The Rutland Herald is dealing with fallout from a story that called its own financial status into question. Not long after the Herald ran a story that staffers and freelancers hadn’t been getting paid, the newspaper’s publisher, John Mitchell, fired news editor Alan Keays.
Alan Keays spoke with VPR about his firing and the unfolding situation at the Rutland Herald.
What the Herald reported about itself:
[The Rutland Herald] reported some newsroom staffers received checks that had bounced or didn’t clear their banks in their usual timely manner, and also that some freelancers had gone for a period of time without getting paid and were not getting paid in the usual way.
"We were talking about doing a story for a period of time," said Alan Keays, the longtime news editor at the Herald. "It kind of came to a head on Thursday when we usually get our paychecks and they did not arrive. Reporters and staff in the newsroom were seeking answers at that time and did not get answers they thought were appropriate."
Keays continued: "So I talked to the reporters and we agreed that we needed to do a story and I also talked to the editors and we challenged to each other about what a story would look like and we agreed to go ahead and do the story."
On trying to do a follow up story:
"I thought it was important that we continue to follow the story. We had more information that we thought we needed to report. I was told I could not do this story and I was insistent that for the credibility of the newspaper and our staff that we needed to treat this story like we would any other story and report it like we would for any other institution."
On the finances of the paper:
"I'm honestly not involved in the financial aspects of newspapers. I do at times sign timecards to folks who work in the newsroom and I just know that if they work 40 hours and I'm aware of that then I signed off on it. I'm not aware of the financial situation at the newsroom. And I think that's what the employees want, are some answers."
On standing his ground and reporting the story:
"This is actually the first day since I left college that I haven't had a job in journalism. I had to do the story, I just wish there was a way I that the management would have trusted us to do it in a fair way and in a credible way. I wish they would have trusted me and the staff to do that."