CINCINNATI (TDB) -- An Ohio journalist with years in the business, who arrived in Cincinnati after being lured from the always aggressive Miami Herald, has been sacked by the Enquirer. Jim McNair, 54, was let go suddenly without any severance pay last Thursday, after he says the bosses told him there were complaints about his work. No corrections have appeared -- and McNair doesn't know who complained, or what caused the beef that cost him his job after six years.
He was a pretty good newsman, a pain in the ass newsman, who could be a prickly pear and would poke his nose into uncomfortable places -- like the banking industry and home builders. Coming from Miami, he would have made a high weekly salary -- that alone probably made him a target in a newsroom (the Enqy in corporate-speak now calls it the "information" center) --under cost-cutting pressure from its corporate parent, Gannett Co. Inc. McNair offered to tell me his salary; I passed because I didn't want to put that kind of personal detail on the Internet. And McNair didn't have a high opinion of his editors at the Enquirer. On that, he was not alone. Too often, I hear people saying the place is run and edited by nincompoops -- from the publisher's desk on down. This morning I heard it from a university official, yesterday from two lawyers, and last Saturday at a tennis match I heard it from people in the construction and real estate industries. They think the metro daily is politically biased, slow on stories, and covers up too much that could embarrass people with power, money or the right connections. They think it writes too much pr fluff, and is dependent on handouts rather than digging. Overall, they think the metro daily is lame, and that if it were an electric utility people would be burying the Public Utility Commission of Ohio with complaints about shoddy or non-existent service.
McNair was not part of that shy-away-from-anything-hardhitting crowd. He was a sore thumb, and stuck out. One example: He wrote stories about a company that sold over-the-counter sex enhancement pills that so angered the owner that he bought a large ad in the paper denouncing McNair. The feds shared McNair's view of the company -- they are trying to seize the sex pill firm's assets and are prosecuting the bigwigs who ran it. I've seen him at Findlay Market on weekends -- the city's ancient outdoor shopping plaza that is filled with small merchants -- with his daughter, who was passing out anti-war stickers. Over the last 24 hours, I've spoken twice with McNair, who is shell-shocked and still hoping to find work in journalism. He needs a paycheck. He suspects he was canned because some large advertisers were offended -- and his suspicions are shared by many outside the Enquirer's management.
Others are picking up the story of McNair's sacking, and mostly the Enquirer comes off as stupid, possibly corrupt or determinedly intent on ridding itself of real journalism. He's getting good marks from people out of town who worked with him, and nobody knows of any serious transgressions in his background like plagiarism or shaking down sources.