Hudson Register-Star reporter fired after refusing to allow byline on story

The Hudson (NY) Register-Star fired reporter Tom Casey after he refused to allow his byline on a budget meeting story that had two paragraphs inserted by an editor, who apparently wanted to create controversy for an editorial. Here are the inserted grafs:

At the start of the meeting some in the audience were upset over Third Ward Alderman John Friedman’s decision not to stand for the pledge of allegiance. While Hudson City Code does not require council members to stand for the pledge, Fifth Ward Alderman Robert Donahue, who had complained about the matter at a previous meeting and asked Friedman why he did not stand, was visibly upset.

No comment could be reached from either party concerning the matter, and it did not interfere with the meeting.

Tom Casey on assignment

Sam Pratt reports “Casey had been under pressure by higher-ups at the paper to make an issue of Friedman’s choice, which the Alderman had exercised at some but not all previous meetings. Getting the matter into the body of a news story would give the paper’s management a predicate for writing an editorial about it. The day after the dispute, Casey was reportedly fired by editor Theresa Hyland at the insistence of publisher Roger Coleman.”

I talked briefly to Hyland, who told me she wasn’t the newspaper’s spokesperson “and I can’t discuss personnel matters.” I left a message for Coleman.

Friedman says Casey “did not deserve to lose his job for doing what he was trained and hired to do.” The alderman posted this comment on a local blog:

Frankly, I think the Pledge is vitally important to America and Americans precisely because — as a nation of immigrants — we have few things in common besides our desire to be here, to live here and to participate in society here. But I also think rote recitation of anything — the Pledge, the Boy Scout motto, the lyrics from my favorite Grateful Dead song — slowly diminishes the meaning of the words. So sometimes I participate and sometimes I don’t.

Friedman

I feel absolutely terrible that Tom — a very nice young man who just recently moved to Hudson himself — is being used so terribly by his former employers. He is the one paying the price; he and all who are now deprived of his cogent and professional reporting.

Finally, it seems to me, the real “news” in this entire story is that a man who stood up for what he believes in, who practiced what he was taught to believe as an American and as a practitioner of a profession central to the proper operation of our form of government, should be so shabbily treated. Tom did not deserve to lose his job for doing what he was trained and hired to do.

* Tom Casey firing roils the Register-Star (sampratt.com)
* Read comments about Casey’s firing (gossipsofrivertown.com)
* Earlier: Casey talks about his work at the Register-Star (thelittlerebellion.com)

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