Washington Times reporter who spoke out about the paper is dismissed
Thursday, June 3, 2010
A month ago, Julia Duin, for 14 years a reporter at the Unification Church-backed Washington Times, did something journalists might admire, but their bosses often abhor. She spoke out about her employer, in print, on the record. In a Washington Post article on the potential sale of the Times, Duin said the paper felt like a "rudderless ship" and reported that a black snake -- "the real live variety" -- had turned up in the newsroom.
Duin, 54, said she was dismissed Tuesday, a decision she believes came in retaliation for her published comments. To make matters more painful, Duin was given the news while her 5-year-old daughter Olivia was visiting the newsroom. On top of that, Duin had to pack up and remove her belongings while on crutches, the result of a recent foot injury.
Don Meyer, a spokesman for the Times, did not return a call seeking comment.
Duin, who in April won the first place religion reporting award in the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association's annual contest, said Times editor Sam Dealey told her Tuesday that religion coverage had no future at the paper and that she was being laid off. Duin said she asked her boss, " 'Isn't this payback, Sam, for The Washington Post article?' He denied it. He said, 'We're doing some cost-cutting.' "
Duin said she never intended to speak ill of the employer she has loyally served: "All I wanted to do was tell the truth. Why is that such a hard thing among journalists?"
Duin's departure comes as Times executives are considering selling the financially strapped paper, which was created in 1982 by the founder of the Unification Church, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. According to current and former Times executives, a group of conservative investors has offered about $15 million for the paper. The offer would require the current owners -- led by Moon's son Preston -- to pay off the Times' debt, which is believed to be more than $6 million, the sources said. The identity of the bidders could not be determined. The paper's former editor, John Solomon, who had been trying to buy the Times, is no longer a serious contender, the sources said.
But the Times sources also said that Nicholas Chiaia, a member of the paper's two-man board of directors and president of the church-supported United Press International wire service, is not eager to accept the offer. The sources said Chiaia would prefer to slim down or eliminate the Times' print edition, converting the newspaper to a Web-only news service.