Denis Finley has taken to Twitter to call Politico a "whore," sniff about David Letterman's upcoming Netflix show featuring Barack Obama, and call for the destruction of all office buildings, but it was his tweets about a potential change to Vermont's driver's licenses that cost him his job as editor of the Burlington Free Press. The paper reports Finley was fired by honchos at parent company Gannett on Monday evening after he was found to have repeatedly flouted its social media rules. "We encourage our journalists to engage in a meaningful dialogue on social media, but ... the conversation [should] adhere to our overarching values of fairness, balance, and objectivity," says an exec from the USA Today Network, Gannett's main brand. Poynter explains Finley's demise came after he reacted to Vermont's proposal to add the gender option "X" to "F" and "M" on driver's licenses.
The Washington Post documents the Twitter exchange between commenters who were lauding Vermont's decision and Finley. After one user noted the news was "awesome," Finley replied: "Awesome! That makes us one step closer to the apocalypse." When someone else tweeted the recognition of different genders was awesome, Finley wrote: "All recognition? … What if someone said it's awesome they are going to recognize pedophiliacs on licenses? I'm not being snarky, I'm just asking." Poynter notes some readers threatened to cancel their Free Press subscriptions over the tweets. "'Reader engagement' is not making provocative statements and then picking fights with people who disagree," an editor for a string of other local Vermont papers says. Emilie Stigliani, the Free Press' planning editor, will temporarily step in as Finley's replacement.