Dawn Eden writes again

trump firedFor those interested in a GetReligion flashback, today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page includes a review of the new book Fired! by actress Annabelle Gurwitch. The book sounds interesting, especially its list of 21 synonymns that people in power use in this sensitive age in place of the blunt words “You’re fired.”

However, what jumped out at me was the update — right in the middle of the review — on the backstory about the faith-based firing not that long ago of the review’s author. That would be Dawn Eden, the former superstar headline writer of the New York Post. If you want to catch up, click here for GetReligion material on the firing.

Here is Dawn’s account of her own journey into the white light of unemployment, which is a cautionary tale about all kinds of things — from not-so-tolerant libertarian editors (I speculate freely here) to the dangers of expressing one’s faith in the blogosphere.

On the day I got the ax as a copy editor, Col Allan, the editor in chief, called me into his office and told me that he was “very concerned” about my blog, where I discuss my beliefs as a Christian conservative. He then lowered the boom (those “fired” synonyms just keep coming). But the first intimation that something was up had come days earlier.

It was then that I got in trouble with my boss, and a Post reporter, by making changes in an article about in-vitro fertilization. I was merely trying to add factual balance. (When three embryos are implanted and two “take,” the third one — it seemed worth mentioning — “dies.”) The newspaper, however, thought that the changes reflected “rabid anti-abortion views,” as a Post gossip column would later put it. When my boss refused to fire me over the incident, the unsatisfied reporter found my blog, printed out certain passages and took them to the top brass.

The word then came down from on high: “When you give an interview, if you talk about being Christian, don’t mention that you work for the New York Post.” I agreed. But I had agreed to the same thing four months before, after I gave an interview to a media-gossip Web site and my comments had stirred concern at the paper. When Mr. Allan finally fired me, then, it wasn’t entirely clear whether the reason was my blog, my beliefs or my editing.

dawneden 01We have already had some lively discussions on this blog about the copy-desk issues involved in this firing. I should also mention that this is not the only story I have heard through the years in which talented journalists were shoved out the door in disputes about a newspaper’s lack of accuracy and balance in abortion coverage. Is there anyone else out there with tales that can be told without getting anyone, well, dismissed?

It’s the blog angle that struck me this time, because Dawn is, in fact, one really blunt blogger. I would imagine that she has very few fans at Planned Parenthood. As we would say in Texas, Dawn is a pistol. She also has, as we say here inside the Beltway, “fallen up” and is working as a copyeditor and columnist at the New York Daily News. Her love of a punchy headline also shows up in the title of her upcoming book on sex and singles, The Thrill of the Chaste.

So this leaves us with an old question: Do journalists have a right to talk about their faith, or their unbelief, for that matter, in the safety of cyberspace? How about in public speeches? Does it matter if this particular reporter is on the Godbeat or the political beat? Sadly, I would assume that the answer to this has more to do with the beliefs of the managing editor than of the framers of the Bill of Rights. Anyone want to talk about that? The topic comes up every few years at national gatherings of the Religion Newswriters Association.

Oh, and at the end of Eden’s WSJ review, check out her quip about Bill Maher’s venture into unintentional quotations from the Bible. Fun stuff.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    This is a problem outside of religion and journalism as well. Heather Armstrong, of Dooce.com, is one famous example, well-known enough that “dooced” is used in blogging circles for “to get fired because of your blog”. Ellen Simonetti was fired from Delta Airlines for putting “inappropriate images” on her blog. And there’s Jessica Cutler, mail clerk at the US Senate, fired for blogging about her sex life.

    Hm, all women. There have been some men fired for blgging too, but all the examples I can find were of blogging about work matters. (Armstrong fits in this category too.)

  • Michael

    There’s no Bill of Rights problems when you blog on the company time and discuss the company in your blog. Employers have the right to monitor the blogging activities of people who are paid for their ideas and thoughts and can fire employees who breach that ethical responsibility.

  • Dan

    If it is true that she was fired for expressing her religious beliefs, I would think Dawn Eden could sue the pants off the New York Post.

  • Michael

    And undoubtedly she would if she had a case. But given that they had a legitimate reason for terminating her–blogging on company time using company resources–she would have a very very weak case.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Putting on my copy-editor hobbyist cap for a moment (yes, I really do copy-edit as a hobby), I’d recommend lower-casing the L at the start of “Libertarian” in your third paragraph, Terry. Capitalized, it implies membership in the political party; lower-cased, it’s just a descriptive adjective. (I know a lot of small-l libertarians who wouldn’t touch the party with a ten-foot copy of The Road to Serfdom.)

  • Greg Popcak

    In response to your question, I think that if reporters were allowed to be more open about their beliefs or unbelief, we would all be much better served.

    It is the silly veneer of “impartiality” that does damage. People of all stripes–journalists and others–pretend we’re values-free while we simultaneously shove our values down the throats of the people we serve. My profession, clinical psychology, has had to come to terms with this. I think it’s time for journalism to do the same.

    Personally, as a Catholic, crunchy, social conservative, I get much more out of publications that are clearly, identifiably, left-leaning or right-leaning than I do out of any publication that claims to be “moderate” because they never are. The Utne Reader and National Review (both of which I read regularly and disagree with often) are much more reliable sources of information than the NY Times will ever be because they’re at least honest about their POV. Any publication that allows its reporters to hide behind the veil of imparitiality presents its information in the context of a wink and a lie, and to my way of thinking, that make them unreliable.

    Just my .02.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Does the confusion between the ideology and what the late chairman SEKII used to call “the Partyarchy” betoken that Mr. Mattingly Just Doesn’t Get politics?

    I would like to know the basis for the “speculation” that the Post is run by either libertarians or Libertarians.

    I know I have seen members of the St. Blog’s “commentariat” use terms VERY loosely, labeling Bill Buckley, Gordelpus, as both a “libertarian” (which would surprise every libertarian *I* know, especially David Friedman)AND a “neoconservative” (and surely he is the icon of “paleoconservatives”?)

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Will, Terry’s position is that most of the people working in mainstream media positions believe in a hands-off, do-as-you-will position on matters of sexual politics and a few other cultural matters; he labels that position libertarian (or “Libertarian”). He doesn’t (as far as I can tell) mean that they are laissez faire on business matters, or are minarchists, or anarcho-capitalists, or write Usenet posts arguing that national health care is the first step on the road to Stalinism, or that sort of thing. He’s using it as a rough bit of descriptive shorthand, not as a formal philosophical label.

  • http://www.lightreflected.org prof B

    I’m beginning to suspect this happens all the time–no matter how ‘conservative’ the media outlet. I worked as a freelancer for the Dallas Morning News Religion section, mainly writing about Christian music. I was ‘let go’ because I gave a statement that was used in a press released that included the line ‘as a follower of Christ, I’ . . . Now, I’m not sure who they thought was going to be reviewing Christian music for them, as most people outside the faith, and many within it (Mollie, your ears burning?) can’t stand it. Anyway, my ed. called me, asked if I gave the quote, told me reporters for the News couldn’t give faith statements like that, and canned me.

    I pressed them on it, and the reason for my release changed to ‘well, you gave a statement to be used in a press release and shouldn’t have.’ [Nevermind that I'd never been given any kind of guidelines on that, or anything else, in the 4 1/2 years I'd written there. ] Then, suddenly, I was reinstated, under some very scolding guidelines because I’d been very naughty and they were being very gracious to let me back. I wrote for them for about another month and decided it wasn’t worth it.

    I imagine Dawn could’ve sued the crap out of the Post, and had I been a regular employee, not a stringer, I could’ve done the same to the Morning News. I possibly could have anyway–but ultimately decided that any gain (and that was iffy) would’ve been outweighed by the damage both to my reputation and to the name I claim to follow. Wasn’t worth it–maybe she decided the same thing. Doesn’t stop it from being frustrating–there was some behind the scenes stuff going on in my case–and apprently in hers as well–that I never could get to the bottom of. Still bugs me. But you gotta move on. . . These kinds of problems seem to be becoming common for believers who try to do the ‘roaring lamb’ thing at a mainstream outlet. Terry, any solution to that (other than just writing for the CBA market)?

  • http://www.bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TK

    tmatt writes: “She also has, as we say here inside the Beltway, “fallen up” and is working as a copyeditor and columnist at the New York Daily News.”

    Being from Minnesota, I’m really at a loss to understand what you mean by “fallen up”. I’m trying to work it out in my brain, but it’s only sounding like a dismissal to me. Since I don’t believe that is what you meant to say, I hope you have a moment to explain further.

  • http://www.christianengineer.org Joe

    Ms. Dawn Eden
    Author “YOU’RE FIRED”
    The Dawn Patrol Blog

    Re: Theology of Journalism Profession?

    Hi Dawn,

    I’m a deeply concerned Christian who is, by vocation, a licensed professional engineer (P.E.) employed as a nuclear safety engineer.

    I’m a multiple-time prevailing whistleblower (I have a website that details much of it, it is a bit dated, but it’s down right now because of technical issues, hopefully it will be back up in a day or so.)

    I suggest there are some parallels in our stories – at end of it, I’m doing my positive and legal duty to “blow whistles,” when necessary to protect others for faith-based reasons – that one’s work matters to God.

    The reason I am enduring what I have is because there is little collective cohesiveness by the engineering profession to its code of ethics when offended by an employer of an engineer. And that, I contend, is because there is no intentional and collective Christian influence in the engineering profession. I contend a collective and intentional Christian influence in the engineering profession would be necessary and sufficient to pull the engineering profession out of its ethical ditch and that, absent one, one has no reason to expect positive change.

    The attached files (short) are articles I authored/co-authored related to engineering ethics in past few months.

    I have assembled a team of engineers, theologians, and others to intentionally and collectively seek God’s will for the engineering profession and its Christian members, with the planned product being a 3-5 thousand word length publishable paper with a focus on whether and/or to what degree Christian engineers should collectively and intentionally influence their profession.

    This is somewhat described at and the associated blog.

    I am somewhat familiar with Gegrapha, the auxiliary journalism professional society for Christians . It eschews being an organizational vehicle to encourage and equip Christians in journalism to advance God’s will, intentionally, both invididually and collectively, in the journalism profession. I question how any organization can call itself “God-centered” if its mission is not about ascertaining, documenting, and advancing God’s will in its particular sphere of influence, but Gegrapha can and does, even though its “mission” is basically fellowship – being a port in the storm for Christian members of the cold, cruel profession of journalism.

    Are you a Gegrapha member? Can you “connect the dots” between the lack of collective and intentional Christian influence in your profession and what happened to you? Can you see what you experienced being corrected absent a collective and intentional Christian influence existing in your profession?

    I read about you in a post on Terry Mattingly’s “Get Religion” blog. I will post this email to you as a comment on that blog post.

    Respectfully,

    Joe Carson, P.E.
    Knoxville, TN

  • Dawn Eden

    Thanks very much to those who’ve shown support. Webmaster, could you please remove my e-mail address from the above post? I don’t want to get spammed. Thanks again.

  • tmatt

    I confess that the L in libertarian should, indeed, be lower case. I don’t know what I was thinking. My bad.

    The term “falling up” is Beltwayese for what happens when someone loses one job and ends up in an even better one. Instead of falling DOWN, the fall UP. It is a compliment.

  • http://www.katiesbeer.blogspot.com TK

    Regarding the vocation of journalist and any rights afforded to journalists who are also Christians, I am wary of any benefits beyond fellowship in Christian professional societies.

    Beyond the red flag statement of ascertaining God’s will outside of God’s Word (I mean, just how much does the Bible really say about any of today’s professions beyond how to conduct your life and how faith is given to us?), I would tend to go the opposite route and recommend to any professional to work diligently within their field’s professional society to influence it through their actions. That same individual should also be strengthening their faith daily and weekly through God’s Word, solid preaching of both the Law and the Gospel and receiving strength and forgiveness through the sacraments. Exceling as a Christian in one’s vocation does not necessarily mean wearing one’s religion on one’s sleeve.

    I’m trying to correctly remember C.S. Lewis’ quote about the world needing good literature, not more Christian writers (bad paraphase, someone help out here)? Wouldn’t the same apply to any vocation?

    I’m thinking that a study of Luther’s teaching on vocation would be very helpful to anyone hoping to influence their profession and would ultimately go farther in obtaining free speech rights than joining a Christian professional society. Just my thoughts…

  • Colleen

    The closer Lewis paraphrase is: the world needs more economists who are Christians than Christian economists. So you are right– the world needs more good writers who are Christians than Christian writers.

  • http://www.lightreflected.org prof B

    Agreed, TK and Colleen. That’s why I’ve continued to work [I teach English at a community college] and write in the secular world. I’m not for the ‘let’s wall ourselves up in our Christians-only country club’ model of Christian living–but at the same time, it’d be nice to work somewhere where my beliefs weren’t always a strike against me in most of my colleagues’ eyes. . .

  • http://www.christianengineer.org Joe

    I suggest we’re talking past one another, to an extent.

    Our lives are mediated by any number of systems today. Professions are, by definition, collective entities. If there is no collective and intentional Christian influence within them, that does not mean there will not be a collective and intentional secular influence within them.

    At present, it is not considered “proper form” for a Christian who is privileged to have membership status in a secular profession to openly attribute faith-based motivations to any efforts he/she may make to uplift and advance the profession and its service to humanity and the created order.

    So faith becomes irrelevant to another area of life – why bother teaching your children about a faith that is so irrelevant? Why bother joining a church? Just keep everything private, it’s easier and cheaper.

    Should Christians care for creation? My profession of engineering has vital responsibilities for the created order and my profession is largely self-regulating (as other professions are). Should I advocate my profession put more focus on creation care? Is it permissible only if never imply that my faith may be part of my motivations?

    How many other areas of my public life, which is mediated by systems, should I wall off from any manifestation of faith?

    What religious freedom do I have if I cannot attribute my faith to anything I do in the public arena?

    How much is it fear of professional retribution that persuades Christians to keep their faith private? I think quite a bit. I suggest fear of economic/professional loss is the key factor and quotes from CS Lewis mere rationalizations.

    Dawn Eden was beat-up because there is no collective and intentional Christian influence in the journalism profession, because Christian in the profession are afraid of professional retribution if they dare to say that they want to be “salt and light” in their profession – to uplift it and its service to society, in part for faith-based reasons.

    Journalism is a secular profession, open to people of all faith and no faith. But it is not legitimate for a professional society in the journalism field to recognize that faith-based reasons, at least in part for some journalists, are valid reasons to uplift the profession. Why? Because Christians in the profession accept it, I suggest largely out of fear of retribution.

    Joe Carson, P.E.
    Knoxville, TN

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Avram… but doesn’t that make the “mainstream” Democrats out to be “libertarian”? (Which would REALLY surprise all the libertarians I know. Hell, the only plausible libertarian in Congress is Republican Ron Paul.)
    It looks like we are dealing with a Humpty-Dumptyism. “When *I* use a word, it means what I want it to.”

    The Lewis remark was “Christian literature is written by Christian novelists and dramatists, not by the bench of bishops trying to write novels and plays in their spare time.”

  • http://www.katiesbeer.blogspot.com TK

    Joe,

    I’m thinking of it more like this – how is what happened to Dawn Eden ultimately a bad thing? You say Dawn Eden was “beat up”; God’s Word tells us that we will be persecuted for our faith on this earth and she was. God promises in His Word that He will work all things for good and He delivered. The Opinional Journal featured her NYDN review, she’s getting great publicity for her upcoming book (which will proclaim the good news while entertaining readers)and she is gaining many readers for herself (and her new employer). She may have been temporarily beat up, but she stood strong in God’s Word and now look at her! She may be attacked for her faith again, but I don’t doubt she will continue to cling to the cross of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in God’s Word for her help and salvation. She did that all without a Christian journalists’ society, but not without a good pastor and church.

    Please don’t take my comments as criticism of your society which has some admirable goals. Like Prof B said, it is strengthening to gather with other like-minded professionals from time to time.

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