Chattanooga Times Free Press opinion page editor and columnist Drew Johnson has been fired because of a controversial editorial he penned for the paper, “Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President.”
The editorial appeared the day President Barack Obama was visiting the city to make a speech on the economy, and was highly critical of the White House’s economic program — or lack thereof.
The paper claims he changed the headline at the last minute without approval. Johnson has countered on Twitter that “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.”
The 1977 song Johnson is referring to, “Take this job and shove it,” is in fact one of the most iconic country songs ever, and the headline would not have been at all shocking to the Chattanooga, Tenn. audience that grew up listening to it.
A crude headline referring to a president, perhaps, but certainly nothing to dump a lead editor over. If anything, it possessed a clarity rarely seen in politics.
And if anything, the content of the editorial — which the paper states it did approve, if not the headline — was even less cordial. It opened, “President Obama, welcome to Chattanooga, one of hundreds of cities throughout this great nation struggling to succeed in spite of your foolish policies that limit job creation, stifle economic growth and suffocate the entrepreneurial spirit.”
The Johnson editorial continued, “Forgive us if you are not greeted with the same level of Southern hospitality that our area usually bestows on its distinguished guests. You see, we understand you are in town to share your umpteenth different job creation plan during your time in office. If it works as well as your other job creation programs, then thanks, but no thanks. We’d prefer you keep it to yourself.”
And it goes on at some length, making it perfectly clear Mr. Obama was not welcome in Chattanooga: “64 percent of Chattanooga respondents said they would rather you hadn’t chosen to visit our fair city, according to a survey on the Times Free Press website, it’s probably good that you’re here. It will give you an opportunity to see the failure of your most comprehensive jobs plan to date, the disastrous stimulus scheme, up close and personal.”
With zingers like these — that the paper states it approved, just not the headline — it is wondrous indeed that the paper would have had any problem with the headline.
Read the editorial for yourself (which has since been taken down by the paper), which Americans for Limited Government was so impressed it, we sent a reprint out to our subscribers nationwide, commenting, “This is what a truly free press looks like.”
Boy, were we wrong. Firing Johnson for doing his job and holding this unaccountable administration accountable is an affront to journalists everywhere. And even if you believe the paper’s explanation that he was fired because the headline was changed, it shows an astounding lack of understanding of what a headline is supposed to do: Get people to read the story.
Based on the clicks, Drew Johnson should have been given a raise for putting his paper on the map. It’s a pretty good guess that the Chattanooga paper’s loss will be another publication’s gain.