Scribe’s Secret  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   September 2002

Scribe’s Secret   

The Houston Chronicle fires reporter Steve Olafson after learning he was the author of a local Weblog.

By Kathryn S. Wenner
Kathryn S. Wenner, a former AJR associate editor, is a copy editor at the Washington Post.     

A Texas reporter's pseudonymous Weblog costs him his job at the Houston Chronicle. Steve Olafson, a former Houston Post reporter who had covered Brazoria County from his home since joining the Chronicle in 1995, had been letting loose as Banjo Jones, creator of the Brazosport News Web site and commentator on everything from family life to local political figures and the local daily, the Brazosport Facts. "It kind of just started on a whim, and kind of slowly took on a life of its own," says Olafson, who turns 49 this month. "It wasn't like any kind of horrible, scathing opinions were expressed. It was mostly a lighthearted venue, satirical much of the time." He used the pseudonym, he says, because he knew his editors would probably disapprove. But after a Brazosport Facts reporter called Olafson in late July and said a local "newsmaker" had provided evidence that he was Jones, Olafson says, he called his supervising editor and fessed up, though the Facts reporter had already contacted the Chronicle. He says he was suspended, then fired a week later. "We have standards and expect our journalists to comply with them," says Chronicle Editor Jeff Cohen.