Thursday, June 14, 2012

UPDATE: Tension at Gazette leads to ultimatum for one employee

Posted by on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 12:28 PM

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UPDATE: A meeting originally scheduled for 11:30 this morning to review Tryon's situation has been cancelled, but that's not the end of it, says the reporter in a phone conversation with the Indy.

"I got back [to Freedom's HR department] this morning. I called and said, ‘I’m supposed to have an 11:30 a.m. meeting with Carmen [Boles].’ And she’s like, 'Yeah, that’s been cancelled,'" says Tryon. "And then she said, ‘You know, I’d really like to talk to you — Carmen will not be there — just to discuss, you know, kind of what happened and go from there.’ And I said, ‘That’s fine, my attorney will be with me.’ And she said, ‘Well, unfortunately since our attorney is not in town, [and] this is a personnel issue, it’s a little unfair, it’s one-sided if our attorneys aren’t there to discuss it.’"

Eventually, the department decided to move on and place Tryon on administrative leave despite having not heard his side of the story. Whether it's paid or unpaid is still an unknown, and not determined until the end of the investigation.

"And so in the interim I’m on administrative leave and my Facebook, my phone and my Twitter have absolutely blown up now that this has been the latest chapter of what’s happened," he says. "I’m just standing by waiting to see what happens."

In the meantime: "I really want to emphasize this — I think this is so important — is that this is not an effort for me to slam the Gazette, to slam Freedom Communications, to slam the new owners, 2100 Trust. That’s not what I’m doing.

"I’m standing on principle that what I posted absolutely was not breaking any type of social media policy; I didn’t interject any opinion. And the fact of the matter is it was on my personal account; I have a vested interest in what’s happening with the new owner; and like anyone else in the country, if they saw they were getting bought out by a new company, you would damn well do your research — as a reporter, or not — to look into that new company."

So what's been happening since then?

"You know, honestly, I’ve already had job offers; the TV networks are very interested; I’ve already been asked for interviews," he says. Indeed, media hawks like Jim Romenesko and the Poynter Institute have been following closely.

"I’m not trying to create a shit-storm — I promise you that is not the case," Tryon says. "To many that probably seems that’s what’s happening, but it’s just something that is so ridiculous and blown way out of proportion, and now it’s, like, damage control. And quite honestly, I feel bad for Freedom, ’cause they’re not going to be around in 27 days, and they’re dealing with this."

As for his boss, Tryon has nothing but kind words.

"I absolutely have respect for Carmen — she created the position for me, I came in, and I actually did everything I was hired to do," he says. "But the fact of the matter is I was pegged with something that absolutely just doesn’t have any merit. So it’s very frustrating, and I’m sorry that I put everyone in that situation.

"But, I mean, I have a case."

———ORIGINAL POST: Wednesday, June 13, 10:23 a.m. ———

Content director Carmen Boles.
  • Content director Carmen Boles.

As you might imagine, stress at our local daily is at an all-time high after its parent company, Freedom Communications, was acquired a few days ago by Boston-based 2100 Trust LLC. Things will likely change a lot in the coming months, especially with word coming from the Los Angeles Times that the Gazette will possibly be flipped again. But things were moving well before that, as detailed today in our story by Pam Zubeck: "Prelude to a sale."

So, in an environment like that, it seems only natural that employees — whose, you know, job it is to find stuff out — would be seeking as much information about the future as possible.

Exhibit A: Gazette breaking-news reporter Barrett Tryon's Facebook post from his personal account regarding the L.A. Times' reporting. (We first met Tryon through the Gazette TV initiative — which, as a former employee of multiple TV stations, he says he owns most of the equipment for — though his exposure goes much wider.)

Here's the direct quote he posted:

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Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it. In an unintentionally ironic move (coming from a company that, for the next three weeks, still calls itself Freedom Communications) Carmen Boles, content director for the Gazette, yesterday afternoon told Tryon to "remove it per our social media policy which you signed upon employment," show e-mails obtained by the Independent.

The reason?

"How would an editor at OCR know ANYTHING about intentions of a new company that they have never even met?" wrote Boles, citing the unnamed editor at the Orange County Register who originated the rumored re-sell of the G. "This does not meet our standards of factual information."

Tryon pushed back, saying it's a relevant news story, with no added opinion. In return, he was accused of "perpetuating rumor, which is unfounded and could cause more concern in the community than is necessary," Boles wrote.

Beyond the oddity of a news organization trying to squelch reputable reporting, the reporter continued to resist on policy grounds: "Because it's on my personal account, and from an LA Times article, I'm not removing it. It comes down to perception and we could argue that all night long."

Boles' response? "Why would you want to pull out a quote like that about the company you work for?" And, in a later message: "I've had a pretty rough day myself. I just want to understand why you think it's ok."

They then went back and forth about a referral to the company's human-resources department for potential punishment.

At this point, Tryon's still waiting to hear back from the corporate offices, but offers this statement: "The G has bigger fish to fry than singling out one employee for a link that was printed and emailed a hundred times in the newsroom alone — and in the community even more."

We contacted Boles for comment and have yet to hear back.

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