Chattanooga Times Editor Fired Over Anti-Obama Headline

By Howard Kurtz, Fox News Analyst 

The editorial page editor of a Chattanooga newspaper has become, as he tweeted today, “the first person in the history of newspapers to be fired for writing a paper’s most-read article.”

The problem was not the anti-Obama editorial itself. It was the headline: “Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough.”

Is that, in this age of vigorous media debate, really a firing offense?

The Chattanooga Times Free Press says that Drew Johnson got the boot, after just 14 months on the job, for adding the headline “outside of normal editing procedures.” The editorial appeared on Tuesday, the day that Obama visited the Tennessee town.

The Times Free Press says that “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 paper, oddly enough, has two editorial pages: the conservative Free Press (which Johnson ran and where the piece appeared) and the liberal Times.

On his Twitter feed, Johnson said that “any time the paper wanted to change the headline online (which is how most people read the editorial), they could've.” He added: “We change headlines all the time at the last minute. I had a filler headline in that stunk and thought of that Johnny Paycheck song.”