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Feb

E-mail Joke Quickly Ends Reporters Job

E-mail Joke Quickly Ends Reporters Job

By Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post

When Joe Rhodes, journalist and self-described smart aleck, showed up at the Portland Oregonian last fall, he was asked to familiarize himself with the computer system.

The reporter, who had moved from Los Angeles to take a feature-writing job, sat down and composed a mock memo: In an effort to make everyone at the New Oregonian feel more comfortable, members of the New Northwest team have chosen Thursdays as no underwear day in the newsrooms. … All staff members will be subject to a brief inspection. Anyone found to be wearing undergarments will be severely reprimanded and forced to wear a sweater vest the following Monday. Exceptions will be made for those staff members with hernias, testicular cancer or radical mastectomies.

Rhodes then pressed a button to send the message to a friend. The message was inadvertently sent to everyone in the newsroom. And Rhodes job offer was promptly withdrawn on grounds of inappropriate behavior.

I was stunned, he said, They decided that anyone who was going to write jokes about underwear was a risk to the community. I cant imagine a newsroom culture so sensitive that would be enough to run me out of it. Its like I was given capital punishment for eating with the wrong fork.

Rhodes, 40, recently filed a $500,000 breach-of-contract suit against the paper.

The suit also names Willamette Week, a local paper that carried an account of the incident.

Willamette Week reported accurately, that Rhodes had gone to a clinic for a mandatory drug test and had tested positive for a prescription sleeping pill. Rhodes says the story wrongly reported – without calling him – that he complained about the drug clinic disclosing the sleeping pill and that this was the reason he was let go.

Now that Rhodes promised $57,000 job has vanished and he is in debt, I was knocked out before the weigh-in, he said.

Reprinted without permission from The Seattle Times, March 22, 1995.

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