While the recent coverage of the Facebook post from Gazette multimedia journalist Barrett Tryon is a little self-absorbed on the media's part, it also serves as a good look at how corporations, big and small, seek to control the message. The complications come when that effort originates from an entity ostensibly devoted to fighting off that sort of thing, says former Gazette entertainment editor Warren Epstein.
"Is it weird that a communications company, a newspaper company, has policies about trying to control the message? It happens all the time!" he says in a phone conversation with the Indy. "This is not news. It happens at your paper all the time, it’s gonna happen at every paper. Newspapers are just like anywhere else: they do like to control the information.
"But here’s the deal: One of the things that really makes newspapers so wonderful is that newspapers have this contract, this unspoken contract, with readers, that I am your advocate. And I think that — and believe me, one of the reasons why I left was the paper was, in my area, I felt like that contract with readers was not being honored in the way that I felt like it should be."
Though he declined to elaborate, Epstein, now with local marketing firm Vladimir Jones after resigning from the Gazette in March, says that where Tryon erred is not taking into account the reality of having a boss. He also doesn't understand why the reporter went so public with the dispute, so fast.
"My only point is — because I disagree with [content director Carmen Boles'] request to take [the post] down — but I think that it’s not a totally unreasonable request," the longtime editor says. "And I don’t think he’s wrong — I think he’s actually arguing for a really good cause. But you first do that argument with your boss. You don’t take that argument to Twitter and Facebook. That is just wrong. And to go public with private e-mails of your boss’ is terrible — is just a terrible thing."
So, in light of the news that Tryon's suspended until the completion of an investigation by Freedom Communication's human resources department, what should Boles ultimately do?
"I think the better option is not-firing [Tryon]," Epstein says. "I think that they have a lot to lose. I mean, I think they have a lot to lose because he’s a valuable employee, and I think they have a lot to lose in face, [because] of this national attention at a terrible time to get it. It’s a black eye.
"And it puts Carmen in a totally untenable situation: either way she goes she’s screwed."