The Burlington Free Press fired its top editor after he violated the paper’s social media guidelines for speaking out against a proposal for Vermont to offer a third gender option on driver licenses.
The home state of Sen. Bernie Sanders is considering adding ‘X” as an option to licenses, in addition to male and female. The Gannett-owned paper cut ties with now-former editor Denis Finley when he responded to a tweet calling the proposal “awesome” by writing, “That makes us one step closer to the apocalypse.”
Finley’s tweet was immediately criticized by followers who tagged Gannett and the Burlington Free Press, bringing the message to the attention of his employers. “In what way? Please explain how allowing individuals to select a third gender option brings this world closer to the apocalypse,” one user responded, while another wrote, “As a gender fluid person, I demand an apology, particularly for the children and adults in our beloved city who suffer under the oppressive hell of binary gender privilege.”
The Poynter Institute even published a commentary that says, “The Vermont online universe is now filled with mostly outrage, and claims of canceling subscriptions.”
Gannett’s USA Today Network vice president Randy Lovely said Finley’s tweet failed to abide by the company’s code of conduct and ethics policy.
“We encourage our journalists to engage in a meaningful dialogue on social media, but it’s important that the conversation adhere to our overarching values of fairness, balance and objectivity,” Lovely said.
Finley responded to critics by writing, ‘What if someone said it's awesome they are going to recognize pedophiliacs on licenses? I'm not being snarky, I'm just asking. Not all recognition is awesome.”
Finley’s Twitter feed is filled with sarcastic messages, pro-bourbon jokes and conservative viewpoints.
“How many times do I have to tell you? Bourbon makes everything better,” he wrote late last year in between messages that mocked Hillary Clinton.
“Hillary, acting like a truthful candidate,” Finley wrote in response to an article headlined, “The best performances of 2017.”
Emilie Stigliani will oversee the paper on an interim basis while the company searches for a replacement.
“We are committed to finding a top-notch journalist who will lead the Free Press going forward,” Lovely said. “Burlington is a vibrant, engaged community and we have a newsroom that is connected to the community at all levels.”
Finley previously served as editor of the Virginian-Pilot.