arrived a few minutes early at the CBS Broadcast Center, across town from the television studio, and killed time buying a cup of coffee. I had to laugh. The meeting had originally been scheduled for eleven thirty, but I'd had to push it back to nine thirty because Cole's class had a field trip and he was counting on me to be one of the classroom mommies.

Steeling myself, I soon pasted on my professional smile and walked into the room, where I immediately saw Sean along with Steve Friedman, the vice president for morning broadcasts. When Sean walked out for a moment, I mouthed to Steve, with whom I'd worked closely over the previous year, "What's going on?" Okay, so perhaps it was a stupid question, because once I'd seen Sean and Steve waiting for me, I'd been fairly certain this wasn't going to be a social visit.

"You'll have to wait until Sean gets back," he told me, avoiding my glance. That's when I knew for sure.

When Sean returned and shut the door, I tried to lift the coffee cup to my lips, but suddenly it seemed to weigh two tons. I hoped against hope they couldn't see my hand shaking.

"This is the part of the job I hate," Sean began. "We're going to go in a different direction. ..."

The rest of the conversation melted into a blur, but I managed to piece together that the news division of the Survivor network was voting me off the island.