By: David Noack
Union characterizes loss of job as ‘draconian’ action by the newspaper
AUNION GRIEVANCE has been filed against the Wall Street Journal on behalf of a reporter who left his job after reporting in a story that he had called the New York Times for a comment when he had not.
James S. Hirsch, 36, who has worked at the Journal for nine years, left on Aug. 18. The exact details of his departure are not known because neither side will discuss it.
The controversy centers on an Aug. 12 Journal story about Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle.
Hirsch wrote that according to Globe publisher Benjamin B. Taylor, the decision to bring Barnicle back, which Taylor supported, was made by editor Mat-thew V. Storin. Then Hirsch wrote, “The Globe is owned by the New York Times Co., which declined to comment.”
But New York Times spokeswoman Nancy Nielsen said that the paper had not received a call from Hirsch that day. Nielsen said she called Hirsch, who admitted he had not made the call. Then she sent a letter detailing the incident to Journal managing editor Paul E. Steiger. Hirsch left his job a short while later.
The Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees Local 1096/ CWA, filed a grievance on Aug. 18, charging that Hirsch was “terminated without just and sufficient cause.”
The union is seeking to have Hirsch reinstated with back pay and benefits.
Ken Martin, the grievance chairman of the union, said the newspaper was overreacting to a mistake. He characterized the paper’s actions as “draconian” and “not proportional.”
A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10, where the newspaper is to present its case, said Martin.
Richard Tofel, a spokesman for Dow Jones & Co., the Journal’s parent, said, “Printing something that one knows to be untrue is perhaps the most serious error a journalist can make.”