Chattanooga Times Free Press officials said Thursday that Free Press editor Drew Johnson has been fired "after placing a headline on an editorial outside of normal editing procedures."
The newspaper said, "Johnson’s headline, 'Take your jobs plan and shove it, Mr. President: Your policies have harmed Chattanooga enough,' appeared on the Free Press page Tuesday, the day President Barack Obama visited the city.
"The headline was inappropriate for this newspaper.
It was not the original headline approved for publication, and Johnson violated the normal editing process when he changed the headline. The newspaper’s decision to terminate Johnson had nothing to do with the content of the editorial, which criticized the president’s job creation ideas and Chattanooga’s Smart Grid. The Free Press page has often printed editorials critical of the president and his policies.
"The Chattanooga Times Free Press is unique in that it has two editorial pages, the conservative Free Press page and the liberal Times page. This newspaper places high value on expressions of divergent opinion, but will not permit violations of its standards."
Soon after his dismissal, Mr. Johnson sent out this tweet, "I just became the first person in the history of newspapers to be fired for writing a paper's most-read article."
He later added, "Getting fired for taking a stand is bad. Getting fired two weeks before your wedding is worse. Thanks for sticking by me."
He also wrote, "The policy I 'broke' did not exist when I 'broke' it. It was created after people complained about the headline & was applied retroactively. Any time the paper wanted to change the headline online (which is how most people read the editorial), they could've.
"We change headlines all the time at the last minute. I had a filler headline in that stunk and thought of that Johnny Paycheck song."
Mr. Johnson, 34, had been the replacement for Lee Anderson, who had a 70-year career with the newspaper.
He was the founder and first president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a free market think tank and watchdog organization based in Nashville.
He was with the newspaper for just over a year.