Journalist Fired After Column That Was Critical Of Major Advertisers
from the separation-of-church-and-state dept
While there are questions as to how separated the “church” and “state” part of the newspaper business has been, it seems to be disappearing almost entirely these days. We already talked about one paper that was starting to have editorial staff report to ad sales staff, and now we’ve been alerted to a story about a journalist in Colorado who was apparently (at least according to his side of the story) let go for writing a column critical of local ski resorts, who are major advertisers in the paper:
Berwyn said Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz called him at the paper and expressed displeasure with the column.
“I don’t remember his exact words, but the thing that stuck in my mind was ‘This calls into question our ability to work with you,'” said Berwyn. “That was sort of the main thing that stuck in my mind.”
Berwyn says Jim Morgan, the publisher, was concerned that Vail Resorts would end their advertising relationship with the newspaper.
When describing what Morgan said to him, Berwyn said, “he went on to talk about the business situation of the Summit Daily and how it was a business, how they had to watch out for the bottom line.”
Now, I’ve never really believed that the church and state parts of the news business were really that separated, and I actually don’t have a huge problem with the two sides understanding where the other is coming from. But, if you’re going to deal with such a situation, then you have to know that the scrutiny is going to be even stronger over anything that smacks of bias or favoritism. And stories like this raise serious questions about the credibility of The Summit Daily as a news gathering operation. And, without credibility, it’s hard to get readers, and without readers, it’s going to be hard to get advertisers — even if some of those advertisers are pissed off about a random column here or there. If the paper had stuck up for its author, telling Vail that its credibility was more important than a few ads — and Vail had still threatened to pull its ads — then the paper could have told its readership what happened, and built up even stronger credibility with its audience (and that, in turn, could create additional ad revenue from elsewhere).