The opinion page editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press has been fired over a headline of an editorial that was highly critical of President Barack Obama’s new “jobs plan.”
“Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough,” the headline reads.
(Scroll down for update)
Drew Johnson, the now former opinion page editor at the Free Press, announced his firing on Twitter Thursday and later explained the situation in an exclusive interview with TheBlaze.
“I just became the first person in the history of newspapers to be fired for writing a paper’s most-read article,” Johnson wrote.
The Free Press claims it fired Johnson for “placing a headline on an editorial outside of normal editing procedures.” They are claiming he changed the headline at the last second.
“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 paper said in a statement posted on its website. “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.”
However, Johnson told TheBlaze in a Thursday phone interview that he has never been made aware of a headline approval “procedure” during his time as the opinion page editor.
“Their claim is that the headline was changed at the last minute, which it was and happens almost every day,” he said. “A lot of times we’ll use filler headlines to hold it until we come up with something better and it has been very common to either change a headline myself or have a copy editor change a headline.”
If the headline truly was the only issue, Johnson explained, the newspaper could have changed it and/or issued a retraction at any time. “That’s what’s so strange to me,” he added.
Johnson told TheBlaze he thinks the editorial, which ran in the paper on Tuesday and remained online, became a big deal at least partly because it was involved President Obama. The president’s visit to Chattanooga also coincided with the editorial’s publication.
“There were definitely some Obama supporters upset that I would dare criticize great leader,” he said. “But the majority of calls I got were overwhelmingly supportive…Most of Chattanooga is conservative.”