Was Reuters right in dismissing its Indonesian bureau chief David Fox for making off-color jokes about pubic hair and women or have they gone overboard on the PC Bandwagon?
There have been some rather oblique reports about the dismissal (here and here) but they, as Pisani in the posting below says, have been pussyfooting around the issue. So here’s her understanding and opinions about Reuters, David Fox and the Dismissal-That-Should-Not-Be Spoken-Of.
Regular readers know that I have little time for the uber-correctness that tries to wipe sex out of our daily loves and lives. But I am more outraged than usual at the price paid by journalist David Fox, one of the best conflict correspondents in the business, for an off-colour remark made in what he thought was a private chat. Reuters new bosses fired him, with no right of appeal.
I used to be proud to have worked for Reuters. It was an organisation of clever, brave people dedicated to reporting the truth in often difficult situations. I continue to be proud to have spent 10 years living with David Fox. His determination to give a voice to the men, women and children who are the pawns in conflicts not of their own making definitely took a toll on our marriage. I learned to recognise the lock-down mood that followed yet another assignment in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Iraq, Albania, Afghanistan. I laughed at the sick jokes that go with the daily reporting of incomprehensible grimness. As anyone who has worked as a surgeon, doctor, cop, undertaker or soldier knows (and as comments on Reuters’ imperious behaviour reflect) gallows humour helps you cope with shitty situations. I work on a sexually transmitted infection that has killed 30 million people; I can do a tasteless joke or two of my own. But along with the wisecracks came top quality journalism. I never failed to be moved by the stories David filed for an employer increasingly short of brave people who could be dropped in to a disaster area with equipment charged, functional, and ready to file. Read his coverage of the refugee crisis in Zaire and try not to weep.
It is an interesting intellectual exercise to think how Reuters would treat the story if it involved another business or organization. They would have demanded that all sides speak up so that the truth can be revealed. Yet in this instance Reuters have been tight lipped. Amazing how proponents of openness and transparency clamp up when the shoe is in the other foot.
For the record Unspun’s acquired what apears to be the actual exchange between Fox and Marshall than earned Fox the sack and Marshall a reprimand.
2:47:42 AM Asia_top_story_2 Andrew Marshall thomsonreuters.com:
So how is the radiation situation mate? Has your hair been falling out?
2:50:16 AM Asia_top_story_2 David Fox thomsonreuters.com:
Lets hope it affects all those cute jap girls who do have a strange tendency to grow their pubes …
Bear in mind that Fox apparently offered to apologize to all in Reuters’ chat room who were aparty to the exchange (see MP Nunan posting in the Huffington Post ). So did Reuters go overboard in being PC or were they right in sacking Fox?