Objectivity and the case of Henry Norr

Its been two months since Henry Norr was fired by the San Francisco Chronicle. He says it was because he took a day off to attend an anti-war protest. His former employer initially said it was because Norr improperly used vacation time. Executive Editor Phil Bronstein, and husband of Sharon Stone, now claims that the dismissal stemmed from a desire to maintain objectivity at the paper. He dismissed protestors at an appearance at Stanford University last Friday.

"They're demonstrating the firing of Henry Norr, the Spanish-American War and the fact that we wrap our papers in plastic."

And he skirted and dismissed this question asked by a local independent journalist at the Commonwealth Club:
"Why did you unilaterally ban your employees from war-related protests but not other equally controversial forms of political speech, why did you fire Henry Norr, and why won't you return phone calls from me or other journalists to discuss the reasons for your decision?"

Bronstein makes sense on issues of interpretive journalism - calling it "narcissism" and the "all-about-me factor in journalism" - as well as the current sensationalism made popular by Fox News - saying people are going through a "Roman amphitheater phase" and that the "pendulum will swing back" soon enough. But the firing of Norr still appears wicked and cowardly, motivated by fear, whatever motivated the Chronicle to do it. The Chronicle's actions made conservatives happy, since they always love to see liberal journalists fall, and it just reinforced the belief held by many Americans that freedom of speech isn't free and dissent always comes at a price.