For those interested in a GetReligion flashback, today's Wall Street Journal op-ed page includes a review of the new book Fired! by actress Annabelle Gurwitch. The book sounds interesting, especially its list of 21 synonymns that people in power use in this sensitive age in place of the blunt words "You're fired." However, what jumped out at me was the update -- right in the middle of the review -- on the backstory about the faith-based firing not that long ago of the review's author. That would be Dawn Eden, the former superstar headline writer of the New York Post. If you want to catch up, click here for GetReligion material on the firing.
Here is Dawn's account of her own journey into the white light of unemployment, which is a cautionary tale about all kinds of things -- from not-so-tolerant libertarian editors (I speculate freely here) to the dangers of expressing one's faith in the blogosphere.
On the day I got the ax as a copy editor, Col Allan, the editor in chief, called me into his office and told me that he was "very concerned" about my blog, where I discuss my beliefs as a Christian conservative. He then lowered the boom (those "fired" synonyms just keep coming). But the first intimation that something was up had come days earlier.
It was then that I got in trouble with my boss, and a Post reporter, by making changes in an article about in-vitro fertilization. I was merely trying to add factual balance. (When three embryos are implanted and two "take," the third one -- it seemed worth mentioning -- "dies.") The newspaper, however, thought that the changes reflected "rabid anti-abortion views," as a Post gossip column would later put it. When my boss refused to fire me over the incident, the unsatisfied reporter found my blog, printed out certain passages and took them to the top brass.
The word then came down from on high: "When you give an interview, if you talk about being Christian, don't mention that you work for the New York Post." I agreed. But I had agreed to the same thing four months before, after I gave an interview to a media-gossip Web site and my comments had stirred concern at the paper. When Mr. Allan finally fired me, then, it wasn't entirely clear whether the reason was my blog, my beliefs or my editing.
We have already had some lively discussions on this blog about the copy-desk issues involved in this firing. I should also mention that this is not the only story I have heard through the years in which talented journalists were shoved out the door in disputes about a newspaper's lack of accuracy and balance in abortion coverage. Is there anyone else out there with tales that can be told without getting anyone, well, dismissed?
It's the blog angle that struck me this time, because Dawn is, in fact, one really blunt blogger. I would imagine that she has very few fans at Planned Parenthood. As we would say in Texas, Dawn is a pistol. She also has, as we say here inside the Beltway, "fallen up" and is working as a copyeditor and columnist at the New York Daily News. Her love of a punchy headline also shows up in the title of her upcoming book on sex and singles, The Thrill of the Chaste.
So this leaves us with an old question: Do journalists have a right to talk about their faith, or their unbelief, for that matter, in the safety of cyberspace? How about in public speeches? Does it matter if this particular reporter is on the Godbeat or the political beat? Sadly, I would assume that the answer to this has more to do with the beliefs of the managing editor than of the framers of the Bill of Rights. Anyone want to talk about that? The topic comes up every few years at national gatherings of the Religion Newswriters Association.
Oh, and at the end of Eden's WSJ review, check out her quip about Bill Maher's venture into unintentional quotations from the Bible. Fun stuff.