Reporter fired after story compared local school to ‘Mean Girls’

Nightly Noodle Monthly | North Adams Transcript

In a piece called “I Got Fired For Being A Journalist,” Isaac Avilucea says Cheyanne Alcombright, the subject of his Oct. 18 story in the North Adams Transcript, told him she’d transferred to a different Massachusetts school even though it had “somewhat inferior academics and athletics.” Her old school, Mount Greylock, was like “the movie ‘Mean Girls.’”

Avilucea writes that he was fired Friday. Transcript sports editor Josh Colligan read his story, he writes, but Editor-in-Chief Mike Foster “was bothered by the story after fielding calls from school principals and angry parents.” In an editorial published Saturday, Foster and Colligan write that they “offer our sincere apologies for any and all harm caused by a story in Friday’s sports section.”

A segment of the story in question unintentionally cast aspersions on the academics of McCann and colored in a pallor the social environment at Mount Greylock. This serious editorial mistake has caused a great amount of angst for many — and rightfully so. Not only was it unjust on our part to allow this error to see the light of day, but the statements were simply wrong.

Via e-mail, Avilucea says the “somewhat inferior” line was him paraphrasing Alcombright. “You can make the case I should have attributed that line just to be safe, but that was never added or brought up in the editorial process,” he writes. The “Mean Girls” passage is no longer in the online version of Avilucea’s story. “The Transcript does not comment on personnel matters,” Foster tells Poynter in an email.

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  • Judge Roy Bean

    Say what you may but you have to be accepted into McCann and that leaves out a lot of undesirable kids and kids from McCann can and do go on to college.

  • Amy Bennett Bonebright

    In typical fashion, someone probably threatened a law suit. Few community papers can afford litigation, so they fired the reporter. Sad.

  • hafrolocks

    My prediction is this guy will be hired to an edgy magazine. Whoever this “newspaper” hires in his place will be a mediocre writer, because no good sports writer will want to work at that paper after all of this press.
    He should have backed up or contrasted her Mean Girls/inferior academics comments with some stats or got a contrasting opinion. Should he be fired? The story cleared one editor. So why does the reporter get punished?
    It sets a bad precedent for the paper. Any time the high school doesn’t like what’s in the paper, they now know they can throw a fit and get their way.
    As a reporter in a small, close knit town, it seems to me that the EIC is just too worried about disrupting his comfy relationship with the school.
    I’ve seen my own stories have quotes chopped out of them by my editor because my editor thinks they are too offensive/controversial for the town…but at least I don’t get fired for trying to get them printed.

  • JeremiahHorrigan

    Where to begin?

    The apology says the story “unintentionally cast aspersions on the academics of McCann.” The story, reflecting as it did the opinions of the young woman Avilucea interviewed, very intentionally “cast aspersions” on the school’s academics, though, disappointingly, none of the school’s academics were named. A pity.

    After casting these unholy aspersions, the benighted reporter “colored in a pallor the social environment at Mount Greylock.” What color? Perhaps 50 Shades of Pallor?

    The angst, oh the angst this community has suffered. It’s hardly imaginable. One imagines horror-stricken North Adamsians trudging, pallorously, no doubt, from task to daily task, their minds benumbed with the intensity of the aspersions they’d been exposed to by this audacious reporter.

    But at least the apologist ends on an all-important positive note. Despite rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth occasioned by the scurrilous report, despite the obvious unjustness of it all, those nasty aspersions “were simply wrong.” Of course they were! How could any social environment at Mount Greylock resemble a movie like “Mean Girls”? It’s inconceivable.

    And to prove it was all just a bad dream, the paper fired Avilucea’s aspersion.

  • Rabi Abonour

    Making the statement that McCann has inferior academics without substantiating was a mistake, but certainly not a fireable offense. This was just a spineless EIC deciding he cared more about the local school systems loving him than standing by a new hire.

    Fundamentally, this story cleared an editor. As such, it is completely out of line to fire the reporter.

  • nightlynoodlemonthly

    He was relaying someone else’s sentiment, and some people got all hurt and, cause it’s kinda small town, they didn’t want to have any conflict, but the managing editor had let the story go through, and for that Isaac was TERMINATED. Not fair.

  • King_Kaufman

    What’s the gaffe? The guy did his job and got fired because it upset someone powerful in the community.

  • snopes

    But isn’t this gaff what newspapers pay editors to avoid?