The last two weeks has put employees at The Daily Caller on edge. Two reporters were fired and the Managing Editor, Joe Kildea, has jumped ship. One reporter is gone because of a bad attitude; the other for being in a beat she wasn’t qualified to cover. Kildea was allegedly discontent due to differences in opinion about how things were being run.
The entire newsroom was instructed Wednesday night not to discuss the departures with the press. Kildea did not return a request for comment. Newsroom sources requested anonymity to protect their employment and FishbowlDC is honoring their wishes. Tina Nguyen, a tech reporter who’d been at the publication for about two months, was in over her head. Amanda Carey, an employee of a year and a half, complained about Executive Editor David Martosko one too many times. While that isn’t the core reason Carey was fired, it was the final impetus for her departure. Carey declined to comment.
A moral of the story (at least in Carey’s case): Complain about Martosko at your own peril.
But it went deeper than that. Management ultimately felt Carey wasn’t content at the publication. Some words being bandied about among newsroom sources include “lazy” and not skilled enough — typical reasons why people are fired. Near daily complaining about Martosko, we’re told, put management over the edge. Brass was tired of hearing it. Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson declined to comment for this story.
Martosko has undoubtedly been a controversial figure from the start. Newsroom sources say his profound defense of reporter Matthew Boyle and his recent EPA piece troubled reporters who believed the story was false. They feared their reputations would be sullied by the widespread negative attention the ordeal received in publications such as Politico and parts of the right-wing media. And they couldn’t conceive why their editor was defending a story many considered pointedly bogus.
We wrote Martosko with questions about Carey‘s firing as well as general friction in the newsroom. But so far, the former Glee Club conductor and editor with a lengthy rap sheet, isn’t singing or even replying. Back in July when he was first hired, Carlson warned staff that if they have a problem with Martosko‘s hire — he was arrested a number of times for public intoxication and DWI — they can find the door. At the time, Carlson told FBDC, “I’ve made it clear to the staff that anyone who judges him for it can leave.” Martosko no longer drinks. He spells this out in a Twitter bio that could serve as a snapshot of his awkwardness: “Executive Editor, The Daily Caller. Father of daughters, editor of reporters, lover of an opera singer, eater of pierogis [sic], former drinker of booze.”
Complaints about Martosko center on his lack of newsroom experience and being condescending to reporters, an accusation many editors around town could be charged with at any given time. Some say he’s a weird fit for the no rules newsroom. What reporters may not realize is that how much they’d like him was not a consideration for his hire. He was brought on to bring order to a process that sorely needed it and to get rid of typos. Still others say he’s just plain awkward to deal with, but “not that bad” and “not too awful.” Some felt the decision to let him go to New Hampshire to cover the recent GOP presidential debate was ill conceived. A Dartmouth graduate, he went on his own dime and published 12 stories in three days. Reporters (we’re told Carey among them) believed they should have had the chance to attend and not an editor without a journalism background.
As is often the case within newsrooms, reporters are almost always at odds with management and Daily Caller scribes have notoriously been a feisty, anti-authority bunch. Carlson has an open-door policy in which reporters are free to speak their minds without repercussions. Despite the perception that Carey spoke her mind too many times and got herself fired, that policy holds. But at the end of the day, the line is drawn in the sand: Higher ups versus employees. Higher ups win. And reporters can seek employment elsewhere.