The Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arnie Robbins, and Managing Editor Pam Maples have issued a statement about my termination:
"Sylvester Brown Jr. is no longer writing a column for the Post-Dispatch. Brown accepted the offer of a free trip to Washington from supporters of a group that he had written about in a column the day before ... Brown also had not notified his editors of his trip or the offer ... our ethics policy clearly states the parameters regarding conflict of interest, and what our journalists can and cannot do. Brown declined an opportunity to write a farewell column."
"Supporters of a group ..." Now, that's an interesting spin.
Yes, there are literally dozens of organizations that support the Illinois renewable energy effort as well as other efforts aimed at eliminating poverty world-wide and creating sustainable, reinvigorated urban communities. You know, sort of like the United Way supports hundreds of organizations working to serve the poor and disenfranchised.
So, let's say I'm working on a book (not a column) about nonprofits working to end poverty. Apparently, Post management alleges I'm forbidden to take a trip to the United Way headquarters if its leadership wants to provide me insights into the scope of the problem. Such research for a book, according to my interpretation of the Post's reasoning here, is suspect because I have written columns about local agencies supported by the United Way.
As to my travel without notice: Columnists are not, could not be and have never been nine-to-five employees with posted schedules. Management knows that. Enough said.
Apparently, the Post has a policy that stops a columnist who's been told repeatedly not to write columns on national issues, to "keep things local," from thinking about, researching and investigating a potential book about a national issue on his own.
Funny, no attorney I spoke with or Guild representative who vowed to arbitrate this case could find such a policy statement.