Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Response to PD Statement about my Termination

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.

Illogical.

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.

22 comments:

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg said...

Really sorry to see you go from the P-D -- your columns have been a must-read for me. May have to reconsider my subscription in light of this...

Steven Leigh Morris said...

"More on Sylvester Brown: P-D Editor Arnie Robbins Responds"

http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2009/04/more_on_sylvester_brown_p-d_editor_arnie_robbins_responds.php

Raquita said...

THe post has long been slipping further and further away from daily reading, and here they go giving me another item to add to my reasons I won't subscribe when they call

Alisa said...

Canceled my subscription today...and will encourage all of my friends to do so. I let them know it was because of your termination.

Anonymous said...

I'll truly miss your thoughts. I didn't always agree but I always enjoyed.

Ephphatha Poetry said...

This is sad - for you and for the readers of the Post. My solace is that something good will emerge from this bad situation. Godspeed!

Anonymous said...

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel

I'm happy you're standing up to the Post, Sylvester. Another paycheck can be found, but integrity is a bit harder to come by. Too bad the managing editors can't seem to grasp that concept.

The Post has lost my readership today as well. I will also be encouraging other people I know to do the same.

Anonymous said...

What was the name of the organization that provided the ticket?

Sylvester Brown, Jr. said...

Hey Anonymous, the organization that invited me is the Summit Council for World Peace. I paid for my own ticket. The agency reimbursed me after the trip but I hadn't cashed the check. I told my editor that I wouldn't if they saw some sort of problem. I didn't, because the international organization had nothing to do with the East St. Louis project and I hadn't written anything about this group.

Nisey Love-Payne (Dlove-Payne@stlcc.edu) said...

Sylvester:

It really disturbs me to know that you will no longer be writing for the Post Dispatch and that you were discharged in such a manner. I just finished watching the press conference and they should be ashamed of themselves. I agree that you are blessed, I can see that. There is an ora around you. I saw that the first time I met you and listened to the presentation that you gave. This is your friend Nisey Love-Payne from Meramec and because of you, I now have a voice too, one that I didn't know existed until you awakened it. Thank you so much for all that you have done in the past and will do in the future. I will be keeping an eye on you and I look forward to reading much much more. I will keep you in my prayers and I know that God has something special planned for you, I just can't wait to see it.

P.S. I am still writing my advice column for Meremac Montage, it is going very well and I too, may soon need to fight because my editor wants me to change my style of advice because it is not like Dear Abby. I am not Dear Abby, I am Ask Nisey and I am going to fight hard to keep my column the way it is because readers comment all the time on how much they enjoy reading my advice, so I must be doing something right. Please keep me in mind when you send out publications, I so enjoy your writing.

Anonymous said...

Sylvester, it's Empress!

I'm frustrated over this nonsense. Keep being who you are. If there's anything I can do, please let me know. My friends and I have decided to no longer support the St. Louis post-dispatch. That was a given...hands down!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown, your column was one of the reasons I kept my Post subscription, along with Miklasz and Mr. Bill. I've appreciated your honesty and passion, even if I haven't always agreed. You made me think and I like that. I will miss your column, but expect to keep up with you here, on Twitter, and in your future endeavors. As for the Post, how many more reasons do they need to give me before I flee? Oh, how I wish I hadn't bought that Lee Enterprises stock a couple of years ago. It's probably time to dump that too.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown, I am so proud of YOU!! You will be fine because you are a GREAT journalist and a man of integrity. My husband and I enjoyed all your columns. My next task will be cancelling our 12 year subscription to the Post and emailing them to let them know exactly why.
Many Blessings to you and your family...we are pulling for you!! And we will stay in touch through your blog!!

Anonymous said...

I emailed the P-D cancelling my subscription. Adam Goodman and Arnie Robbins acted out of personal and racial prejudice against Sylvester Brown Jr. Francis Slay completes a trio for the similar reasons. Sylvester provided an opinion column which was well researched and well reasoned. I generally agreed with his opinions and analyses. Sylvester raised the awareness of all of us and therein lay the problem. Goodman, Robbins and Slay pretend race and proverty problems are minimal in St. Louis. These three want the citizens of St. Louis to be ignorant of them. They are hypocritics. They lack the basic ethical behavior they should have learned at their mothers' knees: it is wrong to lie and intentionally deceive. May God forgive their arrogance, I hope the people of St. Louis do not soon forget.
gmontroy

ernest said...

This is yet another example of why old media will soon be irrelevant.

Murfmensch said...

The only reasons I ever picked up the P-D was to read the comics and Sylvester Brown's column.

You have been a massive asset for this city.

Surely, someone will pick you up.

Anonymous said...

Funny how some of these people have cancelled their subscriptions b/c you were fired for an apparent impropriety. I'm considering renewing b/c you were fired, depending upon your replacement. If it's the other black racist, Alvin Reid, I'll continue saving my money.

Anonymous said...

The racial divide in this city has always been at the underbelly of commerce, politics, and journalism. The fact that Slay is working on its third term in this age of Obama, when most of the community is hung-over off Barack's victory, Sylvester Brown was one of the only columnist that come to mind that questioned the mayor's tactics and track record. There is no coincidence that after the post wholeheartedly endorsed Slay, Brown exit followed. We must continue to raise awareness in the community and hope that Mr. Brown continues his investigative, fresh perspective here in St. Louis.

-betrott

Anonymous said...

Carol Daniel is always looking to write more angry, race-baiting columns. I think this opening is just up her alley.

Chris Hayden said...

So how is your spirit holding up?

Karen Smead Mondale said...

This flimsy excuse for termination, and the PD mean-spirited defense of it makes it clear they were looking for anything to silence you. This is a great loss for St. Louis. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Mr. Brown. By the way, I am a 71 year old white female and retired educator and publishing poet. I know your wise and courageous words will find their way to us, the public. Karen Smead Mondale

GAVIN MICHAEL COLLINS said...

Since the sale of the PD by the Pulitzer family the PD fallen from it's former status as a world class newspaper and is beginning to remsemble both in format and reporting quality any number of 5 minute read daily tabloids with neatly arranged news blurbs instead of stories with perspective and depth.

One of the most quietly powerful perspective pieces on community history was Sylvester's elegant and evocative story of his return to burial ground of Pruitt Igoe. Nobody is capable of replacing his passion, his humanity and his talents as a jounalist.

I had been thinking about cancelling my subscription to the PD for about a year now. Without Sylvester, my last reason to maintain my subscription is gone. I'm guessing your dimissal from the PD had to do with a whole lot more that a trip to Washington.

Keep fighting Sylvester, the current PD isn't deserving of a man of your talents and personal integrity.