Lesson: Don’t Edit A Diplomatic Nightmare Into Your Reporter’s Work

A fired reporter for Radio Free Asia has won an arbitration that reinstates him to his post with full back pay and benefits, the Newspaper Guild reports. And it’s all because of some lousy editing.

King Man Ho had blogged about an event where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met two Chinese bloggers.

Ho correctly quoted the bloggers, but subsequent editing—including a headline that called the bloggers “Chinese Web dissidents” and text that implied “too intimate a connection with the U.S. State Department,” the bloggers feared for their safety upon their return to China. Ho was forced to tweet an apology, written by his editor, saying that he had misquoted the blogger. Less than a month later, he was fired for “insubordination and violation of the Code of Journalistic Ethics and RFA’s Conflict of Interest policy.”

The newspaper guild backed Ho in an arbitration that took place last summer, where the judge found that not only were the insubordination claims unsubstantiated, but that the bad editing had “contributed [to] and exacerbated” the situation. RFA was ordered to reinstate Ho to his job (that is, if he even still wants it) and should be given the back pay he’s owed—about $50,000.

Moral of the story: Don’t edit your reporters’ work in a way that could cause an international incident. You would think this would be obvious. Sigh.