Contrary to statements made by former Free Press editor Drew Johnson and national media reports, Johnson was told on multiple prior occasions not to make material changes to editorials or headlines once they were approved by the editor responsible for the page.
On Monday night, Johnson changed the approved headline on his Tuesday editorial from, “Keep your jobs plan to yourself, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough already” to “Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough.”
However, he waited until his editor had left for the day before changing the headline. That is a violation of our clear editing practice, and our trust. He admitted the following day that he failed to follow the standard set for him.
The language he chose was vulgar and not appropriate for this newspaper. Even Johnson himself admitted that the headline was “harsh and perhaps crass to a fault” in an editorial he wrote for this Sunday, which will not run.
Johnson’s firing was not about yielding to political pressure. He was not fired for writing an editorial criticizing President Barack Obama. The body of the editorial was approved for publication; only the headline was changed.
The newspaper has allowed Johnson to write his opinions freely and without censorship during the time he worked here – even when he wrote about very controversial topics that many readers complained about. In the past year we have printed at least 46 editorials critical of Obama on the Free Press page.
In fact the only instance when the Times Free Press ever denied Johnson the freedom to present his views was last week when he referred to pornography as a “miracle product” and touted the benefits of pornography stating that if teenagers watched pornography it would result in lower rates of teenage pregnancy.
The Times Free Press values having two editorial pages to express both conservative and liberal views. We encourage differing viewpoints and dissent, we believe having competing views makes community stronger. We expect those debates to be respectful.