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WNYC Radio Show Fires Journalist For Taking Part In Occupy Wall Street Protests

Caitlin Curran — a journalist who works as a web producer for the WNYC-Public Radio International show The Takeaway — took the words of the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf to heart when he pleaded for 99 Percent Movement protesters to develop more coherent messages. Curran decided to make a protest sign using Friesdorf’s words protesting mortgage industry practices and march in an Occupy Wall Street demonstration with them. The following picture of her paraphrasing Friedersdorf’s criticisms of the mortgage industry went viral:

She thought that her participation in the protest would make a good segment for the show, so she pitched the idea to producers. Yet the director of The Takeaway was outraged by Curran’s participation in the demonstration and fired her immediately, saying that she had violated journalistic ethics. Curran described the firing in a piece for Gawker:

The next day, The Takeaway’s director fired me over the phone, effective immediately. He was inconsolably angry, and said that I had violated every ethic of journalism, and that this should be a “teaching moment” for me in my career as a journalist. The segment I had pitched, of course, would not happen. Ironically, the following day Marketplace did pretty much the exact segment I thought would have been great on The Takeaway, with Kai Ryssdal discussing the sign and the Goldman Sachs deal it alluded to in terms that were far from neutral.

In concluding her piece for Gawker, Curran wondered if the practice of firing journalists for taking part in protests or expressing opinions would have a chilling effect: “Are these ‘teaching moments’ like mine going to dissuade people who have jobs they want to keep from expressing their opinions, however benign?” Indeed, Curran is the second journalist on a prominent radio show to be fired for taking part in the wave of protests. Last week, Lisa Simeone was let go from hosting her opera show after taking part in anti-war protests and National Public Radio stopped distributing her other show.