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2003-04-24

San Francisco Chronicle

Fires Reporter for Protesting

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The San Francisco Chronicle has fired technology columnist Henry Norr who was arrested while taking part in an anti-war rally last month. Norr was participating in the massive direct action protests that spread across the Bay area on the day after the U.S. invasion of Iraq began.

The next day his column on computers and technology was pulled. He was suspended for a month. And now he has been officially been fired.

The paper has refused to comment on the case. Yesterday we talked to two of the _Chronicle_’s top three editors, executive editor Phil Bronstein and assistant executive editor Narda Zacchino. They both declined to come on the show citing the newspaper’s policy not to publicly discuss personnel issues.

At the time of his arrest last month, Chronicle policies did not ban participation in demonstrations. The paper’s ethics policy stated that "The Chronicle does not forbid employees from engaging in political activities but needs to prevent any appearance of any conflict of interest."

In a statement published yesterday, Noor wrote, "Since my job was writing about personal technology, not politics and war, I saw and see no conflict of interest."

Since Noor’s suspension, management has twice made modifications to the ethics policy. The most recent "clarification" imposed a "strict prohibition against any newsroom staffer participating in any public political activity related to the war."

The official line from the Chronicle is that Norr was suspended and then fired because he had allegedly falsified his time card. But according to unnamed sources within the Chronicle interviewed by the San Francisco Examiner there was only one reason and that was politics. Not only had Norr protested the invasion of Iraq but he was also outspoken on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Norr joins a growing number of journalists who have lost their jobs or columns due to their views on war.

Two months ago MSNBC canceled Phil Donahue’s show. A leaked internal memo claimed that Donahue would present "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.... He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives." The report warned that the Donahue show could be "a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

Brent Flynn, a reporter for the Lewisville Leader in Texas, was told he could no longer write a column for the paper in which he had expressed anti-war views.

Kurt Hauglie, a reporter and columnist for Michigan’s Huron Daily Tribune, quit the paper after allegedly being told that an anti-war column he had written would not run because it might upset readers.

War correspondent Peter Arnett was fired from NBC after he told Iraqi TV in which he said that war planners had "misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces" and that there was "a growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war."

And Ed Gernon, a veteran TV producer who worked with CBS was fired after he compared state of U.S. affairs today with that of Nazi Germany. While plugging the CBS miniseries Hitler, Gernon described the series like this: "It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunge the whole nation into war. I can’t think of a better time to examine this history than now."

  • Henry Norr, fired from the San Francisco Chronicle after attending anti-war protest.

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