Editor & Publisher (E&P) has the story of the firing of Washington Post staffer Michael Tunison, who was let go after he identified himself as the Christmas Ape, a frequent contributor to the satirical sports blog Kissing Suzy Kolber (KSK).
According to the article, the Post said the firing was as a result of Tunison not abiding by, “standards for people’s outside work” which should have been approved by the Post’s management. The paper also proclaimed that Tunison’s blogging “brought discredit to the paper.” Outside work is permitted as long as it is not deemed a conflict of interest.
Tunison responded to E&P by saying, in his opinion, his work at KSK was not a conflict of interest because he was working as a news reporter for a suburban county outside Washington, DC and his beat did not include coverage of the NFL, which is the target of the blog.
I do not read KSK, because I’ve never been a fan of blogs that resort to using crude language to attract readers. I support their right to produce that content, it’s just not for me.
In terms of Tunison’s termination, on the surface it looks a little unfair. But if his work agreement with the Post included the need to seek permission to work elsewhere on his free time, then he did violate the terms of that agreement.
I do, however, think the Post may have been too quick on the trigger to terminate Tunison without any apparent period of negotiation. He was not getting paid for his work at KSK and as long as it did not conflict with his work at the paper, there should have been some compromise reached.
I can understand how language in some of Tunison’s pieces did not sit well with management of the paper. That indirect compromising of the Post’s integrity may have been his undoing.
I do give Tunison credit for finally identifying himself on the blog. Coming clean and taking responsibility for your work is always a good idea. Well, perhaps not in this case.