By: Jennifer Saba
New York Press Publisher Chris Rohland told E&P this afternoon that the reason for Editor Jeff Koyen’s two-week suspension was not because he ran a controversial cover story last week poking fun at the possible demise of the Pope.
In fact, Rohland acknowledged that he had vetted that satiric piece by Matt Taibbi before publication. The problem, he said, was that Koyen, against orders, ran a takeoff of a New York Post cover on an inside page. He was therefore suspended for “insubordination.”
In any case, Koyen quit as editor of the alt-weekly today after learning of his suspension. He departed accusing Rohland in a letter of being a “weenie” for not standing up to criticism of the pope story, which came from the city’s mayor and both U.S. senators from New York, among others.
“I think the letter was childish and inaccurate — he called me a spineless alt-weekly weenie,” Rohland said. “He has never said these things to me before. I wish Jeff luck, and I wish the person who hires him even more luck.”
According to Rohland, the original cover concept for that issue was a parody of the New York Post. Koyen agreed not to run it there but slipped it alongside his editor’s note on page 4, Rohland asserted. Rohland said he earlier green-lighted Taibbi’s story, “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope.”
“My editors have always been given freedom of speech and I rarely step in,” Rohland said. But Rohland said he opposed the New York Post parody cover, not for legal reasons, but because he didn’t feel it was necessary. “It’s competitive enough out there,” he said, adding he didn’t want to give another New York tab free publicity.
Earlier today, the Web site Gawker published the letter from Koyen. He wrote that his bosses “refused to stand behind me in the face of harsh criticism. … I did my best to show this battle to be one of free expression.
?This morning, I was told to accept a two-week unpaid suspension. During that time, I was to ?think about what this paper should be,'” he wrote.
?Problem is, New York Press already is the paper it should be. We are iconoclastic, occasionally obnoxious but always intelligent. If you see through the nasty Pope jokes, for instance, you will see a well-reasoned political argument.?
Rohland said that the story drew mixed reviews from readers and that the volume of feedback was not unusual.
Calls placed to owner David Unger have not been returned as of mid-afternoon.