TBT: The Brutal Truth

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Truth Shall Get You Fired

With the national media's attention on Karl Rove, the War, and Cindy Sheehan over the past month, some stories just pass under the radar, which happened here on August 10th. But, better late than never! So, what happens when a journalist writes a decent article regarding acceptance by members of his own family over what brand of car he buys and the article just happens to take a few mild yet merited swipes at the big 3 American auto makers?

In James Biggs' case, he got fired. The skinny from

A Michigan newspaper columnist who was fired Tuesday claims his dismissal was punishment for a column he wrote on Saturday criticizing American cars.

James Briggs, a former columnist and news editor at The Daily Telegram of Adrian, Mich., says the publisher canned him for writing the column that upset auto dealers and others so close to Detroit's auto manufacturing power houses. The publisher told E&P that auto advertisers did complain, but says there's more to it than that.

"I was in a meeting with my boss [editor Mark Lenz] and the publisher came in and berated me for half an hour," Brigg said, describing the Tuesday morning meeting at the afternoon paper. "He said I needed to understand the consequences of what I wrote."

What he wrote was a column in Saturday's paper that described his decision to switch from driving an American car to a foreign model. "Maybe I'm hitting a late rebellious streak. Maybe I'm simply unpatriotic, ungrateful or un-American," the column said, in part. "Or maybe the domestic automakers have slipped so far down that purchasing an American vehicle has become moronic. I'll go with that answer."

I would agree with that answer, too.

Briggs, 24, said he received no feedback from the newspaper until Tuesday morning when Publisher Paul Heidbreder approached him during his meeting with Lenz. "He said it was insensitive for me to write such a column given our proximity to the Big Three [automakers]," Briggs said. "He tried to get me to at least apologize and I was not going to apologize because I believe what I wrote."

Lenz, who did not respond to a request for comment, reviewed the column prior to publication, Briggs said. The column is still up on the paper's Web site as of Wednesday afternoon.


The publisher told E&P today the termination was not based solely on the column. He also said no advertising had been lost so far, although some auto dealers had threatened to pull ads.

"The auto dealers threat was not what led to his termination," said Heidbreder, who has been publisher since early June. "His account of the events is inaccurate. But I am not going to comment further on personnel matters." The publisher also contends that when he fired Briggs, he offered to give him an explanation, but the columnist said he did not need one.

Of course, he won't need a reason if he's making a pit stop to a lawyer's office on the way home. Reading between the lines, you know exactly why Biggs was cut. His editor and the publisher of the newspaper accepted his article and published it. If neither of them proofed it beforehand, why in the hell are they editing and/or publishing a newspaper in the first place? If either of them had issues with Biggs' commentary, it should've been brought up long before it hit the press. That didn't happen until the publisher got reamed by the Big Three just a few days later and got scared. The Big Three demanded his head and the pussy publisher delivered.

For the original peice that Biggs wrote that pissed off the Big Three, head over here and check it all out. I've read far more damning articles towards the Big Three by the likes of Mitch Albom, Bill Bonds, and other Metro-Detroit area journalist over the last 30 years I've been drawing oxygen and none of them got shitcanned because of it. Why? Because the Big Three knows better than to even try such a move since the people of Detroit stand by their journalists the majority of the time. It's much easier for the big bad Corporatocracy to go after the smaller, lesser-known journalists working at small-fry newspapers outside of the ol' castle gates. The termination of Biggs over this article is deplorable and I'd share this sentiment even if I didn't agree with him. Regardless of that, here's to hoping James Biggs ends up at a better newspaper that stands by their crew instead of buckling to the intimidation of the Corporatocracy.


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