So much for editorial content in a newspaper being independent from the advertising. The editor of a small Wisconsin newspaper was demoted after one of her columns offended the paper's advertisers.
In July, Stoughton Courier Hub editor Autumn Drussell wrote in a column
that she was shopping more at low-cost big box stores because of the economy. She wrote that she agreed with advice offered at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon that local businesses needed to improve customer service and do more to appeal to cost-conscious consumers.
Well, that didn't sit right with some of the small business owners who advertise in the newspaper. Hardware store owner Jim Gerber warned he would stop advertising until the economy improves. He wrote to the paper:
"I will stop short from calling for your job — Walmart and Target need your money."
A few days later, Drussell's boss told her he was removing her as editor, and asked her to sign a document agreeing not to write opinion pieces and be on probation for 90 days.
The paper also published an editorial that basically apologized for Drussell's column.
"While there were some legitimate points to be made ... we as a newspaper erred in allowing those ideas to be overshadowed by the implications that local businesses should simply ride it out while residents shop at big box chain stores."
Drussell said she was shocked that her bosses did not support her.
"I just don't want what they did to be precedent-setting," Drussell said. "It used to be that people at newspapers with an opinion were protected. Because of the constraints newspapers are under with the economy, it sounds like that's not the case anymore and that's starting to go away. That's scary to me."
On Wednesday Drussell filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Rights Division in an attempt to be reinstated as editor. The gender discrimination complaint points out that she was disciplined while a male superior who reviewed the column was not.