Jeffery Good, the executive editor of a New England newspaper group, says that he was fired for advocating for equal pay for three of his employees who just happen to be women.
Poynter reports that Good delivered the news to the staff in an email Wednesday morning, saying that publisher Mike Rifanburg let him go after he asked for “transparency and fair pay for our female colleagues at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and its sister publications.” Good, who won a Pulitzer in 1995 for editorial writing, served as the executive editor for the Pioneer Valley Newsgroup, which includes the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Greenfield Recorder, Amherst Bulletin, and Valley Advocate. These newspapers serve what Poynter calls a “liberal bastion,” including universities like Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Hampshire, and Smith. One would think that the equality vibes from these institutions of higher learning would have wafted towards the media, but from what Good is saying, apparently not!
“Publisher Mike Rifanburg informed me this week that I am being fired,” Good wrote. “The reason: I advocated for transparency and fair pay for our female colleagues at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and its sister publications.”
Good took it upon himself to advocate on behalf of two reporters, Lisa Spear and Emily Cutts, and a photojournalist, Sarah Crosby, all of whom were complaining about pay inequity. When he tried to advocate for fair pay as well as greater transparency, Rifanburg pushed back.
I supported these requests, asking Mike to authorize raises for these women and others in our family of newspapers. I also advocated for a staff meeting at which we could do what the newspapers ask the leaders of other powerful institutions to do: Provide honest answers to fair questions.
Initially, Mike seemed to be a willing partner; he said he supported equity and approved some increases. But as more staffers clamored for raises and pressure on the budget increased, Mike became resentful and resistant in our closed-door meetings. He rejected the idea of a staff meeting and berated me for supporting it. “You should be a leader,” he said. “Instead, you are being led.”
Eventually, Rifanburg gave in, but fired Good as a consequence. “In our last conversation before he fired me, Mike repeatedly referred to Lisa, Sarah and Emily as ‘girls’ and ‘selfish young ladies,’” he wrote.
According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s reporting on the internal strife, Rifanburg refused to comment directly on Good’s firing. “Although I can’t speak about Jeff’s leaving because it’s a personnel matter, I’ve enjoyed working with Jeff over the years and wish him all the best,” he said in a statement. The state of equal pay in 2018, everyone. Cool.
Update, 4:30 PM: An updated version of Poynter’s original piece now includes statements from women who had worked closely with Good, calling his track record with women “poor.”
Both Laurie Loisel, former Hampshire Gazette managing editor for news and a 29-year-veteran before leaving in 2015, and Kathleen Mellon, the longtime arts editor and an editorial board member who left last year, said that Good’s track record with women was poor and that they both felt he’d essentially driven them out of the paper.
“Jeff is not the hero he makes himself out to be,” said Loisel, who said that he’d demoted her and in her mind was “marginalizing women.”
Mellon said her personal experience with Good was also problematic and that his note to staff was hypocritical. “I was one of several he ran out of the paper,” she said when reached at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport Wednesday on her way back home. “I left a year ago under incredible duress.”
A statement from the publisher following the publication of Poynter’s piece makes it clear: “Although we cannot discuss personnel matters out of respect for our employees, Mr. Good’s transition is in no way due to his participation in the Gazette’s ongoing efforts to address pay equity issues.”