This site has obtained a copy of a letter signed yesterday by all of the Register-Star’s top editorial staff (as well as the editor of the Chatham Courier) to management, protesting the firing of reporter Tom Casey. It is reproduced in full below:
November 14, 2012
Dear Roger Coleman and Theresa Hyland:
We, members of the editorial staff at Hudson-Catskill Newspapers, request that you reinstate reporter Tom Casey.
Tom is an integral part of the newsroom at the Register-Star. He is an excellent reporter who covers his beat conscientiously, who thinks deeply about the issues involved, who has developed strong, fertile relationships with his sources, writes imaginatively and accurately and is a warm, intelligent and good humored presence in the newsroom. His record has been spotless and he has never turned down a difficult assignment.
Tom is a young man, a highly promising journalist on his first job after graduating from college. This could turn him away from a field for which he has a strong affinity and to which he could make a positive contribution.
Tom was fired for doing what any journalism professor would want him to do, stand up for the integrity of his own reporting. He was ordered by management to insert a paragraph about something he did not consider newsworthy and that was totally unrelated to the topic of his article, the city budget.
As journalists, we are watchdogs but can never be part of the story. Because no public outcry had occurred to date over Alderman John Friedman’s decision not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, there was no reason to include this in the story. Adding an unrelated paragraph without context at the end of a story looks questionable to readers and gives the appearance of bias.
This could have been a teachable moment for our entire news staff. A story about the community's attitude on the pledge of allegiance could have been assigned the day after Friedman did not stand, but the directive to add the paragraph was given to Tom privately, and there was little opportunity for discussion. This was a perfect opportunity to ask for ideas and to listen to a newsroom with decades of collective experience and strong ethical standards.
It appears that more credence was given to an unnamed source who was also present at the meeting than to your own reporter. Is there any question that source is at odds politically with Friedman? Thus the newspaper appears to be speaking for a biased observer.
What we are looking for is some esprit de corps. You have a great group of reporters here. Just give them a little trust, and work with them.
The journalists at HCN are proud to uphold the highest ethical standards of their profession. The firing of Tom Casey undermines this pride and their belief in the integrity of their work and is highly detrimental to the morale of the newsroom. It also threatens to diminish our standing in the community.
We respectfully request to meet with you and discuss this issue, and request you reinstate Tom Casey as a reporter here.
Karrie Allen, editor, Chatham Courier
David Lee, photographer, Hudson-Catskill Newspapers
Francesca Olsen, city editor, Register-Star
John Mason, reporter, Register-Star
Nathan Mayberg, reporter, Register-Star
Adam Shanks, reporter, Chatham Courier
Billy Shannon, reporter, Register-Star