CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Fired Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Jim McNair received an official e-mail termination notice today that cited three trademarked words for his dismissal -- he wasn't "fair and balanced" in his journalistic endeavors. That slogan is claimed by FOX News Channel, which registered the phrase as a U.S. trademark in 1998. It was coined by Rupert Murdoch in the early 1990s to set his conservative broadcasting network apart from the rest of the nation's media, which he considered far too liberal.
Ohio Democrats have long viewed the Enquirer as hostile territory. Now they seem to have gotten some proof. They may want to start reading the online versions of papers in Toledo, Cleveland or Columbus for news that doesn't have to be "fair and balanced" a la FOX. Trustworthy and reliable would probably do the trick. Or accurate. Or let the chips fall where they will.
The use of the phrase, which has become a conservative touchstone, implies that McNair was too progressive, or didn't share the conservative traditions of the Enquirer -- a newspaper that supported Republican right winger Ken Blackwell during an unsuccessful run for governor in 2006. Fair and balanced is a high-profile combination of words, a phrase whose ownership FOX has battled Al Franken in the courts to legally protect. Was the use of the phrase calculated to portray McNair as occupying the left side of the ideological chasm, while the newspaper's bosses held down the right?
McNair, who received a disciplinary warning letter last May that he had "malicious intent and/or disdain for the community," was ousted Thurday from his job after six years on the Cincinnati daily's business desk. On Tuesday, he received an e-mail from the paper's vice president for human resources that used the FOX slogan as a reason for the dismissal.
". . . your employment is terminated based on a pattern of behavior . . . specifically, you had exhibited disrespect for your editors and colleagues and had a lack of understanding about the goals and mission of the Enquirer. In light of recent complaints, our confidence that you could improve in this regard -- to report in a fair and balanced manner -- was severely shaken."
It is not too far a jump to believe that McNair was terminated because the Enquirer wanted him to be a FOX clone.
McNair said he seldom covered politics, but did try to write about subjects that included polluting factories, builders who sold shoddily built homes, or pocketed downpayments and didn't deliver houses, and workers who were contaminated on the job by carcenogenic chemicals.
"These are the real victims here. They aren't going to have a paper here to champion their cause. Nobody outside the company has complained to me about a fair and balanced report. I didn't do politics. I can't be pigeon-holed that easily. You know, I didn't know about the (FOX) trademark, but I knew it was the FOX slogan. I didn't know the Enquirer was using it, too."
Editor and Publisher, a journalism trade publication has more on the firing today and quotes the newspaper's termination e-mail. But the story didn't pick up on the use of the FOX New Channel slogan.