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.