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 AJR  Drop Cap

From AJR,   November 1998  issue

Keep the Money   

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (robertson.lori@gmail.com), a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      

Jonathan Broder repeats the phrase "ugly times call for ugly tactics" many times in an interview. "That's an unbelievable thing to say," he says of Salon's editor's note explaining why it was running a story about a decades-old affair involving Rep. Henry Hyde.

Broder, now Salon's former Washington bureau chief, had argued against the story's publication. A long memo to Managing Editor David Weir detailed his concerns, including the effect on Salon's ability to cover Washington and its perception as a White House "attack dog." The memo he received back from Weir said Salon was publishing the story along with an editor's note that he should use as "talking points" if called for comment.

"I don't think I could have ever used that to defend the piece," says Broder, who adds he did not receive that editor's note before it was published September 16.

Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz called Broder seeking comment. Talbot had mentioned Broder's dissension to Kurtz. "My feeling was that Talbot had already put my name out in the public arena," says Broder, who joined Salon two years ago. He remarked to Kurtz that "I objected to it on journalistic grounds, on grounds of fairness and because of the way Salon would be perceived."

Broder, a former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Examiner, got an angry phone message from Talbot September 17, the day the Kurtz article ran. Broder says he called Vice President of Business and Strategic Development Andrew Ross to offer his resignation. Ross suggested that he think about it. The next week, Broder, while still upset, told Ross and Weir that he could come to San Francisco to talk it through. But Talbot called him September 22 to say he was accepting Broder's resignation.

"He not only said he disagreed," Talbot says, "but specified the grounds at a time when we were under attack."

Broder, who is temporarily filling in as an editor on National Public Radio's foreign desk and continuing to write for the Jerusalem Report, then took a second stand for principle. He rejected a severance package, which he values at $11,000, rather than accept a stipulation that he stop talking. "The more I thought about it, the more I thought, 'I don't want their severance. I don't want to keep silent.' "