In a long post in Gawker today, Brooklyn-based freelance journalist Caitlin Curran writes about how she was fired from a New York morning public radio program The Takeaway for holding a sign at Occupy Wall Street.
Her sign, she says, was a take on a piece in the Atlantic about Occupy Wall Street protesters’ seeming inability to articulate specifically what they want. The plan was for her boyfriend to hold the sign at an Occupy protest, and for her to do a story for the Takeaway afterwards. But Curran also held the sign for a little while, too, and that’s when the sign was photographed, then tweeted, picked up by the Atlantic, and then by Reuters, and finally seen by the Takeaway director, who promptly fired her.
Curran isn’t the first to be let go for participating in the Occupy protests. Freelancer opera host Lisa Simeone was also recently let go from “Soundprint,” a documentary show that is broadcast by NPR affiliates, for being cited in conservative circles as a leader of Occupy D.C. “What is NPR afraid I'll do — insert a seditious comment into a synopsis of Madame Butterfly?” Simeone told War Is a Crime. (Read the Post’s Erik Wemple’s account of her firing here.)
Curran defends her decision to participate in the protests this way:
It's unclear to me how our participation, on our personal time, in a non-partisan movement warrants termination from our jobs. If the protest is so lacking, in terms of message and focus, then how can my involvement with it go against The Takeaway's ethical policies?
Some would disagree, including those who have called Occupy the left’s version of the Tea Party.
In the past, many news outlets have worked hard to prevent their journalists for demonstrating a liberal bias. It was why NPR banned its journalists from attending the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally, why CNN fired Senior Middle East News Editor Octavia Nasr for a tweet that angered conservatives, and why the Post accepted the resignation of Dave Weigel after he was found ridiculing right-wing figures Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh.
At the time Weigel resigned, the Post’s Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli was quoted by the paper ombudsman as saying that those in reporting positions should remain “nonpartisan, unbiased and free from slant in their presentation in the paper and in any other public forum. There should be no appearance of conflict.”
In an e-mailed statement, the Takeaway indicated that Curran was fired for a similar reason: “She was expected to be free of any conflict that might compromise the work of the show overall... when Ms. Curran made the decision to participate in the protest and make herself part of the story, she violated our editorial standards. ”