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Journalist Is Fired From Public Radio Show for Questioning Objective Reporting Under Trump

“I can’t be objective on the question of my own humanity,” Lewis Wallace wrote. (Rachel Johnson / CC 2.0)

Lewis Wallace worked for the American Public Media show “Marketplace” since May of last year, but on Monday he was fired.

The reason? Wallace wrote a personal blog post questioning objective journalism under the Trump administration. Titled “Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it,” the piece explored how journalists will “adapt to a government that believes in ‘alternative facts’ and thrives on lies, including the lie of white racial superiority.”

“I argue that our minds—and our listeners’ and readers’ minds—are stronger than that, strong enough to hold that we can both come from a particular perspective, and still tell the truth,” Wallace wrote. “And I have the sense that this distinction is important in this moment, because we are going to have to fight for and defend what it means to serve the public as journalists.”

In a post published Tuesday on the website Medium, Wallace explained how his story on objectivity led to the loss of his job:

A couple hours after it was published, I got a call from the managing editor and executive producer at Marketplace. They said my post was in violation of Marketplace’s ethics code, and that I would be suspended from air and should not come into work for the rest of the week.

They specified a few reasons it violated the policy: Marketplace, they said, believes in objectivity and neutrality (though neither word actually appears in its code). And they were concerned about the section of my piece that asserted that we shouldn’t care, as journalists, if we are labeled “politically correct” or even “liberal” for reporting the facts. (I still maintain that we shouldn’t care, and for the record, I am not a liberal.) They said they wished I had brought the post to them first. …

On Friday, still suspended, I woke up feeling like I was disappearing … I sent my superiors a very heartfelt message … and let them know I’d be putting the post back up at the end of the day. …

On Monday morning, the VP of Marketplace fired me. I was terminated effective immediately, with my benefits ending in two days and an offer of two weeks’ pay.

“Marketplace” executive Deborah Clark elaborated on Wallace’s termination in a phone conversation with a columnist at The Washington Post.

“This was a clear violation of our ethics code,” Clark stated. “He did not agree—and he does not get to make that decision. That left me with no other options.”

In his explanation of the events leading up to his firing, Wallace addressed how his identity as a transgender journalist influenced his commitment to his argument about objectivity.

“I thought my experiences navigating this as a trans person might bring some interesting perspective,” Wallace wrote. “I thought if other journalists disagreed, we could have a vibrant discussion about why, and that it might reach others who were feeling isolated or afraid to speak out.”

As Wallace noted in the title of his piece for Medium, he was fired “ten days into Trump.” He believes this reflects how the new administration is already forcing journalists to question objectivity.

“Wallace’s firing is emblematic of struggles in newsrooms across the country,” according to the Post. “Journalists and their managers are sparring about the meaning of impartiality in a world redefined by a Trump administration that sees the news media as the enemy.”

“I did not expect nor desire to be fired from my job as such an apparently direct result of the fear produced by these intimidating and fast-moving political changes,” Wallace wrote in Medium.

Wallace has continued to address the issue on social media, engaging with fellow journalists over the question of personal identity and political neutrality.

“I can’t be objective on the question of my own humanity,” he tweeted Tuesday. “I shouldn’t have to pretend to in order to do my job.”

—Posted by Emma Niles

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