Intern fired over news article

[Note: this post has been updated below] While working as an intern at New Brunswick’s Telegraph-Journal, Matt McCann wrote a news story that was put on the front page. Then he was fired for writing that same story, according to the St. Thomas University student.

McCann’s story was about a group of University of New Brunswick professors who were upset that UNB was granting an honorary degree to Premier Shawn Graham.

The Telegraph-Journal put the story on the front page of the newspaper on May 12. McCann was fired the next day. He told CBC News:

“She [Shawna Richer, the Telegraph-Journal’s editor] told me my story was seriously unbalanced and severely underplayed the university’s side of the story.

“She said that the newspaper has worked hard to establish a good relationship with UNB and that I had damaged that relationship. She said that I had damaged the reputation of the newspaper and she called my reporting reckless.”

The newspaper said the firing was an internal matter and did not comment further.

According to McCann, Richer was aware of the content of the story in advance. It included comment from the premier’s office, the UNB students, the university’s administration and the professors behind the protest over the honorary degree.

The student says he’s not exactly sure what the reason for his firing was.

The Telegraph-Journal is owned by Jamie Irving, and, as the CBC report notes, many people in New Brunswick believe “the Graham government has been friendly to many of the corporate needs of the Irving companies.”

Mark Tunney is one of McCann’s professors at St. Thomas University and a former editor of the Telegraph-Journal (himself fired from the paper several years ago) told the CBC:

“Editors there decided to put that on the front page. Several editors probably took a look at it or should have taken a look at it.

“So to turn around and fire somebody for a story that you thought was good enough to put on the front page is just so hypocritical.”

(Hat tip to Fagstein for the update.)

While the Telegraph-Journal did not comment for the CBC story, it did run a story about the controversy called, “CBC runs baseless story with no regard for facts or truth” on June 6. For this story, Richer said McCann was fired because his story contained factual errors (which McCann admitted to CBC). The errors were the misspelling of the name of the university secretary and a mistake about the degrees held by the premier. In addition, the article said “the story did not adequately portray both sides of the story.”

Richer said:

“These kinds of errors of fact and judgment don’t constitute acceptable journalism at the Telegraph-Journal. We must cover stories with integrity, clarity and absolute accuracy.”

She also denied the firing had anything to do with the paper’s owners or its relationship with the provincial government.

“The allegation is untrue. Mr. McCann was let go because he didn’t perform to expectations. This is a personnel issue.”