Chattanooga editor fired over Obama 'Shove It' headline

4:27 PM, Aug 2, 2013   |    comments
Drew Johnson, former editor at Times Free Press
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A Chattanooga newspaper has fired an editor for a headline that told President Obama to take his jobs plan and "shove it."

The Times Free Press published a statement on its website:

Free Press editor Drew Johnson has been terminated after placing a headline on an editorial outside of normal editing procedures.

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.

Johnson says the newspapers explanation doesn't make sense. Between an interview with Huffington Post and Fox News, he called into Live and Local, a radio station hosted by Brian Joyce in Chatanooga on 102.3FM.

"I was terminated, and they said it was because I violated protocol they had about not checking off with an editor when you change a headline, and that policy was not in place on Monday. It wasn't put in place until Tuesday. So I was fired for a policy that wasn't in place until after I wrote the piece," he said. 

He says the article is the most read article in the history of the newspaper's website. "The opinion page isn't the news section, it's a completely different wing. I was hired to entertain. To be factual, certainly. But to get people talking, to get people agitated."

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