TN Newspaper Editor Fired for ‘Take Your Jobs Plan and Shove it, Mr. President’ Headline

Newspaper editor Drew Johnson was fired by the Times Free Press of Chattanooga, Tennessee for posting a headline that told President Obama to take his jobs plan and “shove it.”

On a July 30th editorial board piece (one without a writer’s byline) about the President’s visit to a Chatanooga Amazon.com shipping center, editor Johnson titled the piece “Take Your Jobs Plan and Shove it, Mr. President.” Apparently his bosses weren’t amused.

The editorial is now titled “President Obama’s Policies Have Harmed Chatanooga Enough,” but before the title change the editorial weighed in as the paper’s most visited pages on its website. But success wasn’t enough for the paper’s publishers. [Note, the original headline can still be seen contained in the web address of the page. Look to your web browser address field to see it.]

Drew Johnson was fired, the paper said, for not following the newspaper’s guidelines.

Of Johnson’s firing, the paper said in a statement:

Johnson’s headline, “Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough,” appeared on the Free Press page Tuesday, the day President Barack Obama visited the city.

The headline was inappropriate for this newspaper. It was not the original headline approved for publication, and Johnson violated the normal editing process when he changed the headline. The newspaper’s decision to terminate Johnson had nothing to do with the content of the editorial, which criticized the president’s job creation ideas and Chattanooga’s Smart Grid. The Free Press page has often printed editorials critical of the president and his policies.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press is unique in that it has two editorial pages, the conservative Free Press page and the liberal Times page. This newspaper places high value on expressions of divergent opinion, but will not permit violations of its standards.

Former employee Johnson, though, countered in a Tweet that his actions were not outside the norm.

“We change headlines all the time at the last minute. I had a filler headline that stunk and thought of that Johnny Paycheck song,” Johnson explained.

Johnson also reported on his firing via Twitter, saying, “I just became the first person in the history of newspapers to be fired for writing a paper’s most-read article.”

Johnson’s situation even made a Drudge headline. “I never imagined my firing would make Drudge. Thanks for all of the support and kind words,” the fired editor said on Twitter.

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