Thursday, October 13, 2005

Yeah, they fired me. Here's why:

Yes, I was fired from the Stillwater Gazette.

It happened on Wednesday, October 12th, 2005--a day that will live in infamy.

I can picture local Republicans dancing in the streets that day, Senators Brian LeClair and Michele Bachmann popping the corks, Representatives Mike Charron and Matt Dean drinking champagne out of each others' slippers. Local conservative School Board members slavering over the celebratory free buffet, elbowing each other out of the way to get to their next round of post-election cuts in local education funding and school bus services. School Board candidate John Rheinberger and his sister, dancing together. "The Wolf Man is dead! The editor and publisher of the Stillwater Gazette have put him in his journalistic grave, with a silver bullet through his monstrous heart!"

Fired, for telling the truth. Fired after years of public service, and service to the paper. They fired my ass. And that's not the worst of it--now I have to figure out how to work this f-ing blog. And I'm forty-six years old. And nobody loves me. Well, my dogs love me. Well they act like they love me. Well--to tell the truth, they don't really want to commit.

Anyway, enough about me. What do you think of a newspaper editor who fires a columnist who's written about public affairs for the local paper for more than two years--without a week's notice, without even an entire day's notice, because that columnist wrote a piece critical of some of the local school board members and candidates? A piece that was pitched to and read by the editor and the paper's school board reporter in advance of deadline? Fired, because I wrote a piece that the editor chose to publish--an accurate piece, a piece in which any rumors were identified as rumor, a piece which was fact-checked by one of the reporters?

Soon after the piece appeared some of the elected officials and candidates got in contact with my editor. They complained, they carped, they wrote letters--and rather than stand up to them, my editor and publisher caved, caved completely, caved like the Carlsbad Caverns. They caved so fast even local bats were taken by surprise. "Hey, look at that!" said the bats "A new cave! Overnight! A complete and utter cave! And a big one! A professional cave, a journalistic cave!"

The Gazette's problem: the players in an upcoming election are complaining about criticism from a columnist weeks prior to that election. The Gazette's solution: Fire the columnist.

But wait a minute--doesn't that make us look like a bunch of spineless jellyfish? Firing the columnist for writing about an election, prior to the election? After all, the columnist didn't say anything defamatory, didn't say anything false about the elected officials and candidates. The columnist ran the piece by the editor before publication and got her approval. Couldn't we at least wait til after the election to fire him? Then we wouldn't look so spineless, then it wouldn't look like we were caving so completely and so utterly. Then it wouldn't look like the local elected officials and candidates were deciding what should and shouldn't be printed in the pages of the Gazette.

Nah, let's not wait. Let's cave, right now. In fact, let's change the name of the paper to "The Stillwater Cave." That will give the readers a better sense of the new direction in which we're going to take the paper. Even better: let's change the name of the paper to "The Stillwater Immediate, Unconditional, and Public Grovelling to Local Politicians Daily Cave." That way people will know what to expect from us in the future, in the way of independent coverage of local politics.

No, I'm not bitter. But thanks for asking. More to follow.


At 11:40 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Sounds Par for Course. Oh well. Keep a stiff upper lip and all that. Then again, you could always sue. I don't know if that works with freedom of the press and all(suing the press that is.) Course, I haven't read the piece yet so I'm not sure if I am even on the right side. Perhaps you should republish it here and let everyone see the evidence and decide if it was a just or ubjust act. Just a thought. Keep writing.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger wendy woods said...

the gazette may have thought they could KILL BILL but you will show them, i am sure.
this is a sad, sad day for journalism. those spineless jellyfish. you're too good for them bill. they are very little people

At 5:57 PM, Blogger lloydletta said...

I contacted John Lund to get his comment. Bill - I'd like to interview you about this. Can you give me a call: 612-588-2044 - and I'd like to get a copy of the Stillwater Gazette story about the school board candidates.

Eva Young
Dump Michele Bachmann

At 6:08 PM, Blogger lloydletta said...

btw, if you want some help setting up additional features for your blog, contact me at I'd be glad to help you get set up with a blog roll and other nice features.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger wendy woods said...

here is the letter i got after complaining about your firing to the gazette: not sure what Micki means by saying your firing was not personal. nobody thought it was. probably she doesn't give the real reason because it wouldn't look good in print.


Thank you for your comments. I can tell you it was not an easy decision.
Bill is welcome to write guest commentaries or letters to the editor, but
his weekly column will not appear in the Gazette any longer. He was not
being paid and there was no contract.

I appreciate his creativity and originality -- and the decision was not
personal-- but at this time we can no longer offer the Gazette columnist tag
to Bill.

Thank you for being a faithful subscriber and for telling me your opinion. I
value the fact that you are willing to share it with us, while many chose
not to.

Please feel free to write a letter to the editor or guest commentary for our
Viewpoints page.

I hope with our other news, community and viewpoints content we will keep
you as a subscriber and letter writer from time to time.

Enjoy your weekend,

Micki Adams
Managing Editor

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Triakel said...

Frankly, it's a miracle Bill's column survived as long as it did. The community's old guard is quite conservative, and took to calling Bill's column "garbage" from the get-go. Add to that the advertising community's close ties with the this old guard and the publisher's lack of news background (not to mention his invertebrate disposition), and there's not much room in which an unabashed liberal firebrand genius godhead philosopher can maneuver.

Nonetheless, it's amusing to hear that Bill was considered a serious drag on circulation. It's sort of like saying Frankenstein's monster was a serious drag on villagers' firewood supplies or that the weight of the tuba in the Titanic's orchestra was causing the ship to sink faster.

The Gazette's circulation has dropped about 35 percent (1,400 households) in the past five years and about 50 percent (more than 3,000 households)in the past 10 years, for reasons that have much more to do with aging (and dying) readership, tightfisted and hamfisted corporate oversight, and increasing competition from competing publications, than with anything that appears on its opinion page.

Newspapers -- even small ones --hand over profit margins to their corporate owners that would be scandalous in other businesses. Ten, 20 percent or more is considered very normal. Likewise, newpaper salaries -- especially small ones' -- are equally scandalous, but for the opposite reason.

Where does the money go? The trend at many companies -- including the one that owns the Gazette -- is to institute deep cuts and then to not reinvest (or to reinvest minimally)in the publication to maintain content, design, or other measures of quality.

Instead, the money is pooled to purchase additional struggling-but-viable newspapers that can be downsized, pillaged and otherwise squeezed until the vine stops bearing fruit.

I guess my point is that if the Gazette was able to invest in its product, it's overworked editor and shuddering publisher could focus on more cogent matters than whether the columnist they never paid is hurting the readership they've long since lost.

At 12:01 AM, Blogger Marla R. Stevens said...

Welcome to BloggerWorld...Never let it be forgotten that it was started by a mouse (or few) needing to roar!

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Former Gazette Subsriber Who Will Now Happily Renew! said...

Hey Bill,

How do you get "fired" when you were an unpaid columnist with no contract?

I say great call by the Gazette management and long overdue. You were destroying the enjoyablility of a hometown paper that many of us have been loyal to for 30-40 years - many of us that have recently canceled our subsriptions because of you!

The Gazette is not the New York Times. If you want to be an angry, negative liberal that can only gripe and complain and never have a positive word or idea, go write for the Star Tribune. They might even pay you. It must be miserable in your world.

Former Gazette Subscriber Who Will Now Gladly Renew!

At 1:23 AM, Anonymous So Close, But So Far said...

It's interesting that you think Bachmann would be dancing about your being fired. The last time I checked she never really thought twice about your writings. After all of your personal attacks on Senator Bachmann, did she ever once respond to you? Probably not. Why do you think that was? You certainly did your best to provoke her but she never bothered, even once, to acknowledge your opposition. You spent the majority of your journalistic career trying to garner the attention of an unattainable (for you) woman, and FAILED. Senator Bachmann even granted interviews for Lavender magazine, but not once did she offer a response to your many endless columns (devoted to her). Maybe they weren't good enough. It was like you worshipped her in a bizzare backwards kind of way, always obsessing about her, going so far as to draw your compulsive manifestations into cartoon characters. The time you spent graveling for her attention was enormous and nothing short of excessive. You tried but lost. Unfortunately you'll never get a chance to, publicly, draw her in again. Your yearning will burn inside, unmet, for an endless duration. Better luck in your next life.

At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

I, for one, am dropping the paper. I, too, have been a subscriber for over 30 years and lately, the only thing I really looked forward to is your column. Don't get all uppity, now. I'm not dropping in protest of your mistreatment. I'm just saying that, in retrospect, it was the right decision, even more so now that you're no longer a columnist.

One thing I would like to see here is an archive of all of your old columns. Possible? Some were outrageously funny and need to be shared.

To the person who cancelled the paper because of your column: Please. Get real. There are far more important things in life to get in a froth over and a political satirist is not one of them. Terrorism, education standards, environmental issues, crime, war, disease, gun control...take your pick. But you quit the paper because someone made fun of our local politicians? You need to get your priorities straightened out.

To the Michelle Bachman fan: Anyone who states that the biggest reason gay marriage is bad is because it could cause a beauracratic nightmare deserves to be lampooned.

At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also would like to see your columns printed here. We stopped subscribing to the Gazette because of its continual attempt to make minor stories into large controversies, especially those involving the school district. And also for the Gazette continuing to publish the sexist, bullying, opinionated, I'm-the-king George Thole weekly column. And YOUR column is the one they cancelled?


At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh boy, it's the pathetic 'angry, negative, liberal' spew again. Big tough conservatives are the first to whine when shoved back - and if you haven't noticed Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, et all are the very MODEL of demur positiveness. Now get back to reading the screeds of ranting Baptists who usually hold forth at the Gazette. Have a nice day!

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read the infamous column, my first thought was Oh boy, he's done it this time. He's not only taken on the coach, he's taken on the Junkers and Rheinbergers. But, as far as I know from personal experience, his article was correct. I'd heard the rumors of resignations for weeks. They were being used against some candidates so that others in the community would then vote for the others. Interesting that an unpaid reporter is fired for writing the truth, goes to show that not only is the national media bought and paid for, so is the small community of Stillwater and its suburbs.


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